Author Archives: Simon

About Simon

Simon is a blogger, copywriter and consultant for Linkbuildr.com His attention span embraces the invention of blogs and has nightmares about writing a novel. He also works on his appreciation the finer things in life, through extensive traveling, experiencing new cultures and trying new cuisine. He also loves to blog on the luxury lifestyle, from brands, fashion, watches, automobiles, gadgets, liquor to travel. He studied marketing communications @ BCIT, which added to his intensive daily online marketing cross-training. Follow him on Twitter: @S_Gerard and Google+: +Simon Gerard

Ace Hotels: Boutique Brand Building and Inbound Marketing Case Study

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April 27  |  Inbound Marketing  |   Simon

I spend plenty of time following fashion, travel and hospitality blogs in between the time I’m not actually travelling or shopping, this all of which falls under “reconnaissance” for related Linkbuildr clients (so I’m technically working, if anyone asks). One boutique hotel with stellar online visibility is the Ace Hotel brand, catching my eye on a number of occasions over the last year. The Ace Hotel brand has a focus on their patron’s experiences, and they bring this to them with an art-fashion prerogative, an active social life, and stylish blog to match.  Their reputation and fashion-forward thinking has spawned a range of cross-branded products, which has in turn become linkbait, generating blog content. This is on top of all the links sprouted by their varied events and parties.

Ace Hotel Cross-Branding

With any cross-branding collaboration, brand alignment and authenticity, is crucial. Thiscan’t be forced; it has to come naturally, which it does in Ace’s case.  You take a search for them on top fashion blogs and you’ll find plenty of examples of this, from exclusive Havaianas sandals being offered in their Palm Spring location’s mini-bar to Wings + Horns designed boxing-style robe, a tribute to their NYC building’s boxing history. Most are available on their online store, making great mementos for Ace patrons or just fans of Ace or the collaborating brands.  Check out the Ace blog posts of the Havainas sandals and Wings + Horn boxing robe; both have their own story of the cross-branding involved. These details and insight truly make Ace’s brand shine. Now on to how this translates to perfect linkbait and an excellent example of inbound marketing.

Ace Hotel’s Natural Linkbait

Ace Hotel naturally exudes an inbound marketing and SEO prowess that you can’t manufacture. My cross-branding pick to showcase this is Ace Hotel’s collaboration with Converse on a custom line of Chuck Taylor sneakers. The Chuck Taylor sneakers have been around since the 70s and have held their relevance by serving as a blank canvas to be styled in unlimited ways, similar to Nike’s Air Force 1. This gives each new artist-designed or cross-branded Chuck Taylor release its own character, making each sneaker a little piece of art.  This aligns perfectly with Ace Hotel’s brand, as they host countless fashion, art, music and design-related events and parties.

The first edition was released Jan. 5 with this blog post, which told the story of its unique details and purpose as staff uniform. It was then released in limited numbers to the public to follow. This spread through the fashion blogosphere, appearing on blogs such as HighSnobiety. This hits their prime target audience, people who are interesting in fashion, art and design trends. When they step out for events, parties or head out of town, they want an experience that matches their interest.

The series of posts, tweets and shares that followed grew a wealth of links and traffic. A Google search for this release from Jan. 5 until Jan. 19, found 77 links with Ace Hotel, converse and Chuck Taylor in the title, all linking back to the Ace Hotel store or blog.

A second edition was released Mar. 30, this version fitted for rainy weather, with waxed canvas and rubber navy outsoles. A nod to their rain-prone locations in Seattle and Portland, their staff was equipped with them, with a limited release to the public. A Google search for the second release (Mar. 30 until Apr. 12), yielded 98 links.

Residual Brand Equity and Link Building

Brand equity residuals come in several forms from this example.  The first is through storytelling. The staff gets a stylish pair of custom sneakers, a rare perk at any job, which they get to share with their social circle. The buyers lucky enough to grab a pair get a nice memento of Ace Hotel, along with the story to tell their friends. And I can guarantee these sneakers and their story found their way onto these groups’ social media networks within minutes.

For link building, this example served as a perfect topic for fresh fashion blog content. With the two releases garnering 175 links between them in the first two weeks, searching in just the post title alone. Not including the wealth of social mentions that accompany that many posts.

Blog as your brand anchor, with social media support.

Outside of their achievements in branding and cross-branding, their blog and strong social media presence are integral to their success. The Ace blog carries the brand, personality, and self-conscious style from their hotels across to their online presence. This completes the modern synergy needed to complete a customer’s brand experience. It features event recaps, art, interviews and branded and cross-branded products. They also have a strong following, with 8,500 Facebook fans and over 10,000 Twitter followers. These channels are used beyond just for broadcasting their blog, thanks to their busy social life.  With all the events, shows and activity in and around Ace Hotels, they never run out of interesting things to say. Like a socialite friend who acts as a hub for your social circle, Ace Hotel is this friend.

Boutique hotel brands take note

For boutique hotels, active collaborations, events and parties are essential to build a boutique brand.  This will serve as blog fuel, enabling each post to be inspired instead of mandatory. This needs to be paired with active, authentic social media management to engage your customers and showcase your brand personality. These elements complete the brand experience, which is the value that customers look for in a boutique hotel, over a faceless hotel chain. The personality of your boutique hotel has to be felt from your rooms out to your tweets. This connection is what brings customer back, who will in turn serve as ambassadors for your hotel. This is all something that Ace Hotels does naturally, making them my case study pick for organic seo and inbound marketing in the boutique hotel industry.

Make sure to follow Ace Hotel and check out their blog for more intrinsic lessons in boutique hotel branding:

Their Blog: Ace Hotel Blog
Follow on Facebook: Ace Hotel Facebook Page
Tweets By Ace: TheAceHotel@Twitter

 

 

 

 

Follow me:

S_Gerard@Twitter

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Badgeville social rewards platform – a.k.a. Farmville with benefits

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April 20  |  Social Media Sites  |   Simon

Badgeville jumped onto the scene when they won “Audience Choice” at TechCrunch last fall.  Within two quarters they’re captured 50 clients for their “white label” social rewards, loyalty and analytics platform. As the name suggests, the Badgeville concept is similar to Farmville. The big difference is badgeville is an entertaining online version of a frequent-flyer program and Farmville is an entertaining online version of crack. And unlike Foursquare, you don’t have to physically go to Starbucks four times a day (more crack anyone?); you just have to visit your websites you frequent regularly anyway. And for anyone like me whose crack comes in the form of online shopping, you might as well be hooked on Badgeville too.  So, enough about crack, here’s my rundown of Badgeville:

For the Users

Badgeville brings a new level of entertainment and engagement for website visitors and ecommerce customers. Through gamification, Badgeville combines elements of social games like Farmville with a rewards and loyalty program.  Instead of tending to a digital flock of sheep, your regular actions within websites earn your points, awards or rewards. This can be for buying products, commenting, watching videos, filling out surveys and much more. With Facebook and Twitter integration, liking, sharing or Tweeting can equal rewards. This can earn you virtual currency, discounts, premium content to just bragging rights through trophies and badges. The leaderboard widget showcases the biggest fans and lists your friends on the site. The best part of all this is you don’t have to run around in a video game or real life, you just have to do what you normally do when using a website. You now just get rewarded for it, along with an incentive for doing more while you’re there. Participating is nice and easy too: visitors just have to login with Facebook connect or create a regular account through the website.

For the Website

Badgeville is perfect for any ecommerce, news or social website, or any fuelled by user-generated content. Its white label functionality means that its widgets and API integrate to your site’s design and doesn’t eat up any of your precious on-page real estate and

branding. You can pick through a range rewards and goals for your visitors and how, where or when they can achieve them. Badgeville provides real-time analytics. While this is a regular feature of many applications, they bring their own unique advantages. If you’re find pages or functions on your site lacking the traffic they need, you can incentivize them through Badgeville. By adding rewards of your choice to the needed areas, with a bonus for sharing, you’re looking at a quick and easy on-page SEO/SMO option. For an online shop releasing new additions, a few rewards or discounts will spread your message through participants’ networks. The leaderboard widget showcases your top fans, letting them serve as brand ambassadors to your other visitors. It also lists your visitor’s friends, giving them a chance to compete over and share your brand.

For both the Badgeville participant and hosting website, everything is in real-time. If you’re using Badgeville, you get live activity streams, leaderboards and friend graphs. If you’re the host, you get more than just analytics, but the ability to influence your analytics in real-time and set marketing goals, all through the Badgeville platform. Online retailer BlueFly is a big name on board, with 50 under their belt as of March 30th. SlideShare also plans to integrate Badgeville, which is great for online marketeers like me who find themselves there more often than not.  For more, head over to Badgeville.

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S_Gerard@Twitter


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