INSIDE HILTON'S BRANDED ENTERTAINMENT STRATEGY

Jeff Diskin Is the Hotel Chain's Customer Inspiration Guru

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Who: Jeff Diskin, senior VP-brand management, Hilton Hotels Corp.

Why you need to know him: Mr. Diskin is spearheading Hilton’s efforts to reignite the hotel chain’s brand identity, and has turned to branded entertainment as one way of doing that. In addition to choosing which entertainment projects Hilton moves forward with, Mr. Diskin, based in Beverly Hills, Calif., also oversees the company’s relationships with talent agency William Morris and product placement firm Norm Marshall and Associates.
Jeff Diskin, senior VP-brand management at Hilton Hotels Corp.



Credentials: Mr. Diskin has spent the past 25 years in the travel industry, having held a variety of account service, customer service and creative management positions at Marketing Performance & Innovation (MPI), a subsidiary of United Airlines. He joined Hilton Hotels in 1989 as manager of business programs, and later was promoted to director of business programs for the company. He also has served as president and chief operating officer of Hilton HHonors Worldwide, the company’s guest-loyalty program, launched in 1997. Before that, he served as VP-corporate marketing for Hilton. He was also responsible for developing Hilton’s interactive marketing efforts. A father of four, Mr. Diskin is also a part-time musician, long-time softball and basketball player and sometime self-described poet.

What is Hilton’s entertainment strategy? “Hilton’s entertainment strategy is a critical platform for how we build emotional connections with travelers. Entertainment, like travel, should take you places, and Hilton’s objective is to reach our guests in places that inspire the best in work-time and personal-time."

What has the company done recently when it comes to branded entertainment? “Hilton has worked with branded entertainment as a core marketing strategy for a long time. For instance, we’ve been a sponsor of the Grammy’s for more than 15 years. More recently, we’ve expanded that long-time association by launching the Hilton Harmony Tour, a year-long initiative benefiting the Grammy Foundation and music education for children in schools, and featuring a grand piano with signatures by some of music’s best and brightest stars. We’ve launched unique video interviews on our new Web site, www.hiltonjourneys.com, with the personal journeys of U.S. Olympic Team athletes like Apolo Ohno and Allison Bavers and musical artists like Jason Mraz and James Blunt who are associated with our new advertising campaign.”

Last year, Hilton signed with the William Morris Agency and Starwood tapped Creative Artists Agency to represent them in Hollywood. Why enlist the help of a talent agency? What can they do for a hotel company? “We enlisted the William Morris team to help us proactively look for prospective projects and artists that help us connect to our guests and prospective guests as they travel, or are reminded of all that travel can bring to them personally and professionally.”

What would make a good branded-entertainment project for Hilton? "We look for projects that showcase people and their personal journey knowing that travel helps people connect, inspires new ideas, reminds them of what’s important in their lives, looking for ways to bring that to life. If we can find a project that works to communicate the essence of our brand and people, that makes great sense for the partner and we get enthusiastic.”

How do you measure whether branded entertainment is successful? “Branded entertainment, as a form of media for Hilton, is tracked for the typical target audience reach and frequency. But we really look for qualitative measures that help us ensure that the context and perceptions of the Hilton brand are also delivered.”

What lessons have you learned while doing these projects? "We know that we have to be strategic in the construct of the program, and provide for a variety of integration points that give it the richness and resonance we desire. Hilton looks for projects that support our key message that 'Travel Should Take You Places.'"

What are some of the best examples of branded entertainment that you’ve recently seen? “Well, I really liked the films that BMW did a few years back. And I really like the way Maxim has extended into parties, entertainment and retail. I think it helps give the magazine a cache that makes it a must-read for their subscribers. I personally read it only for the articles.”

There is still some confusion out there as to what branded entertainment actually is. How do you define it? “Hilton is actively partnering with TV, film, music and events that allow us to remind people that travel should be more than just getting from point A to point B, and that we, in fact, offer our guests the best tools and support for traveling comfort, workplace productivity, rejuvenating fitness and pampering.”

What’s on your iPod? “Well, I must admit to being heavily influenced by my daughters here. Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service, Iron and Wine, The Shins and the Raveonettes are all in heavy rotation along with Jason Mraz, James Blunt and Ben Folds. I also can never get too far away from the world’s greatest band, U2!”

What’s on your TiVo? “A variety of programming for the 3-year-old son. So, ‘Thomas the Tank Engine,’ Disney’s ‘Little Einsteins’ and ‘Dora the Explorer.’ We also tend to record the awards shows and big sporting events, and OK, I admit, we have been recording ‘America’s Next Top Model.’”

What do you do on your downtime? “I enjoy losing at family trivia and card games to my wife and daughters. We all play and sing together -- guitars and drums and piano. We do enjoy the movies, and being out and about at the beach, public gardens and, of course, the mall. Hey, three teenage daughters will get you a frequent mall visitors gold card.”