For more than a century, Hilton has built its reputation on raising the standards of the guest experience. In fact, many of the staple offerings in the hospitality industry today—room service, the minibar, central reservations systems—were once Hilton innovations.

And even though it’s been four decades since minibars made their glorious debut, Hilton continues to innovate. Several years ago, they introduced their Hilton Honors app and Digital Key technology to provide guests with a contactless check in/check out experience. Their Five Feet to Fitness™ offering includes 11 different fitness equipment and accessory options so guests can work out in the privacy of their room. And their recent CleanStay program promises guests more rigorous cleaning and inspection protocols in the wake of the pandemic.

As an industry pioneer, many brands look to Hilton as a shining example of how to address the evolving needs of today’s traveler, and rise to the challenge of reinventing the hospitality experience.


While the effects of the pandemic have been devastating across the board, one of the hardest hit industries was Travel and Hospitality. Like most hotels, resorts and other travel destinations, the initial challenge for Hilton was managing the fallout from cancellations.

But as time went on, the challenge became (and still remains) the general sentiment toward travel. In addition to the everyday challenge of standing out among other hotel choices, Hilton also needed to overcome new hesitations and objections about travel during a pandemic. Their business depended on it. So, what did they do? In short, they listened.


Hilton’s strategy to inspire renewed trust and confidence in both travel and their brand appears to include three insight-driven pillars: product innovation, marketing creative and customer connection. Let’s unpack each pillar and discover how your brand can use social insights to drive similar business strategies.

Product innovation

During a pandemic, travelers’ priorities change. When they’re searching for a hotel, they care less about amenities and service, and more about cleanliness and protection. In order to compete with the comfort and safety of people’s own homes, Hilton created a program that would ensure the same diligence and care in cleaning their hotel rooms. In partnership with trusted household cleaning brand, Lysol, the brand launched Hilton CleanStay in select hotels.

Most notably, the program featured the Hilton CleanStay seal, a product innovation that let guests know their room was professionally deep cleaned since the last guest—and that no one had entered their room since that cleaning.

To promote the program, Hilton shared the announcement on its social channels, as well as a video showing the cleaning protocols in action. Judging by some of the comments, this program had a direct affect on loyalty and revenue.

Using social to drive product innovation: 

Insights gleaned from social can tell a brand a lot about what their audience is thinking, feeling, wanting, needing, using, doing, etc. Although a desire for clean rooms may have been a no-brainer in the context of the pandemic, the knowledge of which cleaning brands Hilton’s audience trusted most and the desire for a visual cue could have come from social listening.

By listening to social conversations that included keywords like cleaning, hotels, virus protection, etc, Hilton may have discovered the insights that folks trust Lysol, and don’t always trust someone’s word that something’s been cleaned—leading to their choice in brand partnership and the innovation of the physical seal.

With a sophisticated listening tool, your team can set up queries to monitor specific topics and keywords, as well as sentiments toward your brand and others. These insights might just reveal a gap in the market or new opportunity to create something new for your customers.

Marketing creative

In October of 2020, Hilton announced its global marketing campaign, “To New Memories.” The initiative was driven by a customer survey revealing that nearly nine in 10 travelers say travel memories are some of the happiest of their lives, 95% of those who travel are missing it and 90% believe we are currently experiencing a travel memory deficit.

The campaign was created to reignite people’s passion for travel by reminding them of what vacations, adventures and getaways feel like. It appealed to Hilton’s audience’s emotions at a time when they were missing travel and the memories it created the most. Long story short: They used FOMO to inspire desire and action.

Using social to drive marketing creative:

For folks who aren’t as motivated by the promise of a clean room, Hilton went a layer deeper with this campaign by appealing to the emotions of their audience. In order to do that, they first had to find out how their audience was feeling.

While Hilton used an actual customer survey to glean insights around travel sentiment, not every brand has similar resources. That’s the beauty of social listening. You don’t need a lot of time or money to discover what your audience is feeling at any given time. People are telling us everything we need to know on a daily basis through their social activity. We just need to make sure we’re listening.

And when it comes to marketing campaigns, that emotional insight and connection is what will lead to messaging and creative that resonates deeply enough to inspire your audience to take action. It’s the difference between selling them on what you’re offering—and why you’re offering it. The “why” is always more impactful.

Customer connection

With so many folks working from home during the pandemic, Hilton identified an opportunity to provide their guests with a distraction-free environment for more productive remote working. The initiative is called Workspaces and offers day-use rooms that include a spacious desk, ergonomic chair and enhanced WiFi.

To promote Workspaces on social, Hilton asked their followers to send them a photo of themselves in their everyday workspace using #UpgradeYourView, and in return they’d upgrade it to reflect the “travel background of their dreams.”

Even though it was only a day-long initiative, the images created were highly-shareable, and gave the brand the opportunity to engage with their audience, promote their new program and stay top of mind during a decline in travel.

Specific Hilton hotel chains and locations have also mastered the art of genuine customer connection. When power outages in Texas displaced an elderly man from his home, his granddaughter checked him into a local hotel, which the family jokingly nicknamed “Waldorf Astoria.” When a real Waldorf Astoria property—one of Hilton’s most prestigious and luxurious chains—learned of his story, they reached out with a personal invitation to stay with them once travel restrictions lightened up.

Knowing that might be a while, the hotel decided to bring their signature luxury experience directly to him by sending him a Waldorf Astoria “care package,” including a bathrobe, slippers, luggage tag and more to use while he plans his trip.

These surprise and delight moments create lasting connections not only with the guests directly involved, but also with everyone who happens to hear about it. In this case, the story made it onto the local Texas news, giving the hotel some free, brand-building publicity. And of course, the story then makes for great content to share across their own channels.

Using social to drive customer connection:

It would be difficult to stumble upon these moments without a sophisticated social listening solution. People don’t always use your brand’s handle when mentioning you in their social conversations. By monitoring certain relevant keywords, the Rome Waldorf Astoria location was able to bless this man beyond anything he ever expected, and positively impact their brand perception in the process.

Travel and hospitality brands aren’t the only ones who can benefit from surprise and delight opportunities. Any time your team can add value to or solve a problem for members of your audience, you are building your brand and directly impacting your business through customer connection.

And there’s just no better way to do it than with social listening.