Q&A: Premier Inn’s Gerard Tempest

Premier Inn sales and marketing director Gerard Tempest explains the timing of a shift in marketing focus, why Lenny Henry is a good brand ambassador and where opportunities lie for the Whitbread-owned budget hotel brand.

Gerard Tempest

Marketing Week (MW): Why is Premier Inn shifting from its “Everything’s Premier But The Price” strapline to focus on sleep?

Gerard Tempest (GT): The brand is just over four year’s old now. We launched our first TV campaign in February 2008 and established a very rational relationship with out customers – we are a really well distributed and convenient product, which is great value. Over the last four years we have built really high awareness of the brand from nothing but as we go forward what we want to do is build the brand to make it even more powerful and have a much stronger emotional connection with customers.

MW: What’s the value in the ‘Good Night’s Sleep’ guarantee?

GT: We have just spent £70m in the last 12 months keeping the estate in good order. We have refurbished rooms on our normal cycle and other sites out of the cycle. We now want to communicate the fact that we have a fundamental belief when you stay in our hotel you should have a good night’s sleep. At the end of a long hard day spent either working or having fun there’s a sense of relief when you get back to your room.

MW: Lenny Henry still appears in the ads, what do you think he brings to the campaign?

GT: Lenny still gets high approval ratings from customers. They love him and what he does. It’s built into a strong partnership and whilst he has developed what he is doing, for instance Shakespeare, our brand is moving in a slightly different direction and so there are some parallels.

MW: What supporting activity is there for the 60 second TV ad?

GT: We have a large mix of Pay Per Click and Search Engine Marketing support online and we are using social media with a concentration on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and TripAdvisor.

MW: What services and products have you been focusing on?

GT: We have been doing a lot of work on noise. We’ve just opened a 400-bedroom hotel at Terminal 5 where you can watch planes take off but you cannot hear them and we are looking at a new window design at the moment. We are also exploring what we can do to help the night management of hotels to ensure guests are not disturbed by other guests returning late.

MW: What does 2012 offer in terms of business potential for Premier Inn?

GT: The Olympics are a big demand driver for a certain part of the marketplace, site din central and East London with a few isolated pockets of supply outside London. We see a small positive for us in the year in terms of potential revenue as we have 25 to 30 hotels {out of 623} impacted by the Olympics.

We also have a double bank holiday for the Diamond Jubilee this year and expect customers to act as they did around the Royal Wedding last year.

MW: What is the view in the longer term for business?

GT: The vast majority of hotels in the UK are unbranded and we see this as a big opportunity when we can put in such a great product. We are up against hotels that are not run as well in our view. We do see in-bound tourism as an opportunity too but if you look at the developed markets the majority of customers tend to be domestic. London has a much higher proportion of in-bound customers along with key city centres and we do see an opportunity – that’s why we have built eight European language booking websites.

Economically, consumers and corporations are both under pressure and we see where Premier Inn is positioned as being a large opportunity – we have got a strong brand and a quality product that we have invested in over a large period of time. In the business arena, companies and organisations are looking to save money on their travel and entertainment budget without sacrificing too much quality.In the leisure market people are still wanting to enjoy their time and are arguably staying at home to do it, so are exploring the UK.

MW: How do you measure customer feedback?

GT: We publish for every single hotel the guest satisfaction cores alongside the TripAdvisor scores on our website. We’ve been doing this for nearly a year because what we observed was customers coming on to the website and also to TripAdvisor, so the best thing to do was pull them though to our site.

MW: What is the strategy for working with the sister restaurant brands Beefeater Grill, Brewers Fayre and Table Table?

GT: We have appointed EHS as Whitbread’s first retained CRM agency to work on hotels and restaurants recently and we have been building a single customer view database for two-and-a-half years. Given our key locations strategy for restaurants and hotels there’s a cross-sell opportunity.

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