60 Seconds with Best Western Gold Crown Club International

60 Seconds with Best Western Gold Crown Club International

Best Western Gold Crown Club International recently redesigned itself, bumping up the amount of points earned, and offering enhanced benefits to elite-level members. We chatted with Dorothy Dowling, Best Western Senior Vice President of Marketing, about why the “World’s Largest Hotel Chain” decided it was time for a change.

InsideFlyer
Changes in the currency? The 1-to-1 earning rate doesn’t work?
Dorothy Dowling
It’s a couple of things: It’s about making it more transparent to the consumer so they understand the value. Our competitive research shows that our program is one of the richest in the mid-market. For consumers to really understand the program we have to offer we have to make it more transparent to see the value.

Then when you overlay all of our promotions we offer, you can see the point conversion — when you can earn triple points that are currently 10-to-1, it’s much more impactful to the consumer.

IF
In the mid-market, did you bench mark yourself against Priority Club?
Dorothy
It’s Priority Club, Choice and Cendant that are our core competitors.

IF
This is much more than a currency reevaluation, isn’t it?
Dorothy
Yes, for us it’s a repositioning of our program. We recognize that our elite members are really important in terms of value customers to the brand. We did worldwide research to really understand what was important to them — to continue to get their loyalty and to continue to be of value to them. That is why we’ve layered on the extra values and additions for the member.

Why we have presented the program in North America differently from the rest of the world is that we are looking at this as incubation in terms of proof of concept.

Because we do seasonal promotions three times a year, we enriched the program offer for our elite members. The automatic enrollment for them was really important for them.

IF
Did you notice in your research if there was a difference between members living in Europe and living in the U.S.?
Dorothy
In terms of what they value, they did have different priorities. Each of the different affiliates caters to their marketplace and wants to make a difference. We want to reward travelers that are coming to us internationally. If a German traveler lands in the United States, they are eligible for the promotions operating in the United States.

IF
In March there will be a “no point expiration” rule. Is that a major change for Gold Crown Cub?
Dorothy
The heavy travelers don’t get to use their points to the same extent, so I think it’s very meaningful to them — those that have different travel patterns. We want them to be loyal to the brand.

IF
Is the point expiration based on activity over the years, or is it flat?
Dorothy
It’s no point expiration, period.

IF
Is that part of your marketing message down the road?
Dorothy
Yes, for us it’s going out with a renewed focus in terms of getting our message out about how rich Gold Crown Club is. Our research shows that some members didn’t understand how rich our programs were when compared to our direct competitors.

For them to understand how fast it really is to earn free nights is the biggest factor for them in terms of how fast they can earn rewards in general.

With regard to some of our partner channels, we made a very strong relationship with AAA. The other group we’re making a direct play for is the small and medium account. So we have a program for the account decision-maker and a program for the individual traveler. We can win the hearts and minds of the business travelers that have five to ten travelers in the small and medium business world and give a value proposition to the decision-maker in terms of recommending us as well as individual traveler.

IF
The new design for your card is modern and classic. Is that a new direction?
Dorothy
It’s part of our overall marketing plan. Best Western is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Our members like the fact that Best Western has a very stable business force. It’s helping our members recognize what very valued customers they are when they appear at our property. It’s very clear to staff who our diamond and platinum customers are so that we roll out that welcome mat a little further.

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