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Hoteliers' Voice S4E6 - Melia International - Sofia Muntaner: Evolution of hotel marketing

Hoteliers' Voice S4E6 - Melia International - Sofia Muntaner: Evolution of hotel marketing

In this episode, Sofia Muntaner, the Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Melia Hotel International for Zel and Innside brands provides invaluable insights on the dynamic world of hotel marketing. With a decade of experience at Melia, she brings a wealth of knowledge, especially as she prepares to speak at the International Hotel Technology Forum about attracting the new wave of guests.

Adapting to Consumer Trends and Behaviours

Sofia delves into the transformation of marketing strategies in response to changing consumer trends and behaviours. Marketing is not just about pushing promotional content; it's about fostering long-term relationships with customers and nurturing a community that resonates with the brand. She stresses the necessity for brands to align with consumer values and to offer personalized experiences and communication.

The Digital Shift and Media Fragmentation

The conversation explores the significant shift towards digital channels, including the rise of social media, influencer collaborations, SEO, content marketing, and email marketing. Sofia highlights the challenges of media channel fragmentation and how brands must navigate this landscape to maintain a strong presence.

Consumer Expertise and Brand Awareness

The discussion touches upon the changing consumer behaviour, with customers becoming experts in products, heavily relying on reviews and social media for decision-making. The evolving role of social networks as search platforms for travel-related content underscores the importance of brand awareness in the digital era.

The Enduring Power of Print

Despite the digital surge, Sofia acknowledges the enduring power of print advertising. She discusses the impact of well-executed print campaigns and out-of-home advertising, which continue to capture attention amidst the noise of digital content.

Travel Behaviours and Booking Trends

The conversation also covers evolving travel behaviours, such as the rise of purpose-driven travel and the blend of business with leisure trips. Sofia addresses how specific events and occasions influence travel booking trends, providing insights into how marketers can tap into these shifts to attract guests.

Influencers and Brand Visibility

The role of social media in marketing is a key topic, particularly the strategic use of influencers to enhance brand visibility. Sofia emphasises the importance of partnering with influencers who align with the brand's values and engage with their audience authentically.

Content Marketing Trends

She speaks about the transition from short-form to long-form content and the necessity for tailored content across different channels. She underscores the importance of creating interactive and inspiring content to effectively engage with the audience.

Social Media Performance and Engagement

Sofia discusses the performance and audience engagement across various social media platforms, highlighting the importance of understanding platform-specific metrics and audience demographics. High engagement rates and content relevance tailored to each platform are crucial for success.

Partnering for Marketing Efficiency

She shares insights on identifying and working with partners for efficient marketing operations. Building long-term relationships with partners and the role of continuous learning and development in marketing are key to staying ahead in the hospitality industry.

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Programme Notes

This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors

Ryan Haynes (00:00:22) - Hello and welcome to Hoteliers' Voice season four. In today's episode, we're going to be talking about hotel marketing with Melia. This episode is part of our media partnership with the International Hotel Technology Forum, of which our guest today, Sofía Muntaner, Senior Brand Marketing Manager of Melia Hotel International for Zel and Innside Brands, which has approximately 45 properties, was speaking at the IHTF 2024 about attracting the new wave of guests. Sofia has been with Melia for ten years and so in our conversation today, we're going to be talking about how marketing has changed as a result of consumer trends and behaviour, the channels that are key to success with consumers today, how social media channels differ in performance, audience and engagement, the role of content, and the use of guest technology and marketing systems.

Ryan Haynes (00:01:22) - Hello, Sophia. Thanks ever so much for joining us today. It's absolutely wonderful to have you here.

Ryan Haynes (00:01:27) - So, please, if we can start ten years, within Melia, you must have seen quite a few changes. How have marketing strategies and marketing activation changed as a result of consumer trends and behaviours?

Sofia Muntaner (00:01:41) - Well,  the marketing strategy used to be promotional content but nowadays it's much more complex. You're running on communication is like your contact with society. So, you need to have a long-term relationship to have a sustainable business in the end. So you need to maintain this. Customer relationship, creating your own community. So it's good to have these customers near you, like on a daily basis, and this is possible due to these different channels. So customers want to support businesses that share the same, well, the same values, that well, that they do. So the product itself is not enough. They expect brands, with purpose and corporate social responsibility and they expect like personalised experiences and communication.

Sofia Muntaner (00:02:40) - So, apart from that, obviously, it's a no-brainer that customers have become completely digital nowadays. So marketing strategies have changed into these digital channels. to reach these customers with social media marketing, influencer collaboration, SEO, content marketing, and email marketing. So there are like, many new channels. And I think the fragmentation of these media channels is the challenge today for companies and, for brands and even for example, the TV is changing. So the TV is not dead itself but it's changing the role with like, new, like the Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Netflix, whatever. So there are like many of them, but I think like, there is like also a change of how like brands and media channels are interacting. So you need to build a relationship also with the channel. So this is like a change.

Sofia Muntaner (00:03:50) - So and if we come to the to the customer, sorry to the customer, I think the evolution is like huge. So since I started in media you said that I've been there for ten years already, which is quite a lot. So I've seen this evolution and now,  the customers are like experts in your product. This is also a challenge for the brands because they read reviews, they look at the product on different platforms. They compare sometimes they know even more. So this, what we call this search phrase has become one of the most important parts of the marketing strategy, I think because you need to be there.

Sofia Muntaner (00:04:52) - This search phrase is what lasts more in the decision-making so this brand awareness, in the end, is everything we have seen even how some social networks are shifting into being like these search platforms, for example, the consumers are using TikTok or Instagram too to look for their trips.

Ryan Haynes (00:05:23) - It's absolutely fascinating how things have really changed over the last ten years. I can imagine now, as you say TikTok didn't even exist back then. you've seen the growth of some of those other social media channels and you know what, in 2014, we definitely had some of that social in place. I remember using Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest back then, but I guess you would have been doing, some actual print, and, print advertising as well back then. Does that play a part at all in anything you do today?

Sofia Muntaner (00:05:58) - Yes.

Sofia Muntaner (00:05:59) - I printed at the very beginning when I started, it was not a huge part of the strategy. But it's true that when I started, it was like a part of the budget that went to print advertising. But it's true that nowadays it's changed a lot. The print advertising, I have to say that. When you've seen our good print or, like, a good activation in the street, I think it's very powerful because we are used to being all the time in your phones and your computer. So you have many likes and messages and you don't need to be very relevant there. So this is a challenge. But when you see something in the middle of a street which is really good, it brings your attention.

Sofia Muntaner (00:06:52) - So I think the out-of-home advertising is not dead. It's very powerful, but it's more cost-effective. And it used to be like a very specific activation. But when it comes to printed media, for example, in a magazine is through that now, it's changed with the digital environment but talking about how the consumers have been life-changing. Now, for example, generation Z was younger. Now they are starting in the workforce. So we can see how this generation also is coming into the market and they are looking for things that are very different. Like obviously like social responsibility. I mean the shopping behaviours are changing a lot.

Sofia Muntaner (00:07:50) - So and I have seen how, for example, all these travel behaviours, like, okay, we are travelling for business and leisure at the same time, these lines are very broad. So you are travelling for leisure but you stopped by for something interesting for your job, for example. When I'm travelling, I love to discover new hotels that maybe are good for them. We have seen how people now on their trips, they usually travel with a purpose so with this, we used to see how people maybe like book a trip for a weekend and that's it. But now, more and more people are looking for example, I'm going to this city, but because there is something happening like a museum, like a festival or marathon with a specific purpose.

Ryan Haynes (00:09:04) - I mean, we've been certainly looking at that aspect of it, this impact of the like of Taylor Swift tourism, and other specific events that you mentioned go occasions where people are specifically looking for their birthdays or anniversaries. But going back to the marketing channels that are really having that impact today, I mean, you talked obviously a lot about sort of personalized marketing and drive and the impact that has, and social media, and particularly let's look at this idea of social media for the moment, because you've got your own channels. and then you've got the paid advertising that you can do on social. And then there's this influencer side. As our hotel brand, we've heard all the stories where a lot of influencers are trying to get their free holidays, and you're hoping to be able to get that visibility and that exposure through them. What is that relationship like working with influencers and the power they bring to a brand and driving that awareness for you guys?

Sofia Muntaner (00:10:07) - Yeah, the influencers are like a territory that has grown a lot.

Sofia Muntaner (00:10:14) - And there are like many, many opinions around this topic. But I have to say that, our experience is very good. I think the brands need to look for influencers or content creators that bring value to their brand and that they are really partners. We know that it's not, only about how many followers they have, but I think the engagement part is very important. So we have been with the opening of sale last year. We have a partnership with many content creators and influencers that are really good. And if they have like a good audience, the values and the content that they are posting are aligned with your values. It's a very successful strategy. And in the end, they are like friends because I'm friends with them. In the end, we both want the world strategy to be successful.

Sofia Muntaner (00:11:24) - So they are adding value to their content also that is relevant to the audience and I'm adding like value to my audience also. So I think it's a win-win.

Ryan Haynes (00:11:34) - I mean, it's fascinating, this idea of content, because that's just been an area of absolute explosion in recent years. But yet the trends have changed from long form to short form, from posts to stories to reels, you know, what are you noticing in particular of where content is having quite an impact and that brands marketers need to think about more moving forward?

Sofia Muntaner (00:11:59) - Yeah, well, from my point of view, content is everything. So, there is a lot to unpack here because, in the end, you have many channels on how you reach your target audience. But in the end, if you are using any channel and the message and the content are not good, you won't be successful.

Sofia Muntaner (00:12:30) - So I think it's very important to choose your goals first, obviously to choose your channels and the content needs to be tailor-made for each channel. So you can't promote the same in Instagram as in TikTok, then in display than in CRM, so each channel obviously has an umbrella concept of your campaign. But what we do is create specific messages for each channel, for example, social media are more inspirational ones. And maybe in the display are more tactical ones. In the end, all the identities and the concept are the same. But everything is well adapted so it's challenging because creating a video is not that easy. But in the end, people are like they need like interactive, interactive story content that they can like, play with, share, can be inspired with.

Sofia Muntaner (00:13:41) - So we have seen this with TikTok with shorts on YouTube. So this is a trend that is here to stay. But then it's true that the long videos. So if you have been attracted by a short video and you go to a profile on YouTube or Instagram or whatever, and you seem like more information about this brand or this product and you are interested in this brand the customer, in the end, is willing to maybe to listen to a podcast for one hour. So it's like I think, what is more important is to have good content relevant to your audience.

Ryan Haynes (00:14:25) - But picking up on something that you, you said, particularly about social media channels, and you were talking about sort of some of the sort of ways you look at that performance.

Ryan Haynes (00:14:35) - and I guess this can often be a misunderstanding, that it's all about the number of views or the number of likes or the number of shares. But from what you were saying, sometimes it can just be that visibility. It doesn't necessarily need to have that level of interaction. When you look at the social media channels and across the different channels, how do they differ in, performance or audience engagements and what is sort of like some of the primary areas that you look at, for seeing a successful campaign?

Sofia Muntaner (00:15:08) - Well, its social media channels differ in performance based on factors like algorithm changes or user interaction. So its platform has its own metrics and they are changing. So you need to have dedicated teams to be aware of all of these, changes. So audience demographics change across platforms also. So if you choose like to be like on different platforms, you can target different age groups so maybe platforms like Instagram tend to have higher engagement rates due to their visually driven nature.

Sofia Muntaner (00:15:56) - And Instagram. It's a platform that it's been there for a while. So I think for example, you have Twitter or threads that emphasise real-time conversations, and information like sharing, which is like for example, in our case, we are not using it that much, but because I think it's for other purposes but we still have Facebook there because, it will it target like a wider, like, age group. For example, and TikTok. So, which is like I think the world now is having its moment and it's true that it's targeting a younger audience. But we are seeing how, like more and more well grown-ups are there, each platform has its own metrics and, and challenges and, and you need to like to create content for, for each of them.

Sofia Muntaner (00:17:05) - And we think it's very important not only to have like these many followers but that the engagement rate is high. So, we have seen like, if you have a higher engagement rate, the numbers are really good because people really like interacting with your content and they are really interested in your content. So this is one of the metrics that will in my opinion be one of the best ones, obviously, it depends on the campaign. So if you want to enter a new market and you are not popular there and it's the first time you launch a new title. So, obviously, you need to go with another metric like Rich. So you need to be like, you want everybody to see your brand. So in the end, you have all these metrics so sometimes you need to increase your fan base for any particular reason.

Sofia Muntaner (00:18:16) - So, I think all of these metrics need to be specific for your campaign. So I don't believe that there is always a metric that needs to be the key.

Ryan Haynes (00:18:32) - So you've got a mix of agencies as well as technology partners to help you fulfil your campaigns and your marketing plans throughout the year. So how do you identify sort of partners to work with to help you with efficient marketing operations? What do you look at that, helps you make that decision, most effectively that they're going to be the right partner for you?

Sofia Muntaner (00:18:55) - When we have a partner, we used to like to be in a long-term relationship in the end. So, it's not that we are changing, so when you have a partner, it's good like to build a relationship and be like friends, as I said because in the end, you are helping each other.

Sofia Muntaner (00:19:19) - So maybe the partner itself can evolve with the new functionalities or the new trends. So, we have agencies that help us with social media campaigns, obviously, we have Meta. We have Google. We have many partners, but I think like in every business, you need to be like all the time there.

Ryan Haynes (00:19:51) - How do you go about learning and development and, and improving yourself in your role and the support that you're given by the business to, to help you sort of, build up that level of experience? In marketing and hotels?

Sofia Muntaner (00:20:05) - Yes. well, in ten years, I have grown a lot I have to say. so I think that the best part is the team. We have an amazing team, so we help each other.

Sofia Muntaner (00:20:22) - So I think the team is the most important part of your daily work. We learn from the partners that we have like the agencies and the companies. But I think this job requires a curiosity mindset. I'm always curious about what is happening in the market. So obviously, you can have partners to help you with your marketing strategy. But if you are not there, it is difficult to reach your goals. So all that you kind of study and what you can learn on a daily basis and your team are the three parts that are key to growth.

Ryan Haynes (00:21:10) - Excellent. Sofia, thank you ever so much for joining us today and giving all those insights. It's fascinating to learn.

Sofia Muntaner (00:21:17) - Thank you so much for, well, for having me. And it's been a pleasure to be with you.

Ryan Haynes (00:21:22) - So that was Sofia Muntener, the Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Meliá Hotels International.

Ryan Haynes (00:21:27) - For Zel and Innside Brands. You can check out more of our Hoteliers' Voice season four on our podcast channel. And that was part of the International Hotel Technology Forum, where we are a media partner. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes. Thanks ever so much for listening.

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