Why this luxury hotel chain bets on user generated content’s ‘power of the people’

User generated content has become more important in a society where less polished content performs better than professionally created content, especially in light of today’s booming creator economy. For that reason — helped by the post-Covid-19 travel rebound — hotel chain Red Carnation has spent the last seven years bullish on its user generated content strategy as a cost effective way to drum up brand awareness.

Red Carnation is a nearly 40-year-old boutique collection of luxury properties with a global presence stretching from London to parts of Africa. With more than 18 locations, user generated content gives the hotel chain a way to boost brand awareness for each property without the burden of travel and photography costs, said Ciara Fitzpatrick, Red Carnation Hotels’ B2B marketing manager.

“We can’t clone ourselves, unfortunately. So what do you do? You just tap into the power of the people,” she said. “We do have an advocate of loyal fans who are posting to social.”

The bulk of Red Carnation’s content comes from Instagram (with user permission), where it has more than 10,000 followers. The hotel chain uses Instagram photo and video content on its own social media channels, in addition to using it for its other digital marketing efforts like its website, email strategy and blog — especially as inflation has driven up costs of everyday living.

“Everything is getting more expensive; electricity bills, gas prices, etc.,” said Fitzpatrick. “To be able to tap into the power of our guests and not have to employ a team of photographers is also really beneficial to us.” Instead of hiring professional photographers to create content, Red Carnation’s strategy hinges on reaching out to guests and asking to use their content, which means the company only pays licensing fees, per Fitzpatrick, who oversees the chain’s efforts.

Aside from UGC, digital efforts are another key component of Red Carnation’s marketing strategy, particularly email newsletters and an investment in public relations, Fitzpatrick said. It’s unclear what Red Carnation’s digital spend looks like exactly, as the company did not immediately respond to a request for details.

According to Kantar, Red Carnation Hotels spent just $1,558 on media last year. Additional figures for Red Carnation’s spend were not available. 

User generated content delivers an organic, authentic connection that polished images on social media can’t — something marketers have been chasing as users move away from overly professional social posts, said Haley Walker, senior integrated marketing strategist at PR and digital marketing agency Crowe. 

“At the end of the day, UGC is the ‘word of mouth’ for content marketing, making it an asset to any brand’s marketing goals,” Walker said in an emailed statement to Digiday.

As the creator economy grows and brands become more reliant on creators and influencers to relay their messages, user generated content is a marketing must-have, Walker added. “The current UGC landscape is rapidly growing,” she said. “Brands are using it so often that a new industry of professionals is on the rise: UGC creators.” Platforms have even started emerging to support said UGC creators, as Digiday previously reported.

Red Carnation’s digital marketing strategy is an ever-changing one, Fitzpatrick said. But as travel continues to climb and more people venture into the company’s hotels, UGC will continue to be an integral part of Red Carnation’s marketing plans.

“We don’t have concrete plans as such, but we’ve already spoken about really ramping up to UGC next year,” she said. “It’s not going anywhere.”


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