When we interviewed Geraldine Calpin, the Chief Marketing Officer of Hilton Worldwide, we couldn’t help but think in terms of “Magical Thinking and Heroic Action.” As the new marketing leader of the 4,700-hotel chain, Calpin was on a mission to engage and delight customers.
Calpin became CMO of Hilton Worldwide a year ago. Previously, she was Hilton’s Global Head of Digital, but as we are all agreeing these days, digital is just as much marketing as marketing is digital.
So the two roles were combined, and Calpin set out to bring the two teams together under one mission: to bring customers directly to Hilton with the biggest and boldest campaign in the brand’s history: “Stop Clicking Around.” The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.
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Q: What was the very first thing you did when you became CMO?
I called a Leadership team meeting across all of marketing and support functions, like HR & IT. It was amazing that some folks had never met each other!
Teamwork is important to me. I believe that it doesn’t matter how smart you are as an individual; great leaders collaborate well with their peers and inspire their teams to work in concert. Together, we agreed we needed to deliver a big win and get the whole company excited about the future of Hilton.
Q: What inspired “Stop Clicking Around?”
We needed to find that singular mission that we all agreed upon in order to stand together. “Stop Clicking Around” became that uniting mission, where we poured all of our resources into making the Hilton app the travel resource and booking destination for our customers.
Not only did we invest in app development and marketing outside the organization, but we invested heavily in team building and communication.
Q: How exactly did you bring the teams together and inspire them to rally?
We decided to go big or go home. We held weekly meetings across the entire company to share and track progress on the goals.
We created employee selfie competitions with rewards to make them smile. We created a global wave of excitement around the launch by launching it at the Grammys, partnering with the Rolling Stones and hosting local events.
Marketing has the power to be so much more than the “make it pretty” department. We have the imperative to inspire everyone in the company, not just the people who touch the product.
Q: So how did the launch of the new app and campaign go?
It went great, because we, as a unified team, did everything we could to show the customer why they should use the updated Hilton app to book direct and explore. Not only would they get more savings and perks, but we also delivered a number of value-added features, like digital check-in, digital keyless entry and Google map overlays.
Our app’s rating went from 1.5 stars to 4.7 stars. Now it’s the No. 1-rated hospitality app on the Apple Store — it ranks higher than any competitor, third-party booking site or anyone else in hospitality, including Uber!
And we’ve grown our members by 3.64M since launch. That’s the equivalent of 780 new guests per Hilton hotel around the world, enough to fill the Wimbledon tennis stadium [nearly] 250 times over.
Q: What support do you give your team to work cross-functionally?
We invest in every part of the customer experience, from the call center to the analytics team to the digital developers. We work as one team now, and we provide deep training for every employee to help them better understand the various functions at Hilton as well as their own. We don’t want the customer to feel any frustrations with how we are structured.
Everyone at Hilton has a personal development plan that they craft with their manager. And every quarter, we have a Global Day of Development. We encourage everyone around the world to take a full day off to do courses of their choice.
Q: How would you advise a CMO to structure their team, now that you have some hindsight?
Org charts are things that you obsess over during a re-org, but the org structures you have on paper aren’t really how organizations work. The right relationships, the right goals and the right trust — that’s what matters.
Q: How do you hire?
The biggest thing I look for is NOT whether you know digital marketing or media buying. It’s more about ambition, learning and leadership. You can learn about the hospitality industry and about the latest bidding engines and marketing platforms — those are always changing, anyway.
I look for passionate people who challenge themselves and their teams to do better today than yesterday. If I see a great leader, I can spring an organization underneath them.
Q: What interview questions do you ask?
What are three words your team would use to describe you? What are three words you would use to describe yourself? What are you most proud of? Now, tell me about a time that wasn’t your finest hour. How did you manage it — in your head and in your heart? When the chips are down, that’s when leadership arises.
That said, our hiring is not only about the interview. It’s really an immersion. We want people to know who they will be working alongside. So I spend a lot of time with anyone looking to join my team. And we get them to experience the Hilton brand by staying at a property.
- Nothing brings together a new team like a BHAG — a big hairy aggressive goal — without enough time to deliver it.
- Marketing has the power, and responsibility, to inspire the whole company, not just customers.
- Don’t obsess over the org chart on paper. Instead, get the right people, the right goals and the right trust in place.
- Recruit with an immersion, not just an interview. Align passion with goals.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.