Overall winner:
Accor: Strengthening the Brand with Digital Marketing

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This case won the Overall Award at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2019.
The case
Accor Hotels


Accor is a leading global hotel operator with a portfolio of 14 hospitality brands in 92 countries, ranging from the budget end of the market to luxury.


The hospitality business wasn’t getting any easier. Major brands were engaged in hand-to-hand combat for every room night, and emerging competitors such as Airbnb were disrupting the industry.

whyAccor wanted to still live up to its motto ‘To open new frontiers in hospitality’; but not geographically, rather online. The firm was further exploring the digital frontier via a new distribution channel that would allow it to better compete in the online marketing space for travel reservations.


It was early 2015 when Accor decided to take this online venture on.


Accor has a worldwide presence, with five product offerings in the economy segment, four in the midscale, four in the upscale and three in the luxury.

accorKey quote

“I still believe Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) eat too much, but Accor is growing and is in a position to recalculate the value we can provide against that of the OTAs. OTAs are a great innovation, but if you are, big enough, and Accor is, you have to control your destinations.” – Sebastien Bazin, Accor CEO.

whatWhat next?

Accor had to decide whether to team up with Room Key, a distribution channel founded by a consortium of six major hotel brands and attracting more than four million unique visitors, or go it alone.

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Accor: Strengthening the Brand with Digital Marketing
Ref 9-315-138
Spanish language version

Ref 9-316-S10
Teaching note
Ref 5-316-103

The authors


Jill Avery, Chekitan Dev and Peter O'Connor

Just reward

Chekitan opened: “It feels very rewarding winning this award. I have been writing and teaching case studies for over 30 years so am honoured and delighted to have our work recognised by peers.”

Flexibility of the case method

Peter said: “I am a true believer in discovery learning, particularly for more senior level students and managers. Thus, I make extensive use of the case method, profiting from the flexibility that it can bring, and the chance it gives to explore the issues of most importance to the particular group with which I am working, as well as highly current issues and priorities.

“Having used many excellent cases in the past, I’m glad that I was able to help create something of quality that is appreciated by other teachers.”

Case method commitment

Case method commitmentJill commented: “Case research and case teaching have always been highly valued at Harvard Business School, as a way for faculty and students to fully immerse themselves in the most pressing business issues of the day, alongside managers who are struggling with them.

“Given the long tradition of the case method of learning at HBS, the School has developed significant support for case writing, by providing formal instruction, individual mentorship, and a robust community of faculty actively experimenting and honing the craft of case writing, case teaching, and the further development of active, discussion-based, participatory learning pedagogies.”

The power of a team

Jill said: “This was truly a collaborative effort that combined Cheki’s deep hospitality industry knowledge with Peter’s digital disruption expertise and my branding, digital marketing, and marketing strategy focus. For me, collaborating with other professors on case writing injects energy, fresh ideas, and new perspectives on business issues.”

The power of a teamPeter added: “For me it was all about complementarity. Each of us brought different discipline knowledge and academic experience to the table, which, when combined, allowed us to create something of higher quality than we could have individually. And being able to bounce ideas and then text back and forth helped insure that what we were writing was clear, concise and on target.”

Not just a story

Jill explained: “When writing a case, the important thing to remember is that a case is not just a story about a company. Instead, the company and its business dilemmas are the vehicle to establish opportunities for delivering compelling teachable moments for students.

“I believe the reason professors are interested in teaching this particular Accor case, and students are eager to learn from it, is that it helps students learn important concepts related to channel relationships, power dynamics among channel partners, and the disintermediating force of digital disruption.

“A strong teaching note accompanying a case helps instructors unlock those learning moments by illuminating in-class strategies for eliciting them.”

Catering for different audiences

She concluded: “Because our cases have a truly international audience, one has to be sensitive to write cases in a way that they can be understood by people of different cultures. This requires avoiding culturally-specific references, or thoroughly explaining them if they are critical to the case discussion, so that students from all cultural backgrounds can fully participate in the discussion on equal footing.

“Translating cases from English to Spanish, Mandarin, and other languages allows broader access to our cases and brings them into classrooms around the world.”

About the authors

Jill Avery is a Senior Lecturer of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
Harvard Business School 
e javery@hbs.edu

Chekitan S Dev is a Professor at The Hotel School at Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University.
e chekitan.dev@cornell.edu

Peter O'Connor is a Professor in the Information Systems, Decision Sciences and Statistics (IDS) Department, and the BNP Paribas Digital Disruption Chair at ESSEC Business School.
e oconnor@essec.edu


View all the 2019 winners