By Melanie Nayer
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—If there's one constant in travel, it's luxury. Through dips and dives in the economy, luxury travel takes its licks and consistently weathers the storm.
While hotels might make changes to their luxury amenities and offerings during down times, most of those changes go unknown to guests. After all, when you buy luxury you expect the best. So how do you continue to appeal to the luxury market through economic struggles?
That's precisely the question Ritz-Carlton aimed to answer when the hotel company took the traditional and typical, "Please stay with us" message posed by hotels and turned it into "Let us stay with you." The concept: Help travelers build memories through unique and individualized hotel offerings that go beyond perfumed bath amenities and fluffy bath robes. The US$10- million campaign rebranded the luxury hotel's standard "It's our pleasure ..." messaging and, in a unique way, put luxury travel back in the hands of the individual hotel and its guests.
Default Ad Will Appear Here
The idea behind "Let us stay with you ..." puts the focus on guest experiences at hotels and the memories and special touches guests will remember. Ritz-Carlton hopes that customer-centric focus will bring them back.
The new campaign, which will be shown in Ritz-Carlton guestrooms around the world and online, lists examples of memories the brand’s 34,000 employees—called the “ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton”—can create. For example, “Let us invent a drink in your honor,” “Let us introduce your kids to a loggerhead turtle,” "Let us show you the view from the 118th floor," “Let us make you captain of your very own ship."
The possibilities are endless and unique, which is precisely what Ritz-Carlton wants to prove—a world of possibilities.
"When we looked for a common platform, one of the things that had to ring true was: Does the consumer actually believe that this is something the brand can do?" said Chris Gabaldon, chief marketing officer of Ritz-Carlton, who went on to the say the campaign reflects the personal commitment the Ritz-Carlton's employees have to their guests. "It's about the little interactions that happen every day at the hotel. The platform provides the ability for the hotels to be able to rally around something they believe in."
Chris Gabaldon, chief marketing officer of Ritz-Carlton
Luxury as social
But the campaign does more than create unique experiences for existing guests. It welcomes a new generation of travelers to the luxury brand by making luxury travel a social scene. Ritz-Carlton spent nearly half of the campaign's budget on digital elements, as seen on its website and social media channels. Through a comprehensive advertising campaign, online film, a new website, and the introduction of additional social media networks, Ritz-Carlton is addressing a new generation of travelers.
"The campaign is all around deepening the level of engagement of our guests, or potential guests, in a way that is very specific and distinct for each (media) channel. When it comes to conversing with people, those conversations happen online—more often than not on a social channel. Each of the social channels represents themselves in a very individual way with 'Let us stay with you,’" said Allison Sitch, senior corporate director, public relations, for Ritz-Carlton.
Sitch said the various social-media pillars will all play a unique role in the new campaign. On Ritz-Carlton's Facebook page, for example, guests will be able to share their favorite memories on the 'featured' tab. President Herve Humler will continue to tape video messages and write notes to guests through Facebook after reading their stories, and he'll share some of his own favorite memories.
Sitch also alluded that more individual Ritz-Carlton hotels are imminent on Twitter, and guests will soon be able to communicate with hotels pre-arrival to request special amenities, ask for itinerary ideas or speak with the concierge.
The most aggressive social-media element to the “Let us stay with you” campaign is undoubtedly FourSquare. Earlier this year, Ritz-Carlton rolled out its "World Concierge" on FourSquare, which allows guests to check-in from a particular landmark or follow the brand on FourSquare to see all the tips from its concierge in various destinations. Individual Ritz-Carlton hotels are already interacting with guests on FourSquare, but the new campaign allows hotels to populate tips into FourSquare to “heighten the experience of the destination or hotel itself,” Sitch said.
The goal: to communicate with guests on a variety of levels.
"We didn’t design the campaign to necessarily shift our focus on one segment or the other," Gabaldon said. "Over the past five to six years, we've been trying to do a segmentation shift and attract a wider group of guests and clientele, as seen through our design and Facebook page, for example. This campaign has the ability to resonate with individuals and interact with the brand—and there's no better place for that to happen than in social media."