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An Interview with the former Group Director of Marketing at Minor Hotels – Executive Interview Series

Meet Dr. Jens Niedzielski: former Group Director of Marketing and Brand Management at Minor Hotels

Niedzielski has over 20 years of experience in brand leadership, marketing and communications, including 15 years in management consulting, corporate strategy and market development and has worked for a range of blue chip brands.

Recently, Niedzielski has moved on from his brand role, and he is now working on special projects across multiple industries including hospitality and luxury brands.

The Minor Hotels group operates in 26 countries across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe and South America. Within its group are also hotel brands such as Anantara, AVANI, Tivoli, and Elewana, amongst others. As of 2018, they had 160 hotels and 20,246 rooms.

Meet our Interviewer: David Gabriele, CEO of Swayy

Swayy is the leading influencer booking, campaign and relationship management tool for the hospitality industry. Swayy helps venues find, book and maintain relationships with the most influential people on social media, recently winning the Disrupt Awards 2018 at TTE Europe.

Interview Highlights

What’s happening in Thailand in the influencer market?

Niedzielski tells us that Asia was one of the first markets to capitalise on the trend of influencer marketing, and it has since become very dominant. As hotels and brands work with influencers more and more, Minor has also gained experience working with influencers to promote their brands.

Dr. Niedzielski tells us that he was involved in the 2012/2013 ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, so saw first hand the positive impact that peer influencing can have on marketing. He recognises, however, that influencer marketing for hotels is very different as the decision making process for consumers is much more complex. Using influencers to market hotels is only one piece of the puzzle, albeit can be an important one. Niedzielski notes that destination marketing organisations are very keen on influencers, as they recognise the power behind inspiring someone to travel to a destination. The choice to stay in a particular venue, however, is affected on a micro-level by many other factors, like the price of the hotel and the location relative to the rest of the area. We’ve talked more about the consumer booking journey here, check it out!

What are the benefits of influencer marketing?

It’s a growing and important strategy to look into

Niedzielski argues that achieving exposure to a certain target audience is the largest benefit of influencer marketing. Promoting your brand through a micro-influencer will funnel your message into the correct areas of the market, which will, in turn, lead to increased ROI.

Furthermore, word-of-mouth marketing has a velocity rarely seen in static print forms of marketing. Someone recommends a destination to two friends, who each tell two friends, who each tell… ad infinitum: you get the idea.

What are you looking to accomplish using influencers?

Crucially, influencers should have the power to build brand loyalty and popularity by grabbing the attention of the target audience and actively engaging them in the brand they are trying to promote.

The other key goal for the future is reaching brand ambassadors that are a good fit for the brand. Certain features in the Minor group’s AVANI hotels, for example, will be more marketable to a younger, lifestyle conscious audience, and the influencers they use to promote their hotels need to reflect this.

How are your marketing budgets currently allocated?

Niedzielski tells us that ideally you’d work with a ratio of approximately 70:20:10. 70% of the budget is given to campaigns which have proven to work in the past, and 20% is given to techniques that have worked for other brands in the industry, i.e. influencer marketing. The remaining 10% is given over to completely new techniques.

What’s the key to finding the right influencers?

Niedzielski identifies 4 key factors that help ensure the most successful collaboration:

  1. 1. Finding the correct fit for your brand, and ensuring an influencer’s message aligns with your brand values
  2. 2. When evaluating an influencer’s profile, try to judge the loyalty of the fan-base they would be marketing your brand to.
  3. 3. Following on from this, engagement from this audience is essential because…
  4. 4. A brand needs to see engagement converted into sales in the mid-term

These factors will ensure exposure to the correct market, and that this is translated into ROI and benefits for both parties.

AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort in Malaysia

What are the biggest challenges to influencer marketing?

Niedzielski states that, because influencer marketing is becoming an increasingly popular marketing technique, brands now “cannot live without it”. Consequently, “gradually, most hotel brands will adopt it” as a significant part of their hotel marketing strategies.

Ultimately, he says, the outlook on influencer marketing as a strategy is positive, and that most brands cannot resist it entirely. The challenge, therefore, is ironing out the teething problems and finding the influencers that are a good fit for your brand.

At the heart of this particular issue is the fact that influencer marketing in the hotel industry is relatively new. Whereas Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies such as Coca-Cola have shifted hugely towards influencer marketing, the hotel marketing industry hasn’t had time to mature its strategy in the way companies have in the clothing or make-up industries, for example.

At the outset, many hotels aren’t understanding that influencer marketing requires budget  allocation, and that any collaboration that takes place needs to have benefits for both sides of the agreement.

Additionally, many hotels are simply not set up to deal with the huge number of email requests for collaborations. Across a single brand or group, there can be multiple people receiving requests, and no central department to handle them, let alone having an understanding of how to identify the right influencers for their brand.

According to Niedzielski, the question many luxury hotel brands are still asking themselves is ‘who should be responsible for this issue?’ Should it be delegated to a marketing department? PR? E-Commerce? Is there a department for all things ‘social’, like dedicated social media centres that many large corporations have deployed in recent years? Hotels need to set up a clear strategy which encompasses influencers.

If a partnership is successfully established, hotels and influencers face issues with managing expectations. Both parties need more clarity on the output of content, and hotels must “identify the right tools to use” in creating an influencer marketing strategy.

What should the future hold?

The crucial benefit of influencer marketing is its authentic appeal to consumers: the true value of a collaboration lies in the genuine investment of an audience in the opinions of an influencer. Therefore, the future needs to see content creators maintaining the balance between staying true to their own content and delivering on the wishes of the hotels they partner with.

On the other side of the coin, hotels must start to strategise their use of influencers, rather than merely treating them as an after-thought. They must take a proactive role in influencer marketing campaigns, and not a passive, reactive stance.

How can Swayy help?

Swayy helps brands and influencers build productive relationships, and deals with the kinds of teething problems that Niedzielski identified in his interview. By pre-vetting influencers, and allowing hotels to set and monitor the parameters on deliverables, many of the pain-points that plague the market are eradicated.

AVANI Hotel in Bangkok

Check out one of the earlier posts in our Executive Interview Series, in which we spoke to ,Shawn Lim – Marketing Manager at Marriott’s The Andaman resort in Langkawi.

Interested in working with full time, pre-vetted hotel influencers? Click here to find out how Swayy can help you. If you are an influencer interested in a collaboration, read up on what we can do for you.

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