August 05, 2008
Case Study

Viral Email Nets 100% Response from Brand Champs: 3 Simple Steps

SUMMARY: Making your best customers really feel appreciated can solidify their loyalty. But is it worth the investment in customers who are already your brand champions?

Find out how marketers for an international hotel chain crafted a simple email that got a 100% response rate from their most active loyalty club members. Ultimately, 1,766% more people than were initially sent the email responded.

Cassandra Jeyaram, Social Marketing Manager, InterContinental Hotels Group, and her team wanted to thank the 150 most active members of their Priority Club rewards program while boosting stays at the same time.

They intended to boost the already strong loyalty of their club members and get more people into rooms at hotels such as the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Hotel Indigo while keeping costs at a minimum. Such a campaign required a balancing act.

What type of campaign would make their biggest fans feel rewarded and leverage their passion for the hotels without making them feel like pawns? And still provide a solid ROI?


Jeyaram and her team crafted a viral email campaign to target the club’s most active members – less than 1% of total membership. Those members stayed frequently in InterContinental Hotels and applied for rewards points.

With a single, text-only email, Jeyaram asked these Priority Club members to share the offer with friends and family. Here are the steps they took:

->Step #1: Create an offer members can’t refuse

To inspire club members to refer friends, she made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

The members received triple rewards points for each three-night stay between May 1 and June 15. This ensured that the campaign provided some real value to the company’s bottom line while being more than just a simple thank you to the club’s most devoted members.

“This was, by far, the best offer that we had running at the time,” Jeyaram says. “If I said something like, ‘Hey, everybody who signs up for this gets a free TV,’ that would have fallen flat because that’s not what is important to this group.”

Members were emailed a code to use after completing their stay. They entered this code at the club’s website to obtain the bonus points.

->Step #2: Craft a straightforward message with a viral element

Jeyaram and her team used a text-only email that was fast and inexpensive to create.
The email:
o Let members know they were appreciated: “We couldn’t do it without you!”
o Explained the offer
o Linked to a redemption/registration page
o Encouraged sharing the offer with friends and family
o Provided promotion codes for the offer
o Listed contact information

Recipients were given three additional codes and were encouraged to send them along to friends and family who would receive the same offer. This touch made members more likely to praise the service while forwarding it.

The triple-points offer also acted as a promotion to encourage non-members to visit an InterContinental hotel and register for the program.

->Step #3: Create a simple landing page or repurpose an existing one

The landing page accepted the members’ information and code and linked to a registration page for new members to sign up. The page was generic and worked with other offers and codes.

What the page lacked in targeted messaging, it made up for in practicality. This page had already been created for other code-based offers. Jeyaram and her team did not have to wait or pay for it to be built.


Every person in the initial seed – 100% – took advantage of the triple-rewards offer and forwarded the email to at least one friend.

“We hypothesized that the members who consistently contributed to the online community would take up the offer at a high rate. [But] we were not bold enough to anticipate a 100% follow-through!” she says. “The first week, we got a couple hundred [people using the offer], and toward the end of the campaign, it was just exploding.”

Eventually, more than 17 times the number of people who received the initial email (1,766% more) ended up going to a hotel for at least three nights and registering for the bonus points. The offer was mailed only to U.S. residents, but spread to more than 30 countries.

The highly-active club members who first received the offer loved the promotion.

“We got emails back from the people who we sent to in the community. They were really excited about this. They thought it was a great benefit. They felt like they were kind of in-the-know and felt privileged to have this opportunity….”

Links related to this article:

InterContinental Hotels' Evangelist Offer:

Coca-Cola’s Top 5 Strategies to Build a Successful Rewards Program

Priority Club Rewards Hotel Reservations

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts

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