How to Stay Smart | The Holiday Inn Express

holiday-inn-express The Holiday Inn Express is an example of a company that has embraced social media and has integrated it into its overall marcom strategy. In 2013, HIE, a part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), brought back their “Stay Smart” campaign. This campaign had been one of the longest running and most successful marketing campaigns by a hotel chain dating back to 1998. The reimplementation of this campaign was in two stages. The first stage of the advertising campaign was, for the most part, traditional; the second stage was 100% digital, with a focus on social media.

In April of 2013, IHG launched two commercials that aired across 10 major TV networks. They also placed commercials on Hulu, CBS Interactive and gaming videos. Ads were developed for online and outdoor media (billboards). In the second half of their “Stay Smart” campaign, the brand message was amplified via digital platform. Skankman (2014) wrote about the media plan:

“The $14 million campaign includes many of the same ad elements of previous campaigns redesigned for digital platforms. For example, radio ads will appear on Spotify and Pandora instead of traditional radio channels, ads will appear on websites like Buzzfeed and Slate instead of newspapers, and video ads will appear in between YouTube videos instead of TV shows.”

Understanding the importance of boosting traditional media advertisement and increasing social connectedness to propel their brand message, the company leveraged their use of YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. Heather Balsley, senior vice president of the brand family said, “From booking a room online or via our mobile app, to communicating with our guests via Twitter, Facebook, and now, we know we need to be where our guests are in order to engage with them” (as cited in Johnson, 2013). Balsley revealed that “more than half of all Holiday Inn Express brand social activity takes place via mobile” and that the hotel needed “to connect with consumers via digital and mobile, with platforms such as Vine and Instagram playing a key role” (as cited in Johnson, 2013).

Holiday Inn is an example of a company using social media to improve customer engagement. In 2014, the hotel chain launched “the first all-digital campaign that blended comedy and hyperbole to show normal people doing exceptional things, while bringing to life the idea that when you stay at a Holiday Inn Express, you stay smart” (“Holiday Inn Express,” n.d.). The original tagline (in 1998) was “No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.” In an effort to increase customer engagement in the digital space, the new tagline reads, “Did anyone stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night?” (Forbes, 2014). The following video was posted on YouTube.

By simply turning a tagline into a question, HIE provides an opportunity for relationship building with its customers.

Holiday Inn Express has been able to use social media as a customer service platform. For instance, in a drive to appeal to budget-conscious family travelers, the hotel has posted a number of clever short video clips of its one-minute pancake machine. While there has been positive feedback and customers commenting how much they love the pancakes, a number of people have turned to Facebook to comment negatively about the quality of the pancakes. This has provided HIE with an opportunity to (1) hear the complaint and use this feedback to make potential changes and (2) respond to the customer in an effort to win back his/her confidence.

Elizabeth Breese, PhD, a Senior Content and Digital Strategist from Crimson Hexagon writes about the importance of not only engaging with customers via social media channels, but also the value in collecting data in order to better understand how the company is faring overall. In 2014, she writes,

“By using social media analysis to pinpoint guest complaints and identify where they originate, hotel chains can take swift and targeted action to improve their brand’s perception. By coupling a better guest experience with clear ways for guests to interact with the brand via social media, hotel chains can give customers opportunities to broadcast their praise for service and competitive prices, turning guests into brand advocates.”

Companies should be using social media to amplify their brand message and collecting data from these channels to give customers more of what they want, less of what they don’t and nurture brand ambassadors along the way.


Breese, E. (2014, July 15). Using social listening to drive big results. Retrieved from

Ellett, J. (2014, September 16). Holiday Inn Express engages comedian Jimm Gaffigan for revived ‘Stay Smart’ campaign. Forbes. Retrieved from

Holiday Inn Express. (2014, October 7). Stay Smart: Alien- Holiday In Express Hotels Video [Video file]. Retrieved from

Holiday Inn Express stay smart campaign. (n.d.) Retrieved from

Irwin, T. (2013, April 8). Marketing Daily. Retrieved from

Johnson, L. (2013, June 25). Holiday Inn Express relies on mobile to build social media engagement. Retrieved from

Shankman, S. (2014, September 18). Holiday Inn turns to digital and a comedian to build its brand. Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s