Promotions Continue To Mutate Into Consumer Generated Social Motions

Four Points by Sheraton, a Starwood brand, is eliciting travel stories from its audience in a new Facebook-based promotion.

Those with compelling stories can enter the “Win $25K” contest via Four Points’ Facebook page now through August 10th.

Here’s a sample entry on Facebook:

Late one night, I go to a small hotel, walk up to the 3rd floor & open the door. The room is completely empty. There’s no bed. Nothing. I notice a phone on the floor, pick it up, call the front desk. “Front desk?” “Hi, I just got up to my room, there’s no bed in here.” (long pause) “Are you sure?” “Yeah, I’m sure! It’s a bed! I know what they look like!” (long pause) “There’s supposed to be one in there.” “I know. But there’s not.”

Brian McGuinness, senior vice president of Specialty Select Brands at Starwood, says, “Four Points is known for catering to business travelers’ needs. Learning from their successes, and inevitable mishaps, helps us to further enhance their stay.”

Visitors to the promo page on Facebook are also encouraged to vote for their favorite stories, and when they do are entered to win a weekly prize: a two-night stay at any Four Points hotel in the U.S. or Canada, along with a $50 beer tab.

The Economist’s travel blog doesn’t care for the move.

Web- and social-media-savvy companies seem to be using increasingly annoying and invasive methods to try to connect with their customers. Four Points’ contest is not particularly abusive, and I don’t mean to pick on Starwood, but it’s certainly an example of the trend. Why shouldn’t you be able to enter the contest without telling everyone you know that you “like” staying at a particular sub-brand of hotel?

Answer: Because tapping the participant’s social graph creates WOM for the brand. Plus, I’m not sure I see the privacy issue as an impediment. If you want to tell a travel story on Facebook, on Four Points’ page or you own, you’re probably not the kind of person who is overly concerned with privacy.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.