Knowing your clientele and building value-added packages are both good pieces of marketing advice. However, recognizing what to do is quite different than seeing how to do it. Guests seek originality; hoteliers seek inspiration. How does one achieve that indefinable connection to a potential guest? We can’t claim to offer an easy answer to that question (if we could, we would have sold it to Madison Avenue long ago), but because much of North America and Europe is gearing up for the summer tourist season, and many hoteliers have marketing campaigns on their minds, we thought we’d have a little fun and look for inspiration in five examples of inventive hotel marketing. Outrageous or outstanding? You decide.
Love-Love atop the Burj al Arab
A tennis match between Andre Agassi and Roger Federer (arguably two of the biggest stars in men’s tennis of the last three decades) is bound to draw attention. Set that match 692 feet in the air on the helipad of the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai and you have a marketer’s dream. Even the best of poets could not prepare your mind for the imagery of the stunning aerial view of the circular helipad turned grass court perched near the top of the famous Dubai landmark. While not outwardly boasted as such, the larger than life match simultaneously promoted the hotel (one that already sells itself as the most luxurious hotel in the world) and the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open (not to mention the tennis stars themselves). This was not the first or last time that the hotel invited the big names in sport to perform on their helipad. In 2004 golfer Tiger Woods teed off and in 2013 racer David Courthard spun donuts in his Formula One car. While the latter is often touted as the most exhilarating stunt atop the helipad; for us, nothing quite captures the imagination or stops one’s breath like the image of the agile players moving freely about at those heights without the security of a safety net or even a railing. But perhaps you don’t reach the height of success in sport or hoteliering without a little risk. (For those who are interested, the game was a friendly match. The score wasn’t tallied, officially).
No “no room at the inn” at Travelodge
This promotion does not soar to the same heights (literally or metaphorically), but it does cross the ages. In 2007, Travelodge in the UK attempted to right a historical wrong by ensuring that Mary and Joseph would not hear the infamous words “no room at the inn.” Over the twelve days of Christmas (Christmas Eve to January 5), Travelodge invited couples named Mary and Joseph to spend one free night enjoying the amenities the original couple were made to do without. While the eligible participants were a narrow group (although thirty couples took advantage of the offer the first year), the originality and playfulness attracted international media attention and delighted even those who could not partake. They managed to tap into the right market at the right time. The promotion proved so popular that Travelodge brought it back for six years.
Marriott’s Pops Up at Coachella
Every hotel desires to draw clientele to their doors, but that format seemed too rigid for Marriott International. So, they brought their hotel to their loyal customers. At the 2017 Coachella Music Festival in California, eight safari tents were set up to resemble – in beauty and comfort – a room from their boutique hotel, Moxy, which launched in New York’s Times Square later that year. Anyone who has attended an extended music festival (with all the tents and porta potties that accompany that experience) can fantasize about the clean, white, lush comfort offered by Marriott. Lucky loyalty member recipients glamped out in a private space that included luxury beds, furniture, air conditioning, and private bathrooms. The effort was enough to win Marriott international attention and the “Most Original Campaign” prize from LE Miami. Marriott returned to Coachella in April 2018 to up the stakes, providing a luxury yurt experience to more loyalty members.
Warner Leisure Hotels Serves Up Anti-AGin
What if you could take the hotel experience away with you not just in the ephemeral way through memory, but in a physical way? Warner Leisure Hotels attempted to offer just this when they commissioned Bompas & Parr to create Anti-AGin, a gin distilled with skin enhancing properties, including digestible collagen and anti-aging botanicals. The science behind the gin’s claim that ingesting collagen will reduce the appearance of age is still one for which further study is needed. But the story’s good. Reduce the signs of aging while sipping on a gin & tonic? Yes, please.
Let Archer Hotel Tell you a Tale
Storytelling is part of the travel experience. Real and imagined, during and afterwards, we construct stories to enhance the romance of our travel experiences. Archer Hotel, across the street from the Empire State Building in New York, has taken that idea step further. As Fodor’s Travel explains, “Guests are led to believe that the hotel and their experience there have been curated by the worldly gentleman named Archer.” Archer is the one who stocks rooms with items that guests might fancy: chocolates, champagne, salted caramel, a particular brand of sparkling water. He writes welcome and thank you notes. During turndown service, he’s been known to place a book a guest may like onto the bedside table. Even before the doors opened in 2014, as Skift explains, Archer was seen on social media “living large in Paris one week, then drinking craft beer in Williamsburg the next.” Archer became the fictional embodiment of the experience of the Archer Hotel. No guest is under the delusion that Archer exists, but with his globetrotter mystique, impeccable taste, and attention to guests’ individual needs, they’re more than willing to indulge in the fantasy.
Some of these examples are explicit publicity stunts aimed (and successful) at garnering media attention. Others are longer term experiential marketing strategies aimed at selling an ideal lifestyle. All of them would have started in someone’s mind through contemplating questions like: How do we use our hotel’s resources to the fullest? How do we creatively collaborate with our community? How do we share our hotel’s experience through marketing? It’s your turn now. How can you inject a little of the outrageous into your marketing strategies?