Following Lead Of Louis Vuitton & Burberry, Starwood Links Up With Jiepang

Club Members Who Collect All Eight Starwood Virtual Badges Have Chance To Win Hainan Getaway

Starwood will name monthly SPG "Mayors"

Starwood will name monthly SPG “Mayors”

Though enthusiasm for Jiepang — generally referred to as “China’s Foursquare” — has died down a bit from this spring, hoteliers Starwood Hotels & Resorts this week announced a new link-up with the location-based social network, following the lead of brands like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Nike and Starbucks. Owner and operator of such hotel brands as St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Westin, Le Meridien and others, Starwood, like other major hoteliers, has made a massive expansion push into the China market in recent years, with CEO Frits D. Van Paasschen recently saying that China may eventually pass the U.S. as its biggest hotel market.

With its new partnership with Jiepang, Starwood looks to extend its Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program into the digital realm specifically for Chinese travelers. Via TheNextWeb:

Starwood is incentivising the program by giving the user with the greatest number of check-ins each month a share of the limelight, naming them ‘the SPG Mayor’. Each mayor will be interviewed for a feature on the Starwood-Jiepang webpage, which will also include details of their travel tips.

While it has side-stepped possible issues of fraudulent log-ins but not offering a monthly prizes, customers can earn bonus loyalty points — which can be redeemed against free stays — if they check-in to a hotel on Jiepang using a reservation number. Badge-seekers will be interested to note that they can unlock exclusive Jiepang badges by sharing Starwood hotel log-ins across two or more social networks.

Though the new Jiepang initiative is broadly China-focused, a company release this week notes that SPG members can earn bonus “Starpoints” by checking in at any of the 200+ Starwood hotels and resorts throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Members who check in via Jiepang and synchronize across at least two of their additional social networks, such as Weibo or Kaixin, will unlock virtual badges from the branded Starwood hotel they’re staying in. Obtaining these virtual badges automatically enters the user into the running to win a free weekend stay at a Starwood hotel in the Asia-Pacific region. Users who collect all eight branded virtual badges from each Starwood hotel chain are entered to win the SPG grand prize, a five-night stay at the St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort on Hainan island, inclusive of domestic round-trip airfare for two.

St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort

St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort

As far as digital campaigns go, we’d say Starwood is on the right track with this new Jiepang partnership. As Jing Daily wrote earlier this week, major hotel chains continue to record disappointingly low occupancy rates in China, and engaging SPG members via Jiepang and across different social networks is a smart way to incentivize more (and more frequent) stays. Adding further incentive by automatically entering users who share their check-ins across several platforms into the running for giveaways is another effective move. According to L2’s recent Prestige 100 China IQ study, brands that engaged their potential audience through not one but many social media platforms have been among the most successful in China, with Burberry (which has adeptly created linked campaigns on Jiepang, Sina Weibo, Youku and others) and Audi among the brands singled out as “geniuses” on the study. Indeed, Burberry this week credited its decision to switch the majority of its marketing spend to digital with increasing revenue 29 percent in the first half of 2011. Obviously, something’s working.

As other successful social media marketing campaigns in China have shown, users of Jiepang, Weibo and other networks are more than willing to spread the word to friends and followers, particularly if there are giveaways, discounts or even just virtual badges involved. Considering its new campaign involves both giveaways and badges, Starwood appears to be in the mobile “sweet spot.” Now we (and Starwood’s competitors) will be watching to see if the hotelier manages to reach the right demographic — regular travelers with the financial means to stay in Starwood hotels — and increase occupancy rates with this initiative.

 

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