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When will substance win over celebrity?

Hilton really did it. They wheeled out A-list celebrities like Anna Kendrick and launched a truly massive international terrestrial ad campaign which saturated every household in the world. The campaign had one message: you never need to look anywhere further than Hilton for the best prices, and if you find better elsewhere, there’s a no-hassle policy which gets you a 25% discount. It was entirely designed to help you trust Hilton, and feel like they want to do the right thing.

It’s with sadness that we report after plugging, playing and listening that it’s total bulls**t. It’s really unfortunate for everyone, including both you and Hilton. Ultimately, hotels want you to book direct, so it’s almost impossible to understand why Hilton would undermine this, yet they have…

  1. Booking direct means chains don’t need to pay online travel agencies a commission.
  2. If you have a great experience with your claim, you’ll look at other brands less.
  3. You want to book direct because it’s how you get points and benefits.
  4. The only reason not to book direct is a better price. By giving you both they win.

Not only were our prices never matched, nor was any discount ever received – there was nowhere to send a bill for wasting our precious leisure time. Hilton’s “price match guarantee” was designed to build trust, and amongst anyone savvy enough to use it, it’s only eroded it. The inbox has officially flooded. When will a hotel chain design a product does what it says on the tin?

“I just tried this – the online chat agent said I would get the reduced rate and told me to book the room and submit the form. I get a reply less than 30 minutes later saying the booking site i used was “ineligible”. No information is given about which sites are eligible.
There was a significant difference in price too – 146 euro vs 98 euro.
Next time i’ll be booking the cheaper 3d party rate.”

In a perfect world, brands would operate with a minimum of one baseline: just don’t ever lie to your customers. As hotels continue to take away simple things like breakfast, free wifi or a check out much past when you’d wake up, it’s little things in the loyalty scheme which can influence future purchases. A guarantee that booking with Hilton really is the right move for benefits and the lowest price seemed like a great way to start which ultimately saves them money, but then the comments came flooding in.

“Be careful – this may not be what it seems. I had exactly the same room, same dates, same # of people, same cancellation policy. I spoke to several people at Hilton and ultimately told that they do not honor price match from the particular site I used. I was disappointed because I found a lesser price that should have been honored by this price match and it was not. Lost my confidence in Hilton advertising.”

We really owe you an apology, because we bought it too. We got an email, read through the briefing and wrote a piece about why Hilton’s guarantee really should work, and really could be lucrative. It sounded so good and so simple, but then the floodgates of comments and emails opened up. Of them all, not one said, “yay, this worked.” Instead, they all shared a similar thread: Hilton would find a meaningless technicality, or at least claim one and then deny the claim.

“I had a similar problem last night. I found a Hilton room that had a ‘special rate’ on hotels.co.uk which was £20 cheaper per night (for 10 nights) than on hilton.com. I phoned the helpline BEFORE BOOKING and was told that they would not price match as hotels.co.uk was offering a special rate. The person I spoke with told me that I should just book on the 3rd party website (which I did). This makes no sense to me as we all know that Hilton will only receive a fraction of the price I paid, as hotels.co.uk takes a huge cut, but their loss!”

What’s insulting here is that they created a campaign designed to build trust, without actually doing anything to earn it. There’s no doubt that Joe or Jane traveler trusts Anna Kendrick, because who wouldn’t? They were probably excited. Why disappoint them?  It’s even more shocking because this is one of the few hotel issues where our needs *should be* in line with theirs. They save by not paying commission to sites like Expedia, and we like to save by getting the best price. We get the best price, they save on giving it to us and everyone walks away happy.

It’s why the world was mad at Tiger Woods. No one cares what someone branded as a dirtbag does in their extracurriculars, but that’s not the way Tiger Woods was marketed to anyone. We were sold the dream of the perfect husband, father and sporting hero who had overcome adversity – only to find out that he either is or was a dirtbag. It makes you mad for being sold a marketing lie, rather than just an indifferent traveler.

By every data point we’ve received, Hilton clearly never intended to honour a single claim. They just wanted more people to book direct to save on commission, without actually doing anything to earn it. It’s hard to understand how in 2019, in the age of the internet, leaks, Wikipedia and instant viral stories that a brand just doesn’t get that people are smart — will actually look. As a blog, one of the hardest things is illustrating when something really is great after so many things have purported to be but aren’t. It hurts that we bought this whopper and probably helped sell it to you, kind of like when they sold points and devalued them in the same week.

If the travel world is skeptical of major brands, it’s because of this. Just like when an airline ignores your first 7 emails, and then relents on the 8th, making something impossible ruins loyalty forever. By the time you get what you want, they’ve lost and so have you. Why not just get it right the first time? Surely it would save on staffing costs? The goodwill from making the claim process easy and ridding the brand of paying commission to online travel agencies is priceless. Telling whoppers to customers and paying Anna Kendrick to sell them – costly.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
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