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Hilton, Marriott, Four Seasons are most ‘relevant’ hotel brands

BOSTON – How do you choose a hotel? By the quality of service? The view? What your friends might think? How about the water pressure in the shower? Don’t laugh.

Brodeur Partners looked into the heart of what really matters when it comes to online conversation about hotel choice and has come up with intriguing answers. “We wanted to go beyond speculation and opinion, and really see what drives online behavior – in this case, conversation – around different hotel brands,” said Brodeur Partners CEO Andy Coville .

The study reveals that Hilton, Marriott, and Four Seasons (in that order) have the highest Conversational Relevance™  in online discussions among leisure and business travelers.  The conclusion is based on an analysis by Brodeur Partners and MavenMagnet of what is “relevant” in online brand conversation.

The Conversational Relevance™ scale is a measure of how much people are talking about a brand and how impactful and positive that conversation is. Brodeur and MavenMagnet parsed more than 18,000 online conversations between May 2012 and October 2012 across social networks, profiles, forums, news websites and blogs.

“We looked not only at practical considerations but at how the brands resonated with hotel guests’ senses, values and social needs, which are the other dimensions of Brodeur’s relevance model,” said Jerry Johnson , Brodeur executive vice president of strategic planning. “When a brand is engaging all four dimensions, it inspires strong feelings and an abiding loyalty in those who experience it.”

“Using our proprietary technology, we tap into the collective intellect of engaged consumers—in this case, consumers sharing their experience about travel and hotels,” said Aditya Ghuwalewala, MavenMagnet founder. “Our zero interference approach eliminates the risk of respondent conditioning thereby delivering actual insights focusing on what’s relevant in the space.”

Four Elements that Drive Relevance
The top hotel brands in the analysis displayed highly positive overall Conversational Relevance™ scores based on positive/negative buzz differential, with Hilton earning a 58 percent score followed by Marriott (56 percent) and Four Seasons (51 percent).

The analysis dug much deeper, however, looking at each of the 10 brands’ attributes through Brodeur’s four relevance pathways:

  • Functional – Practical attributes people care about like service, location, rooms, recreation and rewards programs. Comments in this area dominated the conversation about hotels. MarriottHilton and Sheraton were the winners here.
  • Sensory – Attributes that appeal to all five senses like the view and water pressure in the shower (which surprisingly eclipses bed comfort in online attention).
    Ritz-Carlton and Hilton led the category.
  • Values – Attributes that reflect personal values such as the hotel’s service ethic and commitment to indulging patrons. Four Seasons dominated.
  • Social – Attributes related to customer status, such as the brand’s cachet. Four Seasons dominated here, too.

The analysis further broke down results between leisure and business travelers. Room cleanliness, for example, means more to business travelers than leisure travelers. It’s the other way around for recreation.

Leisure travelers were broken down further still, between those traveling with children and those without. The Ritz-Carlton was particularly popular in conversations in the former category, and recreation was paramount for families.

Key findings
The Conversational Relevance analysis was able to specifically identify strengths that some brands could leverage and weaknesses that held other brands back. In addition, it identified a framework that all hotels can use in managing their online and social communications:

  • Service and location are the biggest “functional” conversation drivers.
  • Accessibility – both to the hotel and nearby amenities – drives nearly two-thirds of online conversations about the “functional” attributes of a hotel.
  • When it comes to conversations about rooms, size matters, closely followed by connectivity and technology.
  • While there has been a lot of investment by hotels in the quality of beds, the subject that most people talked about in the “touch” or “feel” category was the shower, specifically the water pressure of the shower.
  • Room noise was a hot topic in the “sound” category, particularly among family travelers.  Most of that conversation was negative.
  • People talked about the “values” of a brand in terms of what kind of service they received, i.e., having a “service first” culture and being responsive.   A particularly important element that drove online conversation was a hotel staff’s responsiveness and personal attention to individual needs.
  • The biggest driver of social conversations is whether a hotel is “referenceable” – that is, something travelers would recommend to others.
  • That a hotel’s “luxury” or “indulgence” is a symbol of status and achievement drove a considerable amount of conversation among business and leisure travelers; however one-third of that discussion was negative.
  • By far the biggest driver of conversation among business travelers is whether a hotel is considered “best in class.” Social relevance for leisure travelers derives more from peer reviews.

Why Conversational Relevance?
This study on the hotel industry is the first demonstration of Brodeur’s new Conversational Relevance model. Applicable to any industry, organization, brand, person, idea, candidate or cause, the Conversational Relevance methodology measures buzz volume, impact and positivity/negativity across four relevance dimensions. At the same time, it identifies hot topics, positive and negative, uncovering hidden strengths on which to build a business and risks that could devolve into crises.

The Conversational Relevance methodology has a number of advantages:

  • It relies on real people freely sharing thoughts with others who have common interests about things that matter to them.
  • Since it finds conversations where they occur, there’s no location bias.
  • It’s devoid of any response bias that could occur through a survey questionnaire.

“Our relevance strategy is founded on the principle that creating a dominant, relevant brand is as much a science as an art,” said Coville. “Relevance can be quantified and, more importantly, systematically improved to support behavior change in the people you’re hoping to influence. Conversational Relevance is just one of our many services that deliver on this principle.”

For more information on Conversational Relevance and hospitality, visit http://www.brodeur.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Brodeur_Hospitality-Relevance-Audit-2.14.13.pdf.

About Brodeur Partners
Brodeur Partners is a strategic communications company that helps organizations become and remain relevant in a complicated world. Headquartered in Boston, the company has five U.S. offices and operates in 33 countries globally. It is differentiated by its focus on relevance, behavioral change and ability to bring a discipline-agnostic approach to its non-profit, consumer and business-to-business clients. www.brodeur.com

About MavenMagnet
MavenMagnet does innovative market research by leveraging the power on online conversations. The company has developed a unique aggregation and analytics platform to garner rich insights keeping intact the core fundamentals of market research. Based inNew York City and Mumbai, MavenMagnet operates globally with capabilities to conduct research in 12 languages. www.mavenmagnet.com