GHB_9907 20130130.CR2

Luxury Experience, Sophisticated Storytelling

One would think that great luxury hotel brands would inherently communicate in a sophisticated manner. Not always so. We’d like to explore two chains that are direct competitors to each other, and contrast the way they communicate out to the world.

We start with Mandarin Oriental, one of the world’s most mythic, high-end hotels. Opulent lobbies, spectacular rooms decorated as though one were receiving princes and princesses for tea and conversation, legendary spa facilities fit for emperors and their retinues.

But an ad campaign that is embarrassingly low brow and clumsy, borderline insulting to the intelligence. Famous celebrities and respected figures such as Helem Mirren in photographs on location at a Mandarin hotel standard in stilted poses, with a headline that says, “She’s a fan.” And the famous “fan” logo of Mandarin. Embarrassing. And a downward pull on their brand equity.

Contrast with Ritz Carlton. Equally luxurious but more understated in its design. But precisely the same clientele. A few years ago, the Ritz commissioned a series of very interesting, subtle films, sponsored by various partners such as American Express, telling the story of various fictitious client journeys, including that of a young woman who missed her flight and therefore the Duncan Sheik concert she was so looking forward to. So, crestfallen, she gets driven very late at night to the Ritz, checks into her room, and gets a call from the solicitous young man at the front desk, who has a brilliant surprise for her. Duncan Sheik, performing live, just for her and a few others, in a lounge room near the lobby. End scene.

Consider the contrast between the two approaches. One a print campaign in the expected publications, with an embarrassing pun and the crass use of celebrities. The other a full-on content play with oblique, subtle stories that the clientele can see themselves in, and that use the Ritz settings elegantly and unobtrusively. As if to say, brilliant and nuanced experiences happen as you travel and stay at the Ritz. But without saying it.

Seems like an obvious imperative, to match and even exceed the sophistication of your clientele. But many hospitality brands fail to do so. In the case of Mandarin, abysmally so. And in the case of Ritz Carlton—a raising of the bar. An invitation to enter the world of their brand and live there for a bit, even when you’re not travelling.