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Humanizing a loyalty program is the ultimate goal of a new video series from La Quinta Inns & Suites called, “On The Road With Dave,”—featuring Dave Sims, La Quinta’s vice president of loyalty marketing.
“On The Road With Dave" premiered last week on YouTube, as well as La Quinta’s brand channels, with two episodes: Episode 1 in Austin and Episode 2 in historic San Antonio.
Episode 1 is all about Austin, a weird city in its own right, but Sims meets a loyal Returns member, Lincoln Durham. A rocker who also spends most of his time … on the road.
In Episode 2, Sims visits an iconic location not only for Texas, but also for La Quinta: San Antonio. It’s where you’ll find the first-ever La Quinta Inns & Suites. He also explores quintessential San Antonio landmarks.
New episodes will premier monthly, with the next one coming in September, when Sims heads to Chicago, where the prime hotel property is fresh from a renovation–and breaks almost all La Quinta stereotypes. It’s not one to miss.
“On the Road With Dave” takes a new and bit of an offbeat approach to talking about loyalty programs, many of which feel robotic or computer-generated and not at all personal. With Sims as the face of the program, current and potential members can feel connected to Returns in a new way.
This video series is the first of its kind for the La Quinta brand, coming on the heels of the Returns program re-launch earlier this year. The Returns program introduced new benefits that give members more freedom to earn points with more convenience, including three features that have not been implemented in the travel industry before.
Loyalty360 caught up with Sims, literally, from his now busier than before schedule to learn more about this unique video series.
Can you talk about the genesis of this new video series and what your goals are for it from a customer engagement/customer loyalty perspective?
Sims: We re-launched La Quinta Returns at the beginning of the year and that included eight new benefits. Some of those were industry firsts, and when something is a first, it’s likely a new behavior for our guests. An example is our new benefit, Redeem Away! That is a partnership with Visa where one links their Visa credit card to their La Quinta Returns account and then can redeem Returns points at over 1 million locations in the U.S.–at restaurants, grocery stores, discount/club stores, and bookstores. We’ve already had over 20 million points redeemed with Redeem Away! but we want to continue to get more of our members to try it.
We used every channel we have to communicate it, even included it in our TV commercials, but it’s still a new behavior that is easier to tell someone about than put into an email or direct mail piece. So that was the task of our agency Greenlight, along with a broader task of how do we better energize and educate about this really great loyalty program in a new, different way. And they came up with “On The Road With Dave” (OTRWD).
The goal is really to humanize a hotel/travel loyalty program in an industry that has gotten so complex that we now have bloggers whose only job is to make travel loyalty less confusing. And back to Redeem Away! In the first video from Austin we don’t hit you over the head with it, but we show Lincoln buying a coffee at his local coffee shop and then getting the Redeem Away! text – just that easy.
How long are the videos and what will they contain?
Sims: We know that attention spans are limited, so want to keep the videos short–definitely in the 90-second to two-minute range. What I love about this is that I’ve always considered the hotel business to have so much potential content. All this content just waiting to be shared. We have beautiful new hotels opening every week, we are renovating over 100 hotels this year, we have great people with great stories who work for us, we have really interesting guests (like Lincoln Durham in the first OTRWD), and I think things that have traditionally been “back office” like cleaning rooms is really interesting content especially if it is Dave trying to clean a hotel room and have that room pass inspection.
We will also have some that are internal facing–as you know internal program engagement is as important as the guest-facing work. So with almost 900 hotels in U.S., Canada, and Latin America, there is no end to stories to tell. Again, we aren’t going to do a boring tutorial on the benefits, but like in the second video from San Antonio, I show how easy Instant Free Nights is–where I redeemed points instantly at the hotel for a free night. And that is just part of the flow of the video.
How does La Quinta typically leverage social media and does the video series present a new direction for the company as far as customer engagement?
Sims: We are doing some really good things with social. We have good ideas about who our guests are and what role each channel should play. We are using our first-party data to either target or find lookalikes in those channels. We have also partnered with Chirpify to run an influencer / social rewards program. Our members can earn points for attaching their social accounts to their Returns accounts, they can earn points for following us, and most importantly, then they can earn points for social sharing.
The reach we see when they do that has been what we had hoped. This is just another case of knowing we have to find new ways to break through the clutter and get the story we want to be told out there in as many different ways as we can. And so OTRWD just builds on that. But we know that just putting a video out there on YouTube isn’t the goal–the goal is getting people to see the video. And the strategy around doing so just started this week–getting it incorporated into our content calendars across channels. And we hope it builds. We are asking “where should Dave go next?” internally and externally, and will go where the good stories are.
How often will new videos come out?
Sims: We are shooting for monthly. That’s a pretty good pace for these. We typically shoot in one or two days and it’s a really small production–literally one person with a camera who also does editing, me, and one or two people from Greenlight. Todd Lancaster, the Greenlight creative director, develops the outline with a rough script and locations. He and Scott Porter, our camera man/editor, work really well together, so even though I’m there, I’m always really impressed when I see the finished product.
How was it for you filming the videos?
Sims: It’s really fun. For one, Greenlight is just fun to work with so being out on road with them is a nice break from the daily work of running a loyalty program. I also like that people seem really surprised that I’m fairly entertaining. Maybe it’s the introvert in me that it doesn’t always come out, but it’s a nice outlet for my more creative side. It’s also great just to get out and interact with our hotel operators and our guests. Finally, it’s fun now that a common hallway passing comment has become “where’s the next On The Road With Dave?”
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