What the 5 most outlandish hotel campaigns can teach us about our own marketing (and how it benefits our bottom line)

January 23, 2018


Remember when promoting your hotel was simple? You listed the property in phone books and trade directories. You developed relationships with travel agents, local drivers and restaurateurs. Radio and TV might have been an option if you had the budget – but there was no need for a silly or groundbreaking script. Just focus on earning your guests through quality and value, and let the rest take care of itself.


These days, the world is saturated with information and options. Hotels are doing everything they can to punch through the noise – but the most innovative campaigns are not merely eye-catching. They embody fresh insight that is all-too-relevant for today’s hotelier.


1. #WhySettle

Hyatt’s Why Settle campaign in the US didn’t spend a lot of time telling us about amenities, furnishings or services. Instead, it revolved around an idea: That people should constantly reach for the best in life. The multi-faceted campaign for Hyatt House and Hyatt Place included a popular hashtag, and a 30 second YouTube spot in which people talked about never settling in their lives and careers. The idea was that for travelers who demand more of themselves, Hyatt made the road easier to travel. And for those two limited service brands, they were overcoming a misconception that staying at a limited service hotel meant accepting a lesser standard of experience.


In effect, Hyatt was saying that it’s not about Hyatt – it’s about you, your aspirations – and your comfort on the road. In doing so, they reinforced their own image and branding without having to do it directly.


2. Narrator in Residence

The Pfister Hotel in the city of Milwaukee proves that big chains aren’t the only ones shifting their promotional focus to the lives of guests. A local author is hired each year to interview and write about people who visit the hotel. The stories are posted to the hotel’s blog, podcast, Twitter and Facebook. Along with that, there are themed events around the hotel based on well-known books.


This is an inventive campaign for the unique way in which it shares personal stories, and reinforces the hotel’s unique sense of place and character. By hiring literary talent to lead the way creatively (instead of interviewing guests and writing material themselves), the whole thing feels much more natural and appealing.


3. It’s the Little Things

Doubletree by Hilton continued the trend we’ve been discussing by questioning guests – not about their lives or journeys, but about little things that would make a difference during their stay. Thousands of responses were collected. Some gave practical insight, while others made cheeky requests like a new iPad or comfort foods. As the data was analyzed, teams were deployed to surprise guests and fulfill their requests in person at Doubletree properties.


As it turned out, cookies were a common request – and Doubletree’s delivery of fresh-baked cookies led to a popular hashtag (#CookieCares). Add in a sweepstakes program conducted via email, in which the company picked up more than 9,000 new members to their loyalty program, and you have an original campaign with tangible returns in brand loyalty.


4. Secrets of the City

There’s been a lot of talk about locality lately, and how important it is for hotels to evoke a sense of place. In large part, we have AirBnb to thank. As the share economy claimed more market share, we all began to see the power of local flavor. InterContinental Hotels Group jumped on the bandwagon in 2015 with their Secrets of the City campaign, which features different cities (London, Paris, Tel-Aviv) and some of the secrets found within them. Here again, we have an expanded definition of what makes a great hotel stay. It’s not just the interiors, service or value – it’s the total experience of where you are.


5. The Mystery Location

Why think of promotion as something you have to do on your own? The five-star OD Talamanca Hotel in Ibiza partnered with Uber and Absolute Vodka (which might make a lot of sense, if you’ve ever been to Ibiza) to create a unique campaign. Four Uber customers were awarded a private jet ride to a secret party location, which turned out to be the OD Talamanca. The hotel was ready with a social media blitz when the day came, and their reputation enjoyed a glamorous boost.


Conclusion: Refining our understanding


These campaigns illustrate a renewed focus on guest experience, sense of place, and the will to compete in a saturated market. There’s clear a shift away from promotions that feel transactional and contrived, and a movement toward pleasant surprises that build emotional connections with audiences. Is it enough to showcase just your guestrooms and detail-oriented services? Probably not.


To make an impact in 2018 and beyond, hotels must constantly refine their understanding of their guests and what they want – whether it is cookies or a local profile - and what kind of promotional campaign will inspire action. There are so many more marketing options to consider today than when I first started that I am amazed there are not more creative campaigns underway. Yellow pages anyone?



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