How Hilton’s Shift to Data Obsession Has Led to Big Wins

August 14, 2017

By Claudine Waite

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Deb Heydel knows a thing or two about analytics. As senior director of marketing strategy and performance at Hilton, Deb has helped to turn the global hospitality brand into a measurement juggernaut, one that is more portfolio-focused and demands every cent spent is meticulously tracked.

Ahead of her session at the 2017 ANA Data & Measurement Conference, presented by Google, Deb sat down with the ANA to discuss how data has transformed marketing, how Hilton uses data to optimize its spend across 14 brands, and how to use your analytics department to achieve C-suite buy-in.


How has the impact of data on marketing evolved over your career and what are your predictions for the future?
When I started in marketing, it was very much a "set it and forget it" mentality. Very cool, neat campaigns with pretty pictures and funny tag lines would be pitched and launched and then the teams would move on to the next. There was not an expectation of measurement or a full understanding of how that campaign performed, what results it drove, and so forth. That has completely changed and there is a strong need for accountability now. Leadership expects that if you're going to spend millions on a campaign, you must prove that it more than pays for itself and show the details as to how it affected the business and the customers. Data is so important to justify media spend and measure its impact on so many aspects of the company.


What advice would you give to someone starting out in the field?
Get very comfortable with analytics, media measurement tools, and multi-channel attribution. It's no longer good enough to be an expert on one channel. You have to know how each channel affects the whole and how the entire ecosystem is working together. The technology is still a work-in-progress, but a good marketer has to be in the know and be able to work those tools to answer the questions every company and every leader is going to ask.


Hilton has multiple brands that span the spectrum from high-end to value within its portfolio. Given this complex enterprise, what are some challenges you face with collecting and analyzing data across your suite of offerings to optimize spend? 
Having 14 brands in various categories adds much complexity to marketing measurement and optimization. Because we do not have an unlimited amount of media dollars each year, the biggest challenge has been to determine the spend split across those brands and to justify that split to the brand leaders and hotel owners. Everyone wants to see their own brand logo on TV — that will always be the case. But the reality is we only have so many dollars and we have to optimize so that each dollar is working hardest for the enterprise. Some brands perform very well without extensive marketing, others need specific attention to grow brand awareness. Finding that balance has been a challenge and has required extensive data to understand how every dollar works for every brand and what the halo effects are.


What tips can you offer to gain alignment on recommendations within organizations that have multiple and disparate brands?
Media strategy must be aligned to the brand and company goals. If goals are clear, the chances of alignment and success in marketing greatly improve. At Hilton, some brands may need to increase occupancy while other brands are newer so they need to increase awareness. Each brand should have a very clear goal and the enterprise as a whole should have very clear goals. If those are known, marketing can align to those goals and measure in great specifics how the media is affecting those goals. I've found that involving brand leaders early and often is key. The more brands feel informed and involved in the process, the more they are supportive of the overall cause and optimization.


Don't miss Deb Heydel during her session, Hilton: Driving Change Management for Marketing ROI, at the 2017 ANA Data & Measurement Conference, presented by Google. Seats are going fast, so reserve your spot before it's too late.

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