Hilton brand strategy / positioning case study

Hilton Brand Strategy Analysis

Travel & transportationhotels

Owner of the brand:

Key competitors:
Marriott, InterContinental, Airbnb

Brand essence

The world’s most hospitable company delivering exceptional experiences.

Brand values

Hospitality, innovation, heritage, highest quality.

Brand character

Refined, cosmopolitan, premium, aspirational, welcoming.

Dominating archetype

Hilton, founded by Conrad Hilton at the beginning of the 20th century in Texas, US, became the first-ever hotel chain to build a multinational presence. It has grown into one of the largest hotel groups in the world both via organic expansion and acquisitions (e.g., DoubleTree). The Hilton business has been operating as one organization since 2006, when the Hilton Hotels Corporation (later Hilton Worldwide, now simply Hilton) reacquired Hilton International from its British owner, Hilton Group plc[1]. The two companies had been managed and operated separately since 1964, with the Hilton Hotels Corporation focusing on the US market and Hilton International on global presence outside of the US. After the merger, the company went through two rebranding processes: in 2009, it separated the corporate and consumer Hilton brand, while, in 2017, it brought them closer again.


Hilton is both a corporate and a consumer brand. As a consumer brand, it is present in the form of four sub-brands: Hilton Hotels & Resorts (flagship brand of full service hotels), Hilton Garden Inn (mid-priced, focused service hotels), Hilton Grand Vacations (vacation ownership resorts) and Hilton Honors (loyalty programme), as well as a number of endorsed brands, such as DoubleTree by Hilton (full service hotels with a warmer personality and homely touch) or Tru by Hilton (hotels for younger guests). Under the corporate Hilton brand, there are two ultra-luxurious consumer brands, which don’t use the Hilton branding, only its shadow endorsement, that is, Waldorf Astoria and Conrad. With such brand architecture, the company attempts to cater for different market segments, with the Hilton endorsement allowing it to build brand awareness and credibility of lesser-known brands more effectively.


Hilton (the corporate brand) sees itself as “a leading global hospitality company”[2] and describes its vision as “filling the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality by delivering exceptional experiences – every hotel, every guest, every time.”[3]
The positioning of the flagship Hilton consumer brand, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, is almost identical to that of the corporate Hilton brand. Its strategic territory is currently defined as “the recognized and trusted host to the world and global leader in hospitality”[4], while previously, the brand strategy focus was placed on its “stylish and forward-thinking”[5] character so that the brand’s progressive image could be leveraged to enrich the perception of the entire Hilton portfolio.
The company’s previous tagline, “Expect Better, Expect Hilton” accentuated the brand’s aspirational character, whereas the current one, “For The Stay” emphasizes the importance of the hotel experience when traveling. According to Mark Weinstein, Chief Marketing Officer at Hilton, the brand “will no longer focus on the traveler’s destination and minimize the role of the hotel which it had been guilty of in the past. (…) We’re reminding travelers that ‘It Matters Where You Stay’ and boldly affirming ‘Hilton. For the Stay’[6].


In recent years, Hilton, similarly to other hotel chains, has been facing increasing competition from Airbnb. However, the company’s executives claim that Hilton represents an entirely different category and offers benefits that Airbnb or other companies of this type, can’t. Geraldine Calpin, former CMO at Hilton, told Business Insider: “We’re not in the lodging industry, but the business of hospitality – people serving people to deliver exceptional experiences. Home-sharing and rentals aren’t new and we know we have the edge when it comes to our Hilton Honors program benefits and the unparalleled service and hospitality provided by our team members.[7] One of the areas where Hilton excels, which distinguishes it not only from Airbnb but also other hotel chains, is the company’s focus on innovation. As Calpin said: “Innovation has always been the bedrock of our brand. For example, we were the first hotels with air conditioning and TVs in guest rooms… We may be nearly a century old, but we think like the customers we serve today and we’re all about delivering exceptional experiences in new ways.[8]


Hilton is primarily a Ruler brand. It stands for quality and “exceptional experiences”, priding itself on its leader position.

Most important campaigns

1. “For The Stay. | Family-Friendly Travel | The Go” (2022)

2. “For The Stay. | Travel Essentials | Extra Storage” (2022)

3. “To New Memories With Hilton” (2020)

4. “Hilton Hotels & Resorts Manifesto” (2019)

5. “Stop Clicking Around” (2016)

6. “The Heart Of Hilton” (2015)

Official brand statement:

Our Vision

To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality by delivering exceptional experiences – every hotel, every guest, every time.[9]

Hilton (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 18 world-class brands comprising more than 6,100 properties with more than 971,000 rooms, in 119 countries and territories. Dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company, Hilton welcomed more than 3 billion guests in its 100-year history, earned a top spot on the 2019 World’s Best Workplaces list, and was named the 2019 Global Industry Leader on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices. Through the award-winning guest loyalty program Hilton Honors, more than 103 million members who book directly with Hilton can earn Points for hotel stays and experiences money can’t buy, plus enjoy instant benefits, including digital check-in with room selection, Digital Key, and Connected Room.[10]

Interesting facts:

In 1965, Hilton launched Lady Hilton, a hotel designed for women guests.[11]

The Puerto Rican national drink, the pina colada[12], was created by bartender Ramon “Monchito” Marrero in 1954 at Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico.[13]


1. The Drum on the “For The Stay” campaign
A. Houston, “Hilton Debuts Global Brand Campaign With Ad Starring Paris”, The Drum, Jul 2022,

2. Interview with Kellyn Smith Kenny, former Hilton CMO
P. Talbot, “Inside Hilton’s Marketing Strategy”, Forbes, May 2019,

3. Interview with Geraldine Calpin, former Hilton CMO
K. Johnson, “A Hilton Exec Explains How Technology Keeps The Hotel Chain Relevant After Nearly 100 Years”, Business Insider, Jun 2017,

4. All Hilton brands explained
“At-A-Glance”, Hilton, Jul 2022,

D. Ting, “Every One Of Hilton’s 13 Hotel Brands, Explained”, Skift, Nov 2016,


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