Interviews.

Kimpton Hotels’ Marketing Director on social media as a branding tool

Click. catches up with Eric Jellson, Area Director of Marketing and Strategy for Kimpton Hotels, to find out what it takes to stand out from the crowd

by Will Hide, Click. Travel Writer

Topic: Guest experience Leadership Marketing

Click. Takeaway

  • Social Media is not a trend: it’s here to stay. With pictures and property reviews going up immediately across numerous channels, it’s important how hotels embrace and curate that
  • Traditional print and radio media still have their place. Certain demographics such as baby boomers still want something tangible, like a magazine, to read. Well-targeted advertising on radio stations and internet music sites helps drive seasonal sales
  • Many people think hotels are best served chasing Instagrammers with 500,000 followers but there’s a broader and a bigger science to the whole process. Engagement is very important
  • How to make your hotel stand out? It’s how you treat people; not just guests but employees too

Miami-based Eric Jellson is Area Director of Marketing and Strategy for Kimpton Hotels, Florida and the Cayman Islands. Originally from Boston, he’s worked with Sheraton Hotels as well as South Beach properties such as the Delano and the Fontainebleau. He talks to Click. about hanging out with Heidi Klum and whether Instagram selfies really translate into bookings.

Eric Jellson is Area Director of Marketing and Strategy for Kimpton Hotels

Eric Jellson, Area Director of Marketing and Strategy for Kimpton Hotels 

Click: What is a typical work day for you?

Jellson: I start at around 6.30am, making sure European emails are handled quickly and getting a few calls out of the way. Each week I spend three days in one of our properties working with them on programming and sales initiatives, and making sure that special events ensure great memories. Next week I’m going to be in Los Angeles meeting modelling and creative agencies to develop some new strategic marketing partnerships.

I recently worked on the 25th anniversary of Miami Swim Week, that we did at the Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel with Heidi Klum. It was terrific to have her there, there were lots of beautiful people and we had TV shows like Extra and Access Hollywood. The whole scene was super beautiful and cool, very Miami.

Every hotel is four walls…you can’t change that. What really separates us from the rest is how we treat people, not just our guests but our employees

Click: Can you explain more about the strategy part of your job title?

Jellson: The job title is really an umbrella to let me and the marketing team find and create new partnerships. I help carry through brand initiatives in the hotels and align all that with sales, public relations and in-house departments at each hotel such as guest services and in-room dining, just making sure our corporate DNA is put out there every day.

Click: In a crowded marketplace how do you make Kimpton stand out?

Jellson: Every hotel is four walls…you can’t change that. What really separates us from the rest is how we treat people, not just our guests but our employees. We find ridiculously personal experiences with which to surprise our guests that nobody else does. We don’t script our team – certain brands have very specific ways they want you to talk to a customer, but we don’t. We just try to be genuine. The whole core of hospitality has to be from the heart, not a playbook. We find people who want to take care of people.


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Click: How important is social media to you these days compared to traditional print, radio and TV?

Jellson: Social media is not a trend…it is real and it’s here to stay! With pictures and reviews going up immediately across numerous channels, it’s really important how you embrace that and how to curate that. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that everyone knows everything about everybody these days in some shape, way or form. In the old days to find out about people’s spending habits you had to go to the credit card companies. Today it’s so technologically driven that customer service and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is changing in volumes.

The difference between social and traditional media varies between demographics. Affluent baby boomers still want to have a magazine in their hands. In certain markets for certain things, you’re still going to hear radio – the drive market in summertime for example is very important for certain destinations. Being heard, whether it’s on Spotify or local radio for a full week to drive business in the summer will still have its value. But I think social and digital media in the long run is going to become the end game.

The difference between social and traditional media varies between demographics. Affluent baby boomers still want to have a magazine in their hands

Click: What’s your take on social media influencers? Does someone taking selfies by the pool really drive sales?

Jellson: I think they do. Before influencers there were journalists! They have substituted each other in some ways because one is solely reliant on imaging and one is solely reliant on great writing. But I think the topics and how you curate the influencers and the marriage of the two, between media visits and social media visits, is the “secret sauce”.

Not everybody is an influencer. Many people think you’re best served chasing 500,000 followers but there’s a broader and a bigger science to this whole process and engagement is super important. When you see their Instagram page or other social media page, how does that look and does it follow your brand and who you are, or is it just all about them?

What you’re finding now is that truly great social influencers are coming with their own photographers, it’s not just someone with a smartphone anymore. Images are far superior to what they were, and hotels are able now to own these images…which would have been very costly to get through a photoshoot in the past. There’s a need for a better understanding of what you’re going to get out of all of this that you can measure and qualify.

Will Hide is a travel writer and journalist, who spent 12 years on the travel desk of The Times before turning freelance

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