Executive Briefing: Interstate’s Andrew Jordan

If he’d gotten in start just a few decades earlier, Andrew Jordan might have been one of the Mad Men. When he graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in advertising, he moved to New York City and spent about 10 years working for ad agencies, including Ogilvy & Mather. But after getting an MBA from New York University, Jordan thought, “It seems like I should be doing something different now.”

That turned out to be brand marketing. He joined the Coca-Cola Company as group manager of the brand team, then three years later moved to the hospitality sector, running sales and marketing for Club Med. Since then he’s moved in and out of hospitality, including stints as CMO of Wyndham, senior vice president of marketing for Carlson Restaurants, and CMO of Interstate Hotels & Resorts, a position he accepted not quite six months ago. Recently he talked to HSMAI about the challenge of staying ahead, the promise of e-commerce, and the reality of the on-demand economy.

What drew you to advertising and marketing in the first place?

I’m passionate about understanding the consumer, about solving problems. I like the project work of being in advertising. I like the speed. I think the service orientation in advertising — managing clients — enabled me to be successful when I was at Coke, because we were managing bottlers in effect and spending their money. So, it was about rationalizing how you spend the money, being very clear on results.

Now that I’ve come full circle here at Interstate, it’s very similar to how we work with owners. It’s how we’re constantly telling the story of the value that we’re bringing. The differentiation that we provide at Interstate is a fundamental marketing positioning that takes me back to my roots — to when it was Procter & Gamble, when it was Coca-Cola. What is it that differentiates your brand, your product, from everyone else, and why should people want to buy that? That’s very much on our agenda here at Interstate.

Is there something about hospitality marketing that’s unique compared to the other sectors that you’ve worked in?

I think the true lack of shelf space in hospitality is unique. If it doesn’t get sold tonight, it goes unsold. That’s very different than the package-goods world. The good news on that is it enables us to test things in real time and explore opportunities all the time. The bad news is that sense of urgency is very, very real, because it’s a missed opportunity.

What’s different about doing hospitality marketing for a company like Interstate as opposed to a brand?

What’s different to me than when I was at Club Med and when I was at Wyndham and even when I was at Omni is the fact that they’re not owner-operated, so we can’t simply make decisions and move forward. When we’re managing multiple brands — Marriotts, Hiltons, Hyatts, and everything — part of our drill is to make sure we really understand what the brand responsibilities are, what the brand tools are, and are we taking full advantage of those. Are we pushing hard? Are we evaluating the success?

Then we have about 40 independent hotels as well. For them, it’s our responsibility to create that platform. The onus is on us to demonstrate how we’re driving value for our owners. I took a 10-year hiatus from hospitality, and I think during that 10 years, the ownership levels of hotels have changed dramatically — the REITs involved, the public companies involved. What’s interesting is it requires us to really understand each owner and what are their objectives, because they may not all be the same. Some of these guys are short-term holders and they’re looking for quicker results. Some of them are longer-term holders. Some are all focused on market share. Some are all focused on ADR.

Ultimately, my team’s responsibility is to drive revenue, but we do have to be cognizant of, within each owner group, they may have a bit more nuance of how they evaluate success. We need to understand that, so that we are delivering for them.

What are some of the challenges of working in this space?

It’s probably a challenge for us to stay ahead. We’ve got to demonstrate constantly that we’re bringing greater value to our owners, and that puts some responsibility on us to stay ahead of the curve on everything that enables us to drive revenue, that touches the customer and the consumer. That’s a challenge — to say, how are you testing new systems? How are you aware of all the latest tools? How do you enhance your team so that we’re ahead of the curve?

What are some opportunities that excite you?

E-commerce continues to be fascinating because it’s just evolving so quickly. It’s such an important purchase point for consumers, and it’s multifaceted. It touches everything that we do: For operations, how are we managing our reputation? How are we listening to make sure we’re aware of everything that’s going on? Within revenue management, how do we make sure all the channels are open appropriately and closed appropriately? On the marketing front, voice search is a reality today, but in three years, how important will that be? And we’ll be doing our pay-per-click quite differently. How do we make sure that we’re top of the page on all fronts? A lot of things like that are on our minds.

What advice would you give to somebody who is just getting started in hospitality marketing today?

What enables us to be really good at marketing is to be very aware of what’s happening in our consumers’ world that is outside of hospitality. The on-demand nature of the world is a reality, and we have to think about it in hotels. Amazon Prime says not only can you get it tomorrow, but you can get it in 45 minutes. That informs everything that we do from a consumer standpoint: How quickly are we booking? What information are we giving consumers when they book? When we’re working with operators to make sure that we’re informing them on consumer expectations — that you can customize the room, you can customize the stay, because that’s what they’re getting across the broader spectrum of life.

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles