Premier Inn’s bizarre market segment targeting on mass-media

May 2017

For what seemed like decades, Lennie Henry was the advertising face of Premier Inn. In a succession of long-running TV campaigns and supported by online, he told us about the virtues of choosing to book a room at the near-ubiquitous hotel chain, and specifically how comfy the beds are – which is true by the way.

The campaigns were good in a number of ways: Firstly, the promise of a good night’s sleep is a genuine differentiator in a crowded budget hotel market where, generally, price is the central focus. Secondly, Lennie, as a likeable character, spoke to us all – young, old, on a business trip or going to a wedding, it didn’t matter. And thirdly and very much related to the last point, TV as a mass-medium is a great way to talk to all of your potential customers at once.

But now Premier Inn has a different strategy, which targets a few specific market segments but still on mass-media – which really doesn’t make sense. And worse, the nature of the main market segment they’ve chosen – building site workers (specifically scaffolders) – is overt anti-sell to pretty-much everyone else.

If you haven’t seen the advert which features the scaffolders, then Google it and fill your head with marketing horror. Imagine you’ve been unlucky enough to get the same room as the one our hunky workman had the night before, and complete with the same carpet he traipsed around in his grimy boots. Or, worse still, you’ve come down to breakfast and you’re sat at the adjacent table to Simon Scaffolder and his burly mates, then have to endure the sound and spectacle of them shovelling down bacon and beans like pigs (there’s a brief scene in the ad which actually portrays this).

So, I’m a tradesman seeing the ad and the very next week the company I work for have put me on a building site 100 miles away and therefore I’ll need somewhere to stay. Most probably I won’t even get a say in which budget hotel or B&B I end up in (someone in the office will sort that – a fact the marketing team at Premier Inn also don’t seem to have researched) but, if I do, then perhaps I’ll now go for a Premier Inn. But if I’m a businessman, businesswoman, sales rep, or visiting my grown-up daughter who I haven’t seen for months, then Premier inn have just given me a compelling reason NOT to book with them.

Understanding your market segmentation and then targeting those individual segments is a common component in marketing strategy. Then on a tactical level, you find the most appropriate media or channel to reach each segment. Using our scaffolders as an example, you could target them through social media (e.g. paid post on Facebook and drilling right down on the profiling) but, and as they’re unlikely to be the decision maker, a better approach could be direct marketing to the office manager at building contractors and scaffolding companies. The obvious thing about this sort of targeting, is that your defined market segment gets to see the message but the rest of – in this case the vast majority of the population – is spared it. It also costs rather less money than a TV campaign.

I don’t doubt the marketing team at Premier Inn has considered the very obvious argument I’m making here (and it is massively obvious) but whatever their reasons for rolling-out a strategy of targeting a specific market segment – and one which most of their other segments won’t be entirely comfortable with – on mass-media, is fundamentally wrong.

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