Yesterday during my flight from London to Beijing, I came across advertising for the Inter-continental hotel chain. This campaign has been running for over an year now (started in Nov’2005) . I have tried ignoring it, but this time I couldn’t .
The campaign’s selling /strap line is “Do you live an Inter-continental life”. I am wondering – What is the Insight? Is it relevant to the category and the target consumer? Does it reflect a good understanding of where the brand is currently in the consumer mind space? Does it meet the RDA (relevant, differentiated and appealing) test?
Inter-continental is the world’s no 1 hotel chain today in terms of number of rooms. However in terms of brand salience arguably it has some distance to cover before it matches Four Seasons, Marriott , Hilton , Hyatt and Sheraton, to name a few . This campaign is a weak attempt at positioning and occupying top of mind. It is clear they want to adopt an emotional platform for the brand to differentiate it from other chains which talk of more functional benefits.
Here is what the company says : “InterContinental’s new advertising campaign is the result of positioning work that has been ongoing since late 2004. The brand’s new tagline challenges its audience to answer the question, “Do you live an InterContinental Life?. At a time when other hotel brands are working to keep people in a ‘bubble’, InterContinental wants to provide our guests with memorable and unique experiences that will enrich their lives and broaden their outlook,” said Jenifer Zeigler, senior vice president, global brand management, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. The aim is to revitalize a legacy brand for the new generation of travelers. In addition to the advertising, an enhanced concierge training program is in the works
There are 2 issues here :
1. Is this the strongest insight to tap for a brand like Inter-continental (IC) : I can understand brands like Mandarin Oriental, Fours seasons not talking about functional aspects because most people know what these brands stand for and take high quality service and product for granted. They have to reinforce their brand (not establish and position /re-position it). I don’t think the same is true for IC. They need to first give me a tangible reason to think/reconsider them. A good example of this from the same category in recent times is the WESTIN “Heavenly Bed” campaign which started in 1999 . A very relevant benefit (a comfortable good night sleep), well branded, impact fully communicated and credibly delivered through the line ( you could even order the Westin heavenly bed for your home) which delivered great business results. They followed up this success with another great product led marketing initiative -“Heavenly Baths”. They have got the 2 most important things in a hotel room covered.
2. Is the product /service benefit addressing the Insight : Lets assume for the time being that the Insight is good. However , the communication doesnt say anything about how IC hotels help the consumer discover “unique and memeorable experiences that enrich their life and broaden their outlook” . In short, the campaign doesn’t connect the consumer Insight ( of consumers not wanting to stay in the bubble ie hotel room) with what the brand offers . If they had backed up the campaign with a strong in-hotel product which promises to create /organize outstanding and exclusive experiences for the guests (outside the hotel) , say for example “The Master Concierge” program then we have a good insight and a product/service offer addressing it . Last I checked there is no specific program at IC hotels which links to the insight . They mention enhanced concierge training but frankly thats not good enough if you want people to sit up and take notice (like the Heavenly Bed campaign which stood out ) .
The campaign is doing more harm than good. They should pull it off air till there is actual delivery of the promise.
Enough of criticism. I will move to a more ‘laudatory” mode in my next post .