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Red Roof Inn has shelled out $150 million to renovate its properties. What drove that decision? The reviews on Trip Advisor.
Marina MacDonald, who was named CMO in January, says she gets every single Trip Advisor review delivered to her phone. It's been a key resource as the hotel chain upgrades its properties, ripping up carpet, replacing dated countertops, swapping out sinks and adding amenities like flat-screen TVs, Serta beds and free snack boxes.
Introducing consumers to the new brand, dubbed Red Roof Plus+ -- part of the hotel's ongoing 'NextGen' renovation program -- is Ms. MacDonald's first order of business. Marketed as "upper economy segment," Red Roof Plus+ provides the chain some wiggle room in terms of prices -- enabling it to charge an additional $10 to $12 for renovated rooms. This year, about 40 locations are slated to open.
To raise awareness of its efforts, Red Roof Inn, which competes with the likes of Comfort Inn, La Quinta and Best Western, is in the midst of a mobile truck tour. Its redesigned room exhibit has toured more than 20 cities and was parked in New York City's Union Square last week.
Ad Age: What was the idea behind the redesign?
Ms. MacDonald: Our focus this year is about taking the brand to upscale economy with designs that appeal to millennials. And we did it through consumer reviews. I get every review that's on Trip Advisor directly to my phone, and we worked on what consumers were telling us. For example, some people found that the rooms were smelly, so we changed the carpets.
Ad Age: What changes would you like to implement?
Ms. MacDonald: The most important thing is collaboration. We as marketers are bringing consumers in for the first time to experience our product. There has to be an unbelievable amount of collaboration with operations, because when [a consumer] gets to the place and experiences it, that's where and when loyalty begins. So I plan to work very closely with operations to make sure what we want to say and sell is getting through.
Ad Age: What did you need to do differently?
Ms. MacDonald: We had to remodel the room based on the reviews we got. Consumers complained of smelly rooms, so we changed the floors to wood. They wanted clean surfaces, so we put in granite surfaces. The first thing we concentrated on, was cleanliness. Simple things go a long way. For example, we added extra plug points by the bed, and that was an instant hit.
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Ad Age: What's your target audience?
Ms. MacDonald: Our target audience is 50% leisure and 50% business travelers. While our consumers are typically boomers and Gen X, we are getting a large range of millennials for the first time. It's surprising how much of the millennial section we are capturing.
Ad Age: How did you come up with the mobile truck idea?
Ms. MacDonald: We spent $150 million renovating 150 properties. When we came up with the design, we built these rooms at trade shows. What we found was, it was changing people's minds. So we decided to do it on a great scale … the mobile truck tour. We could drive around the country, tell our story, bring the consumers in and sometimes bring it to investors who want to invest in us. What started out as a seven-city tour ended up being a 20-city tour. …But that said, this is only 5% of the marketing budget. Our overall marketing budget is about $15 million. The majority of it is online, along with radio spots and a lot of heavy direct sales and our loyalty program.