By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Entries for HSMAI’s 2020 Adrian Awards are now being accepted — with a special focus on best practices, innovation, and community related to hospitality advertising, marketing, and public relations work created in response to the coronavirus crisis. Take inspiration from one of 2019’s best: Marriott’s “Stellar Dining Series by The Ritz-Carlton,” which was honored in the Advertising/Advertising Campaign/Experimental Category. (View all of last year’s the Adrian-winning submissions here.)
BACKGROUND: Upon realizing that Ritz-Carlton is one of the luxury hotel chains with the most homegrown Michelin-starred chefs, The Ritz-Carlton embraced the opportunity to leverage this asset in a new way by creating an innovative concept that offered unique experiences to drive brand awareness and differentiation: Stellar Dining Series.
In top Asian capitals, fine dining with friends and family has become increasingly possible due to an increase in disposable income and a cultural shift favoring more social gatherings. According to a MasterCard survey, one in three millennials eats at a fine-dining restaurant at least once a month. The Ritz-Carlton also studied reports on the evolution of how consumers define luxury and travel to better understand the trends and mindset of the audience.
In 2018, The Ritz-Carlton invited guests on rare culinary journeys in food-centric cities including Singapore, Osaka, Hong Kong, and Beijing, and in 2019, the company presented events in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Guangzhou. The series will continue this year, with the ultimate goal of building Ritz-Carlton into a sought-after culinary destination.
CAMPAIGN: A series of phenomenal culinary encounters specially curated by Michelin-starred chefs and culinary talents, the Stellar Dining Series targeted potential guests in key source markets in order to broaden the awareness of the brand. Two targeted groups were “The Global Affluent Tribe,” who reside or travel in the cities involved in the campaign, and “The Editors/Influencers,” who shine a spotlight on the lifestyle and entertainment scenes in those cities. Both groups are always searching for the newest, finest, and most exclusive experiences as they collect meaningful stories and are inspired by travel.
The Ritz-Carlton developed an integrated marketing strategy across consumer funnels and leveraged OTVs, digital banners, and the WeChat mini app to drive traffic to a mini-site with inspirational content. To amplify the campaign, Marriott used social media in several phases of storytelling creative, and invited pan-regional and local media to the events to drive PR and online buzz. For the broader public, strategically produced sleek content conveyed the uniqueness of each experience, in partnership with respected publications and influencers. The Ritz-Carlton also used its loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, to amplify the campaign.
RESULTS: Over the course of 14 days in 2018, the Stellar Dining Series hosted more than 50 luxury dining sessions and generated total revenue of $503,000, with a 57-percent YOY increase. The campaign was also a huge success, with 112 premium media attending the premiere events in 2018, generating more than 170 clippings that drove nearly 750 million PR impressions. Publications such as the Michelin Guide, Condé Nast Traveler, and GQ ran positive reviews of the experiences, which along with the social and digital campaigns delivered above the expected KPI a total of 78 million impressions, 0.45% average CTR, and more than 3 million social media engagements, and contributed to all of the Stellar Dining experiences becoming fully booked.
WHY IT WON: Adrians judges were very impressed with the Stellar Dining Series by The Ritz-Carlton. Here is what several of them had to say about it why they thought it was the best of the best:
- “I liked the fact that it was very true to the Ritz-Carlton brand, but it represented the brand in a contemporary, fresh context. I thought the whole alignment, bringing together chefs from around the Asia-Pacific capitals and the reference point done digitally in an elegant, sophisticaed fashion, worked digitally and through videography. It created a cool experience for those who had the opportunity to consume the experience, but for those who didn’t, it created some fascination with respect to what a Ritz-Carlton experience from a dining perspective is all about. It created an immersive experience as well as an aspirational one that made me want to stay at a Ritz-Carlton and have that experience.”
- “It was super seamlessly integrated, so you could easily consume the content from your smartphone.”
- “I think they did a great job of creating an emotional connection with the target audience from within three seconds of the video starting. The narrative felt very compelling throughout. They were about to thread many of the aspects of the campaign in a very interconnected and consistent way. It felt very aspirational and highlighted one of the key differentials of the Ritz-Carlton — the F&B component.”
- “People who stay in hotels know you don’t eat in hotel restaurants, and this is taking that convention and turning it upside down.”