If you’ve ever made travel arrangements, particularly for travel overseas, chances are that DoubleTree by Hilton wasn’t exactly at the top of your list of places to stay when planning your trip.
DoubleTree is revered greatly as a local brand, but it might surprise the everyday tourist to learn that the hotel chain offers vacationers the option of over 350 properties in more than 30 countries across six continents.
While each location is different, every DoubleTree hotel provides a culture that focuses on anticipating the traveler’s needs, no matter the setting or surrounding.
But how does a brand go about positioning itself as such, getting visitors to think of it first rather than as an afterthought when planning a one-of-a-kind experience abroad?
By demonstrating just that.
A part of the Hilton hotel portfolio, DoubleTree sought to alter the consumer’s perception of its brand, and enlisted the help of Ketchum to do it.
Learning that 70 percent of travelers don’t know where they want to go when they begin planning their next vacation, as well as that many turn online for help with their plans, Ketchum saw this as the perfect opportunity for DoubleTree to increase its brand awareness by leveraging its global presence to inspire prospective travelers.
Partnering with Google, DoubleTree created DTour, an online platform that integrates social media into the mix, establishing a hub where consumers can easily share their travel memories by allowing users to explore other vacationers’ photos, videos, and tips to help get inspired to plan their own trips.
To promote the platform, Ketchum and DoubleTree launched the “DTour of a Lifetime” competition, searching for six people ready for the adventures of their lives. The participants would travel around the world as brand ambassadors, or “DTourists” as they were called. Each DTourist would embark on a two-week to two-month trip to one of six continents with DoubleTree properties, sharing highlights of their journey on DTour along the way.
Driving adventurous hopefuls to enter, Ketchum enlisted travel journalist, TV host, and self-proclaimed “Travel Junkie” Julia Dimon to generate credibility, communicate messaging to consumers, and add a credible face to the program. The team also coordinated a Google Hangout, a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, a Twitter party, and a satellite media tour to help raise awareness of the effort.
Finalists were then vetted based on information they provided in a questionnaire and video submission.
Having selected its six DTourists, Ketchum coordinated surprise announcements with properties where each DTourist resided. Following these announcements, Ketchum launched a national multimedia news release, including DTourist bios, photos, and winning videos.
Just three months in, the campaign had already exceeded its goals, garnering coverage in The New York Times, Businessweek, The Wall Street Journal, on NBC’s “The Today Show,” and more. It also resulted in 6,700 new Facebook fans, 2,900 new Twitter followers, and almost 536 DTour contestants.
The DTour site has seen more than 1,255 DTour submissions, each one inspiring new travel adventures while also working to reposition the DoubleTree image in the minds of thrill-seeking globetrotters.
While the brand’s own journey is far from over, it is sure to get there. Hopefully seen less as a “detour” in its adventure, but more of a pleasant pit stop, we’re happy to award Ketchum and DoubleTree the prize for Best Media Relations Campaign—Over $100,000 in PR Daily’s 2013 Media Relations Awards.