Starwood Hotels VP marketing on creating loyalty beyond reason

James McGrath
By James McGrath | 24 March 2015
VP of marketing at Starwood Hotels, Daniel Kerzner

Brands are trying to leverage data to surprise and delight customers into becoming “loyal beyond reason”, but the success of the interaction depends on whether customers can see behind the curtain.

Speaking at the ADMA Data Day in Sydney today, vice president of marketing at Starwood Hotels Daniel Kerzner told audiences that while brands were trying to leverage data to create personalised experiences, it wasn’t always coming off.

“Companies are trying to be personal but by default are actually being impersonal,” Kerzner said.

“In our industry, one of the most impersonal things you can do is give people a typed card in a hotel. There’s something about that typed card that is so impersonal.”

Kerzner said this was because customers figured out what the hotel was doing, and was simply filling in the customer’s name in the blank rather than creating a personalised experience for the customer.

Starwood trawls social media data for information about a customer once they have booked with a hotel.

For example, it knew the person behind well-known blog “Around the World in 80 Shoes” was staying in a Starwood for the first time, because she wrote about it on her blog. Within 24 hours, it had learned that the blogger loved flourless desserts.

It then had the chef at the hotel they were staying at bake a flourless cake with a shoe on top, with the phrase “If the shoe fits, eat it” on it.

Suffice to say the image was shared countless times, creating not only a loyal customer but great earned media exposure.

“It’s really about using a simple piece of data whether it’s the guest’s name, their birthday, where they are or what they’re talking about on their blogs, and how we can use that to surprise and delight them,” Kerzner said.

Kerzner said surprises of that nature, whether it be a cake or a personalised bath robe, showed that Starwood’s engagement with the customer went beyond printing their name on a card, but rather was a personalised experience.

Starwood had also invited guests to post Instagram photos from their hotel on their site, leading to a surprise conclusion.

“We’re constantly showing the room, but what our guests want to see in addition to the room is the food and the views. It’s a great example of looking at the behaviour of our guests to then influence what our strategy is moving forward,” Kerzner said.

He said surprising and delighting customers by leveraging data about them to create a personalised experience, without showing customers how they did it, created bursts of loyalty, but brands could not rely on these moments to create goodwill.

“We sort of think of it as giving emotional credits into a bank account. It’s about having more credits in the bank account than you take out. When we talk to guests, there’s usually one defining stay that makes
me think about why I want to stay with that company,” Kerzner said.

“We try to find the touchpoints where relevant, and where it makes sense to overload the bank account with those credits.

“We also know that’s not going to be there every single time. We’re focused on every interaction at every stay, and how to deliver a great experience all the time.”

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus