It was a lovely day in Union Square Park in New York City on April 24 when Red Roof Plus+ welcomed visitors to its semi-truck outfitted to replicate a PLUS+ hotel room. People touring through experienced first hand what the newly renovated rooms looked and felt like.
PLUS+ is a new segment for the econo-lodging brand Red Roof coming to life in 2010 after new investors financed $150 million to renovate 150 of the brand’s 362 locations. With the investment in hand, the brand began listening in earnest on TripAdvisor to what customers really wanted in an economy lodge where every dollar counts. At the time, president Andrew Alexander requested, and received, every consumer review directly to his cell phone.
Several suggestions came in loud and clear: a more modern look, a room that didn’t smell, upgraded bathroom amenities and lighting, granite counters, flat screen TVs and multiple places to charge electronics. The planned upgrades, termed “Next Gen,” led to the decision to launch the new upscale economy category PLUS+ that would rent for $9 more per night than the typical $60 room.
Carpeting was ripped out and wood-like flooring was installed, the other improvements were made and the lobbies upgraded. An additional PLUS+ option called, “premium room,” satisfies customers’ suggestions for a bit more eco-luxury offering a larger room, snack box (popcorn, Nature Valley granola bars, orange juice, bottled water), fridge and extra pillows.
“It was a big wow,” Marina McDonald, chief marketing officer at Red Roof PLUS+, says.
The mobile marketing tour is an important component in an integrated marketing mix. The tour, with a budget of $500,000, began in Columbus, OH, with 12 planned stops across the country, including Philadelphia, Kentucky, Chicago, New York, Nashville, Yarmus, Maine, Florida, and a few stops for private customers at corporate offices. Another five to 10 stops are being added due to the success of the tour so far. The exterior of the truck is heavily branded traveling many of the same roads that 97% of Red Roof customers use to drive to its hotels.
Three goals were set: to introduce PLUS+ in an experiential way to consumers, to expose more business travelers to PLUS+ and to sign on new franchisees.
“We have about $15 million in the marketing budget for the brand, this tour is about 5% of the overall marketing budget,” McDonald says. “The majority of the budget is online, mobile, social, digital, heavy direct sales, billboards, radio and customer loyalty communication. This is a portion of that, but we wanted a way for customers to experience the room in a different kind of way. “
Plenty of incentives are offered during the event activities, like a $5 coupon, giveaways (like stuffed branded pets at pet shows—Red Roof is pet friendly), visitors are encouraged to sign up for the Redi Card loyalty program.
Another important marketing tool are the red LED lights that now glow on PLUS+ entrance canopies like a beacon, not only helping guest find locations, but also drawing attention to road weary travelers who might not necessarily be thinking about staying at Red Roof PLUS+.
PLUS+ launched in March with 15 properties with another 16 ready by summer across 18 states. In total, about 40 locations will be identified by the end of year.
The Video Connection
Video cameras mounted inside the truck capture the action as customers move through. Another mounted on the front of the truck gathers