Premier Inn grows by targeting brand predisposition

by Nigel Hollis | July 06, 2016

Digital marketing has been a huge gift to hotel marketers. Just one click that indicates interest in staying somewhere will bring a barrage of hotel ads to your digital device. No more print runs with the latest deal on a three night stay in New York, they can customize an offer precisely targeted to what you are looking for… so long as they read your behavior right.

The hotel category, like so many service categories, seems fixated on sales activation, which is why I was very intrigued when I read that Premier Inn, the UK hotel chain owned by Whitbread, had deliberately focused attention on building brand predisposition, in contrast to its industry’s usual focus on calls to action.

I first learned about Premier Inn’s strategy from a Warc case study titled, ‘Premier Inn: Changing the face of budget hotels’ by Jeremy Poole. The case study won a Silver Institute of Practitioners in Advertising Effectiveness Award in 2014, indicating that there was pretty good evidence that the brand’s marketing campaign had been effective.

As a quick bit of background, Premier Inn is a relatively young brand and is positioned as a budget brand, competing with brands like Travelodge. The big challenge was to establish the brand in a commoditized market and during the Great Recession when people wanted to be sure that their money would be well spent. Rather than focusing on price point, the brand’s campaign promised a great night’s sleep and used the strapline “Everything's Premier but the price”.

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The decision to focus on a good night’s sleep  was part of a deliberate strategy to move upstream in customer’s decision making process, focusing their pitch and ad spend to create salience and positive expectations, not a call to action. Responding to a suggestion that the ‘sleep’ positioning was intended to allay people’s fears about staying at a budget hotel brand, Marketing Director Russell Braterman had this to say in a Marketing Week interview,

“It’s not about allaying concern, it’s about ‘what are we ultimately here to do?’. It’s true that budget hotels in general fulfil a more functional trip experience compared to a luxury indulgence experience; we’re not here to do that. We have appeal right across the board – there are very few people who reject Premier Inn and we have very broad brand acceptance – but all of them ultimately need a good sleep experience, otherwise we’re not fulfilling our purpose as a hotel.”

The Warc case study demonstrated that Premier Inn’s success was not just due to increased availability and that on a like-for-like basis the brand improved room occupancy and revenue per room. A quick bit of analysis using BrandZ data finds that Premier Inn commands a perceived price point 32 percent higher than might be expected given the average for the hotel category in the UK. It makes me think there might be something to this brand predisposition thing after all, what do you think? Please share your thoughts. 

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