We’re back with another of our popular featured interview in our Spotlight series. In this edition we meet Jakob Waern, Marketing Manager of Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh.
Hi Jakob – thanks for participating in our Spotlight series! Give us a quick intro about you and your background.
Hey, I’m delighted to be asked to contribute! I’m originally from Sweden and I started out working in hotel operations roles from as early as 15 years old, both in Sweden and in the UK. I moved into a role with one of the world’s largest OTA’s, Booking.com, in Stockholm and that’s when I truly realised that marketing, especially the digital marketing, is where I wanted to focus. But, since I am a hotel lover, I wanted to do it from the hotel point of view. I joined an independent hotel group, Hansar Hotels & Resorts, in Bangkok as Director of Marketing & Brand, working out of its head office. So, I guess you could say the Sheraton Grand is only my second marketing role, but I feel like an old dog already!
Tell us a bit about your role at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh.
Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh is now part of Marriott International, since they purchased Starwood. My role here is to oversee all our of marketing activity and support the overall revenue and business mix goals for the hotel.
‘Sheraton Grand’ is the new premier tier distinguishing exceptional Sheraton Hotels & Resorts around the world, for their enticing destinations, distinguished designs and excellence in service and guest experience. Sheraton Grand Edinburgh was announced as one of the first 10 hotels in Sheraton’s global portfolio to be part of this premium group and it’s evident as to why from the moment you walk through its doors.
We are the largest 5 star hotel in the city, both in terms of number of rooms and conference space. Even though we are big, it’s a very relaxed environment with a modern yet luxurious feel. I’m very excited to be part of the team here working with incredibly marketable products, such as the award-winning One Spa and our well-stocked One Square bar which holds more than 80 different types of gin!
What are your main responsibilities when it comes to marketing?
It might be a massive cliché to say no two days are the same, but due to the nature of our business that’s really true. I enjoy that, because you are involved in so many varied projects. I never thought I would be interested in nail polish or eyebrow treatments but as we are currently launching a salon (Now by One Spa) I learn something new about beauty treatments every day. Who would have thought!
My overall responsibility is to create, programme and execute marketing activations for the hotel, its venues and outlets. It involves both on- and offline marketing as well as creating long-lasting, mutually-beneficial partnerships with like-minded brands. Linked to that, I’m always focused on making sure that we have relevant market exposure to our different target audiences and to act as the guest’s eyes in everything we do.
What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to digital marketing at present?
Finding innovative ways to drive traffic to our websites and generate direct bookings is a daily battle and a full time job in itself. Even though we have strong brand and field marketing support from our regional digital team we are always challenged to stand out within our local competitor set during this ever-changing digital era. It can also be challenging to keep up with different technologies that are being introduced to the market; new platforms and ways to interact with potential guests in the Asian markets, for example.
What is your most successful social media channel and why?
I think we’ve had the most success with Facebook so far. Obviously, Facebook’s paid social options allow you to target very specific markets and demographics really strategically. But, its also the best way to interact with existing and future guests. That said, Instagram and Pinterest will be our main channels when launching Now Salon as they will support our targeted marketing objectives in their ability to be more expressive for visual content that corresponds well to beauty treatments.
What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months?
To attract the right demographic we see a lot of brands working with social media influencers. I think this is the new way of working with ambassadors for your brand and can be very cost efficient if you manage to pinpoint the right influencers with the right target audience, to create awareness about your products.
I also see a lot of innovative ways to tie in the customer to your brand or hotel and further build loyalty; mainly the different communication platforms and CRM tools that allow you to always be in contact with the guest pre-stay, during and post-stay.
If I gave you £10,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it?
Digital! I would spend it wisely on SEO to increase our online visibility and chuck in a bit of targeted PPC and paid social with what’s left!
What are you currently steering clear of with regards marketing strategy or implementation?
We are trying to move away from print advertising that is not measurable or easily trackable. From an environmental point of view we are also trying to minimise the amount of print collateral for our outlets and general in-house guest communications.
What can you tell us about the plans for Now by One Spa and what is it like to start marketing such an exciting new service for locals in Edinburgh?
So, this is the latest exciting project from our award-winning One Spa. In mid-March 2017 we will launch Now by One Spa which will be positioned as the quirky little sister to the already much adored and established One Spa. Now will focus on express treatments, open from first thing in the morning till late at night. It’ll be a little piece of cool in the heart of Edinburgh’s financial district. So the marketing strategy is heavily social – almost tribal – with the aim that Now becomes as synonymous with prepping for a powerful business meeting as it does for a little self-indulgence. I need to make a mark on metropolitan Edinburgh lifestyle with Now and if marketing it ends up being as fun as we’ve had in the planning stages, then we’re in for a great year!
What’s your ultimate career goal?
I’d love to open a hotel from scratch – to start working with a clean slate, to implement structures and procedures and work on its branding would be a great challenge. In the short term, I’d like to earn my stripes here in Edinburgh, then move into a cluster role overseeing multiple hotels within a region or a brand. You have to start walking before you start running!
What piece of advice would you give marketers entering the hotel industry now?
Research and research some more! Research your market and research the digital landscape and don’t feel limited to the traditional ways of working. Internal networking within your organization will also make your everyday work a lot easier. An understanding of how different hotel departments work and are dependent on each other is so crucial; I’m a firm believer in cross-training and cross-exposure to other departments being so beneficial, really a win-win.