The Holiday Inn Express frequent business traveller spends a lot of time on the road and they know what they like: practical amenities, without all kinds of extra fluff (and cost). This is the premise for Holiday Inn Express' "Stay Smart" brand promise: you'll feel smarter for having stayed with HI Express instead of "fancier" full service hotels.
Holiday Inn capitalised on the unprecedented level of media interest in the 2008 US Presidential race by creating a media conversation around the Holiday Inn Express brand positioning. In the midst of the most expensive campaign in history, the Stay Smart, America website exposed how fiscally responsible- and irresponsible- the Presidential candidates were.
The success of the website hinged on a risky but hugely successful communications strategy that relied solely on PR to push the website and its message. No paid media was purchased, online or offline, to tout Stay Smart America. This was an unconventional strategy that paid off huge for the brand.
Leveraging the candidate's public FEC filings, the website analysed and published the candidate's campaign lodging expenditures and determined how much they would have saved if they stayed with Holiday Inn Express.
The story was first offered up to respected journalist and blogger Chris Elliott of The New York Times for inclusion on his blog. Once Elliott ran the exclusive, the release was then strategically distributed right before Super to the Top 100 daily newspapers, national television and relevant Web sites, blogs, social networks and message boards.
In the first 2 weeks the website generated over 85m media impressions and secured online and offline, national and international coverage on Fox News, CBS, The London Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, LA Times, and USA Today, among dozens of political and news blogs. The Stay Smart, America website, developed for $100K, set off a storm of press activity that returned over $2.5MM+ in free media coverage.