I am excited to have this opportunity to chat with you Kostas and get your professional take on hospitality marketing! Let us start with you – who are you and what drives you?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: I really had the travel bug at an early age and continue to be intrigued by the wonderful places and cultures of the world. My love for hospitality was likely linked to our family restaurant business where I spent many years working from the age of 12 bussing tables to eventually managing the restaurant along with my older sisters.
Shortly after I graduated from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in marketing, I moved to Toronto to work Wardair in 1988. The following year Wardair was purchased by Canadian Airlines International and over the span of 11 years worked in various departments (passenger services, marketing, revenue management and passenger sales).
I left Canadian Airlines in 1999 to get my first job in the hotel industry with Delta Hotels as director of sales and marketing. At the time as I was very anxious as I had never worked for a hotel before.
However after the first year I realized that this was the industry I really loved and that I could see myself enjoying a long career in.
Tell us a bit about yourself, and the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver and what makes it unique.
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: After graduating from Royal Roads University in 2004 with an MBA, I was asked to join an advisory board as the university wanted to launch a new school for tourism and hospitality management. I have been the chair of the advisory council for the last three years and find it enormously gratifying to learn from many industry leaders who represent the council — while feeling great about giving something back to the future leaders of our industry.
I joined Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver in 2006 as the director of marketing and I’m in my seventh year which is hard to believe. I’ve been the hotel industry in Vancouver since 1999 and I can tell you with great certainty that from year to year you can always expect something different and there is no opportunity for complacency, as our business is so dynamic and Vancouver is a very competitive market place.
I’m proud to say that what makes our hotel so special is our people, who are able to connect with our guests every day.
Our hotel staff have a combined service years of over 5,000 which makes it the highest of the 92 properties we have around the world. As a brand, our focus revolves around the guest and customizing each experience and interaction.
What drives us to be different from other luxury hotel chains is our principles and values that all employees share and to always put the guest first … this continues to be our most valuable competitive advantage.
What are the core communicated points consumers are expecting from a hotel they are researching?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: Our focus will always revolve on what customers want and need to make their stay more enjoyable.
What we do is identify what each guest values the most and in our experience the importance placed on time and maximizing what little time they have between work and pleasure.
I would say that many guests are now expecting to post feedback on Social Media platforms and receive a quick response, while imaging of our hotels that include interactive video remains very important. We are trying to reflect images that evoke real emotions with guests.
Effective communication will always remain a top priority while responding to guests who choose to express their thoughts and opinions via social media channels or directly to us by addressing each comment.
How do hotel brands leverage online marketing to beat their competetiors?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: The key really is about engaging users in way that is relevant to them and not to come across as a sales pitch or singular focus… it needs to be a win win for both the customer and for us.
Being authentic is a priority and we try to create products that are customized to individuals in real time while encouraging guests to share within their social media connections what they like. We really place an emphasis on our employees to anticipate in advance what each guest needs while staying with us …. social media has helped us do this.
We continue to utilize the number of social media platforms available to ensure we share all the great things we are doing.
What are marketing trends that the hospitality industry has embraced in the past 5-10 years?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: I think the marketing discipline is in a constant state of flux now with digital media and rapidly changing so that in 3 years a lot has changed from marketing tools or trends developing overnight! What was hot and new a year ago – is in many cases no longer relevant!
So I would prefer to share with you what we are really focused on now:
SEO & Content Marketing
- People only share what is import to them. By creating content important to the user, it increases share ability which can ensure that the information ‘sticks around’ and ultimately provides a good return on SEO.
- Be where users are consuming content, otherwise, no one listens; technology dictates behavior.
Leveraging Microsites within the brand
- Trans-media Storytelling: creating a story that can be re-packaged across multiple platforms and channels including web, print, social, etc.
- Amplify the product; increase SEO
- Trans-media Story Telling
Utilizing Social Media Channels:
- Own Your Voice: Authentic, appropriate, helpful, memorable
- Engage Your Community: always remember that fans are power brand ambassadors
- Create Relationships, Build Confidence: Become essential, reliable, responsive and rewarding
- Return on Investments vs Return on Relationships: Can you put a price on relationships & loyalties?
- Creating Engaging Content
With regards to embedded content, how does online video improve over online static graphics or text?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: Video provides motion and music and voice and cannot be replicated or have the same impact as static images – it delivers the experience.
Video creates an emotional experience which will connect positively with a guest.
Why does video enable viewers to deeply connect with a brand’s message?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: It allows for users opportunities to connect to the message on an emotional level. The great thing about video is it can now be shared through some many channels and devices!
What is a good example of Four Seasons Hotel’s video efforts?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: In 2012 we launched a new Chinese catering product that offers authentic Chinese food and we are the only luxury hotel in the city to provide this experience. Last July, a couple had their wedding at the hotel and their beautiful wedding was captured on video.
We were given permission to use the video for promotional purposes.
Just any old video won’t work for a professional brand. What are the top qualities of an effective video that ensures it will be successful?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: If you look at the quality of the aforementioned Chinese wedding video, you can see that it was created by a professional videographer.
Depending on what the video is being used for can also determine how refined it must be. We have also had guests post personal videos on youtube that are fun and edgy but still has a positive effect.
What would you say to director of sales unfamiliar with using video that they will experience positive ROI (return on investment) if the invest in professional video marketing?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: Like many creative pieces that are being produced for marketing purposes, video needs to be customized for specific target customers and the message must be clear to evoke thought and emotion.
What are the top tips you have for a sales director looking to invest in professionally produced online Promotional video?
- Work only with reputable producers / production companies
- Do not always look for the lowest cost vendor … as someone wise once said “you get what you paid for.”
- Be sure you have a video marketing strategy on how best to utilize the video as part of your communication plan.
- Look at other best in class companies in your industry and provide some samples of what you think works best for your brand and product.
What is next for online marketing as whole? Why is it vital to keep on top of trends?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: Without a doubt it will be m-commerce (mobile) as it continues to grow in popularity for travel related purchases.
It’s a thrill having the chance to speak with you! What are the best ways for readers to learn more about you and your Four Seasons Hotel?
KOSTAS CHRISTOPOULOS: Thanks for having me on! Here are ways to learn more about and connect with Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver:
Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FourSeasonsHotelVancouver?ref=stream&hc_location=stream
YEW restaurant + bar: https://www.facebook.com/FourSeasonsHotelVancouver
Google+ FSVan: https://plus.google.com/104128217921152464109
Google+ YEW: https://plus.google.com/100141423783521080395