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To New Memories: Q&A with Hilton’s Kasey O’Leary

Jordan Kelley, Content Director,

As the travel and tourism industry manage through the global pandemic, Hilton has continued to believe that the desire to travel, experience new cultures and connect with others is core to the human experience. According to a new study conducted on behalf of Hilton, Americans say travel is their most frequently recalled happy memory, more than special occasions or personal achievements and the majority cite creating lasting memories as a primary motive for trips. All this staying at home leads 90% of survey respondents to believe that the nation is facing a travel memory deficit that will have a long-lasting impact, including greater stress and missed opportunity for special moments with loved ones. Additional insights showed 94% of Americans are planning on traveling once they feel comfortable doing so, and 66% even say they will stop putting off trips they have always wanted to take. These consumer insights, ahead of the coming holiday period, have given Hilton the confidence to launch the global “To New Memories” campaign, which encourages people to consider making new memories safely with Hilton.

Brand Storytelling caught up with Kasey O’Leary, Vice President of Global Enterprise/Honors Marketing at Hilton to learn more about the difficulties brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic, the nature of the research that motivated this new campaign, and how “To New Memories” aligns with Hilton’s brand values:

How did Coronavirus impact your scheduled marketing earlier in the year? What did you do then to pivot?

At the onset of the pandemic, like many companies, Hilton pressed the pause button on all planned brand marketing activations. Hilton has a long history of being a trusted community partner and we pivoted from our original plans to focus on reinforcing Hilton’s commitment to our communities by donating up to one million rooms to medical professionals in the U.S. and providing meals in partnership with World Central Kitchen. Additionally, Hilton supported its Team Members hit hard by the pandemic through grants from The Hilton Effect Foundation. We also reinforced our trusted leadership in the travel and hospitality industry by adopting new global protocols and programs such as Hilton’s industry-defining CleanStay program, flexible booking policies, and Contactless Arrival made possible by the Hilton Honors app and our award-winning Digital Key technology. While we focused on making changes internally to remind guests of Hilton’s hospitality, cleanliness and flexibility during the pandemic, our first global marketing campaign since the onset of COVID-19, “To New Memories,” is designed to inspire and reassure consumers and make them feel comfortable with Hilton as their first choice to make new memories as they ease back into travel.

Where did the search for consumer data come in?

While we recognize the travel recovery journey will continue to be fluid globally, we are seeing encouraging signs for the industry. For example, China has experienced a rapid increase in domestic travel, nearly to pre-pandemic levels. In the U.S., we have seen consumers lean into road trips and we expect this to continue, especially during the upcoming holiday season. As we continue to navigate through the pandemic, Hilton wanted to better understand how consumers are thinking about travel and the impact that the lack of traveling may have on their lives.

Research showed that people are craving reconnection with both people, and the world around them, and memories are what happens when you travel, whether it’s by yourself or with family and friends. Travel memories are collective, yet deeply personal and while perception and sentiment toward travel has changed, the memories that travel creates are here to stay and are a shared yearning among consumers.

These insights and the pent-up demand for travel helped us decide the time was right to inspire consumers to start planning their next memory and reassure them that they can feel confident returning to travel. Whether it’s a road trip in the near future or a bucket list trip further out, Hilton will be ready to welcome them.

Our campaign research was validated with a national survey Hilton conducted to dive further into travel memories. We found that 90 percent of Americans believe they are experiencing a travel memory deficit, which many believe will have a lasting impact on their lives, from missed moments with loved ones to experiencing greater levels of stress.

How did the data’s findings and the notion of “Travel Memory Deficit” lead to the creation of the “To New Memories” campaign?

Our extensive research provided insight on the consumer desire for reconnection and to travel again. It was only when we conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 Americans that we realized the full extent of the travel memory deficit. These new findings are helping us consider how to lean further into the campaign and engage consumers into 2021. We are also conducting similar research in other global regions and are excited to learn more about the future of travel based on consumer desires. The survey results also inspired Hilton packages and promotions like the Dream-cation giveaway, a Hilton Honors contest giving travelers a chance to win a 10-day dream vacation.

The campaign is designed to show consumers the reconnections they have been dreaming about are now becoming possible. As a catalyst for memories for more than 100 years, Hilton designed the ads to inspire consumers to move from dreaming to planning their next trip to create new memories. “To New Memories” is a celebration of the unique memories that are made when we travel and enjoy the magic of hospitality. When you travel and you are cared for, it’s a chance to reconnect with yourself, with the people and places you love and your passions, and Hilton offers the assurance that our hotels are places that can nurture that reconnection and create new memories for our guests.

How were the spots ideated and produced when shooting safely is currently so critical?

As we went into global creative development, one of our main goals from the outset was to represent a diverse set of travelers and trip occasions. In the U.S., you’ll see this manifest itself in our TV commercials and social videos which were directed and brought to life by Rick Famuyiwa who is best known for writing and directing critically acclaimed multicultural films and more recently, directing episodes of “The Mandalorian,” and “The Chi” series. Award winning cinematographer, Rodrigo Prieto, was also part of the U.S. production.

That said, there were challenges to work around while making sure to closely follow guidelines and mandates for social distancing. A limited number of people were allowed onsite during production and key members of Hilton’s marketing team, who would have been present for the content capture, had to participate in the shoot remotely by Zoom. The choreography that took place to move different teams in and out to set up a scene was nothing short of remarkable. Simple tasks such as talking to the director or producer face-to-face about a different take or an upcoming shot took place on separate hotel balconies to maintain a level of humanity while keeping a safe distance.

The team also had to adapt to shifts in filming locations three times leading up to production as a result of state quarantine restrictions before ultimately landing in Los Angeles at The Beverly Hilton, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and Hampton Inn & Suites El Segundo, which all rose to the occasion and safely staged and executed a full advertising shoot during the height of the pandemic in the U.S.

What has the campaign’s roll-out looked like? Where does the content live?

“To New Memories” and the additional campaign messaging has been tailored to be most relevant in each region where it is running and designed to appeal to all demographics. Our goal was to target travel enthusiasts who are undecided on when they will be comfortable traveling again and to remind them that whenever they are ready, Hilton will be there for them. Our ads are currently in a variety of media to reach consumers so whether they are watching live television, streaming videos or using social media, they are encouraged to think about planning their next travel memory.

“To New Memories” has been rolling out across the globe over the last two months and is being supported through all marketing disciplines. Launching first in China, the digital advertisements target consumers who are further along in the recovery journey than the rest of the world. The campaign then launched in EMEA region with online video content in the United Kingdom and Germany, followed by social media content and television commercials in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and United States. In the U.S., the campaign is slated to air through December and the ads can be seen across a variety of premium environments including Disney, TODAY, Good Morning America, HGTV, Hallmark Channel, Food Network, TNT, FX, BBC America and FOX.

What benefits for consumers exist outside of the campaign content itself?

Being a catalyst for memories for more than 100 years, Hilton is uniquely positioned to encourage consumers to move from dreaming to planning their next trip. However, the decision of when to travel is a very personal one and everyone must determine their own comfort level. This campaign is not only meant to inspire consumers, but also reassure them of the many ways Hilton is working to ensure their safety and comfort, such as Contactless Arrival and enhanced safety protocols, including the Hilton CleanStay program, created in collaboration with Lysol® and Dettol® maker RB and Mayo Clinic.

To help ease the travel memory deficit, the Hilton Honors program also has been updated to provide greater flexibility for its members and to help them maintain their tier status and Points throughout the remainder of 2020. Additionally, we introduced a “Double Rewards” global promotion, which is running through the remainder of the year. Eligible members can now earn double Hilton Honors Bonus Points per stay as well as double-night credits plus even more Points to use toward a future hotel stay. Whether a guest wants to stay close to home or explore a new corner of the world, they can make their getaway dreams a reality with Hilton’s Dream Away offer to save at hotels across the globe and enjoy the flexibility of early check-in, late check-out and early departure, where available, if they need to change their plans.

What values and ideas in the stories told in the “To New Memories” campaign align with the values Hilton upholds?

Hilton has always operated on the belief that travel makes the world a better place, bringing people and communities together. By reminding people of the importance of travel, we will help our owners, our communities, our Team Members and our guests thrive.

Additionally, with inclusivity as one of Hilton’s core values, the campaign is a reflection of all of Hilton’s guests, owners and Team Members who have made, and continue to make new memories with us.

To New Memories is also a celebration of the unique memories that are made when we travel and enjoy the magic of hospitality. When you travel and you’re really looked after, it’s a chance to reconnect with yourself, with the people and places you love and your passions. Hilton offers the assurance that our hotels are places that can nurture that reconnection and create new memories for our guests.

Watch the spots here and here.


About Kasey O'Leary

Vice President

Global Enterprise Marketing & Loyalty Marketing

Kasey is the Vice President of Global Enterprise & Loyalty Marketing, charged with leading global brand marketing strategies for new customer acquisition, nurture long-term loyalty through our Hilton Honors program and driving revenue to the 18 hotel trading brands. Recently added to Kasey’s remit is responsibility for the internal Creative Studio & Marketing Operations. Kasey joined Hilton in 2009 over her tenure at Hilton, Kasey has overseen marketing & branding efforts for the Hilton Masterbrand, Hilton Honors and product marketing initiatives. Prior to Hilton, Kasey led the creative & advertising department for The Sports Club/LA, a luxury fitness company and worked at top-tier agencies like McCann Erickson. Kasey resides in Washington, DC with her husband and young daughter.

Phone: +1 703 635 8855

EA Phone: +1 703 205 9668


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