Brand Loyalty or Bribery?

By: Gina Mason

One thing I have learned is that people will do just about anything to get free stuff. Whether it is diving over a crowd of people to get a foul ball, waiting in line for hours for the free giveaways on Black Friday or getting a KFC tattoo to get a lifetime supply of free fried chicken, people love getting something for free.
So if someone told you that all you had to do to get something free or discounted in exchange for a positive social media post, would you do it?
Apparently, a large group of people would and the trend is continuing to grow in the hospitality industry. According to a USA Today article, both the Marriott and Kimpton hotel chains have recently created a new initiative to entice their guests to post “positive” Facebook, Twitter and Instagram messages about their experiences. Both programs were created to encourage guests to interact more with the hotel chain’s brand and most importantly, to create brand loyalty (and of course, get some free publicity).
Through the Marriott Rewards programs and the Kimpton Karma initiative, hotel guests can earn a number of discounts or freebies by simply interacting with the brand (positively) online. “Marriott Rewards members can earn up to 2,000 points a month and have four transactions a day. They earn 25 points for following participating hotels’ Twitter and Instagram accounts or for re-tweeting content from the Marriott Rewards Twitter account with the hashtag #MRPoints.” While Kimpton’s reward program is not as progressive, it still offers, “four tiers of members and guests can move up in tiers based on their engagement. Perks can include a welcome amenity, in-room spa credit and access to Kimpton’s CEO.”
Hotel representatives from both Kimpton and Marriott share the same train of thought that these programs are, “a cool opportunity for them [guests] to take advantage of and participate by doing what they’re [guests] already doing,” said VP of Marriott Rewards, Rich Toohey. This is so incredibly true and this concept is not only effective word-of-mouth marketing, but also extremely cost effective for the hotels. Also, due to bargain websites like Hotels.com and Expedia.com, brand loyalty is non-existent especially with millennials. I think most of us have been guilty of worrying more about the overall cost of a hotel rather that the experience or loyalty to a certain brand which is why this is a very strategic move for these hotel chains.
It is no question that social media can be an extremely powerful tool and that it gives guests/customers a way to feel connected to the brand. However, if these programs catch on, do you think it is going to affect the way people honestly rate their experience? Do you think they will post false claims so they can get free rooms? Overall, do you get a sense that this PR tactic is brilliant or bribery? You be the judge.
As always, I welcome your comments and if you like what you read be social and share.

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