Using Art to Market Hotels

the betsy

Hotels have been using art to appeal to the affluent market for years. I remember when we launched Ritz Carlton Hotels years ago, art in the public areas was promoted as a major amenity, as it would become with many other hotel groups and individual properties. Artists in residence, experiences with art such as the Peninsula Academy’s class in Chinese brush painting, art tours, and even one with the word “museum” in its name (21C Museum Hotel), have all been part of the appeal. But now, especially at the recent Art Basel in Miami, it has been taken to the next level, both in uses in marketing and in reaching out to new audiences.

And that’s not just travel products, but lifestyle in general, brands ranging from American Apparel and Fiat to Maserati, Harper’s Bazaar and Samsung. Publishing, apparel, automotive, beverage, food, they’re all jumping on the bandwagon and in a major way. According to a recent New York Times article, “In Marketing, Art’s the Thing”, they’re using art to reach consumers in their 20’s and 30’s who are already making art part of their lives, as a differentiator in the luxury category, and as a point of reference for relating to the beautiful and artisanal.  Miami hotels chose to wave their flag during Art Basel with popups – from The Newstand at the Standard Spa Miami and all night dining at The Raleigh to cultural events at The Betsy. The Betsy’s tie-ins were especially notable, featuring exhibits in its dedicated visual arts space, programming inviting guests to interact with the artists, and a cause related marketing initiative. Percentage of all works sold is contributed to the Zara Center for AIDS Impacted Youth in Zimbabwe.

Restaurants and bars got into the act with special themed menus like Red Steakhouse’s “Red Basel” and cocktail bar The Broken Shaker serving up drinks with their companion art. Pamela Drucker Mann, publisher of Bon Appetit cited food and art coming together, giving examples of restaurants designed to look like art galleries and “tablescaping”, designing table arrangements or centerpieces. Indeed, art sells.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist



















Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 2

Using psychographics rather than demographics (see Part 1) what are the options and new directions in hotel lifestyle branding for the hospitality and cruise industries?

The oldest lifestyle branding route is still through a celebrity recognized in a specific category, primarily food/chefs (Daniel Boulud), golf (Jack Nicklaus), and architecture/design (Philippe Starck).

Major hotel brands like Starwood Hotels and Resorts and IHG are segmenting by special interests. Starwood has been a leader in this over several decades, with its fashion brand (W), wellness (Westin) and the newest, eco-luxury (1Hotel) and entertainment (Aloft). At the same time, they continue to build their straight luxury portfolios, with high end appeal (The Luxury Collection and St. Regis).

Lifestyle brands especially from the fashion world – Versace, Armani, Bulgari, Missoni and others – are creating immersive hotel brand experiences at the high end. In a very interesting development, at the other budget end of the spectrum, Marriott is doing a partnership with IKEA. My prediction: always one to watch, LVMH will use its hotel acquisitions to showcase its full range of lifestyle product lines. Imagine this: you walk into their hotel and are greeted by runway models, offered a glass of Moet et Chandon. Want more? Visit the Moet et Chandon Ice Lounge (already in existence). Choose your fashion suite – Celine, Donna Karan, Fendi, Pucci maybe with Acqua di Parma bath amenities. It’s dinner time and you’re hungry? Head down to the restaurant through the lobby fragrant with the newest perfume from Dior, order a lobster and a glass of Chateau d’Yquem. And before heading home, stop off in the hotel shop and pick up a Bulgari or Chaumet watch as a memento of your stay.

And finally, the newest option is to brand by a niche, special interest category. Examples include the Food Hotel, Divorce Hotel, Women Only Hotel, and the Pet Hotel.  Interestingly enough, most of these have come out of Europe. Marketing associations with a niche such as Design Hotels are yet another choice, also a European invention.

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 1


Special interests and passions are driving travel decisions more and more, from themed weeks at hotels and cruise ships and tour operator offerings to learning vacations and now, hotel brands. Drivers in travel buying decisions are increasingly about psychographics – behavior rather than demographic determinants.

Let’s take a look first at the traditional “big four” of demographics: gender, age, geography and income and their influence today:

  • Gender lines continue to blur with women taking on more of the traditional role of men and vice versa, and the advent of same sex marriage.
  • Age is also less important. Whether it’s the “coveted” 18-34 males or moms from 25-44, this is an outdated way to target for many reasons. First, people are age shifting and not living lives based on their chronological age. Second, the top end of a demographic (34) has almost nothing in common with the low end (18). Also, age demos leave out influencers and others for whom a message may be relevant. Finally, focusing on age can take you away from emotional or other relevant benefits.
  •  Then we have geography. In this global, highly mobile world, people often spend their lives in multiple cities.
  • Of the four determinants, the only one that is still very important is income, especially at the two ends of the spectrum: budget and high end.  Price will trump passion if you’re on a budget and at the high-end, travelers are reluctant to compromise their comforts and service.

However, these traditional measurements don’t tell you “why they buy”- why consumers would choose one brand over another. Psychographics, or lifestyle and behavioral information are playing a larger role in hotel branding, which was my topic as a panelist for the Urban Land Institute, Southeast Florida/Caribbean chapter, last month. What are some of these options and new directions for the hospitality and cruise industries? Check out the answer in Part 2 tomorrow.

By Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist

Hotel Websites Gone Wrong



Four Seasons Weddings Website

Four Seasons Weddings Website

Since starting this blog and newsletter on luxury travel and lifestyle trends in 2005, we have always focused on what’s next and new opportunities in travel and lifestyle – all positive. For once we’re making a departure – and writing about something gone wrong. Hotel websites. Granted, we haven’t seen all of the websites in existence, but we’ve seen hundreds. And the overwhelming majority are boring and have obviously used website templates. Speaking about the luxury segment  (the universe of hotels is too large to opine on), most websites have no personality, no point of view, are weak on compelling content, and don’t say “luxury”. So, you say – and are correct to say – what do we think are effective, aspirational websites? Here are some of our current favorites and why:

A special hats off to Four Seasons Hotels for its weddings website. The site reads like an online publication, rich in interesting content, with feeds from various social media channels and a section promoting gift cards.

Peninsula  Hotels – they do contemporary classic and luxury so well: gorgeous images, clean, and with a point of view. Their current campaign is “Glamour Redefined” and the site conveys that.

Standard Hotels – leave it up to Andre Balaz and his team to have a point of view – in t heir case, cool, now, and with its own culture. In fact, “culture” and community are their rallying point.

Le Cheval Blanc – In thinking of whose website to go to, who is always right there on the touch point of luxury lifestyle – LVMH. Sure enough, their website for their two Le Cheval Blanc hotels is stunning. Two full screen images pack an emotional punch as well as the strong  design element and sense of texture. Fabulous.

For an individual hotel, effective for its destination and audience, The Puli in Shanghai’s site gets high marks for sophistication, style, and classic contemporary luxury.

Which hotel websites get your vote?



New Twists on Eating Local


Erik Andrus explains The Vermont Sail Freight Project in their Kickstarter video

Erik Andrus explains The Vermont Sail Freight Project in their Kickstarter video

The eating of eating locally grown food continues to gain steam with new variations on water, land and sea, and novel ones at that.  Road warriors weary of the all too prevalent chain restaurants in airports and on interstate highways, will be delighted to hear that airports across the country are turning to leading hometown chefs for new eateries on the casual side. As reported in the New York Times,  at LAX airport, Michael Voltaggio of Ink and Ink Sack is opening an upscale sandwich shop and Suzanne Goin of the highly regarded Lucques will open a high end deli next month. Chicago’s Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill), Houston’s Bryan Caswell (Reef) and Denver’s Justin Cucci (Root Down) also have new dining spots on tap with extensive menu items to go.  Approaching local from a sustainable transportation model, Vermont farmer Erik Andrus launched the Vermont Sail Freight Project , a low tech approach to both food and energy,that features a 39 foot sailing barge, Ceres, that plies the Hudson River with produce from 30 new England farms. Produce is destined for sale in port towns from Hudson to Yonkers – farmers markets, dinners and parties. In an earlier post on the new phenomenon of the “hobby farmer’ we wrote about urbanites having their own chicken coops for fresh eggs. In the latest twist, a company started a business called “rent a chicken”. For $350 customers can rent a pair of egg laying hens, a supply of food, coop and water dish for a several month period to try it out. All the rewards of backyard chickens for much less responsibility. Sounds like an intriguing idea, but what do you do when you travel? How about a new business idea, hen sitters!?

Next Step in Farm to Table

Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica photo:

Hotels That Farm: Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica

Fairmont Hotels has its rooftop beehives, more hotels and restaurants their herb and vegetable gardens and buy local, and spas their herb gardens to use in treatments. It’s all part of the rapidly growing farm-to-table movement you’ve read about. Consumers, too, are doing their thing with urban chicken farming, gardening and beekeeping  proliferating across the country. In fact, this has raised issues for municipalities who are relooking zoning. The consumer phenomenon is called the “hobby farmer”, you could say a logical next step in the farm-to-table movement that has fueled a growth in farmers’ markets, community sponsored agriculture and young people going back to the land. To reach out to the market segment of “foodies”, the passionate about farm to table, and would be young farmers, there’s an intriguing new website and magazine  — Modern Farmer. Out since April, it already has a global following in Europe and Australia. I can see why. There are highly original, fascinating articles not covered by any other publication. Former President Bill Clinton contributed an article about the work his foundation is doing with farmers globally, and his memories of helping on his uncle’s farm in Alabama. Categories include food, travel, plants and animals and culture among others. Other articles have included everything from Hotels that Farm and  Farmers’ Market Etiquette to the Boston Design Center getting a 55K square foot rooftop garden, and probably more than you’d ever want to know about goats (a “hot” menu item now….the new lamb?).

Reprinted from

Young Foodies, your Devoted Customers-to-Be

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network's "Chopped".

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network’s “Chopped”.

More on millennials marketing. Remember you read it here first – teenagers and offspring of affluent parents will be a food focused generation. All of the signs are there. Teens favoriting the Food Network and other foodie shows, then trying out what they see in the kitchen. Even toddlers have become adventurous eaters and think nothing of eating sushi, sashimi and “Babe-a-ccinos” (a coffee free cappuccino).  We are, indeed, a food obsessed population. Look not only at the proliferation of cooking schools, growth of culinary tourism, tourist board food and wine festivals, but social networking sites, blogs, and review sites. Youngsters are eager to join their parents in cooking classes at the pricier resorts around the world. I have a 13 year old niece whose best friend gave her a ring that was inscribed with the words “kale” in honor of her obsession with the dark green leafy vegetable. Where does this come from? Their parents’ foodie culture.

Now we’re seeing exhibits honoring the world’s leading chefs: early next year will be an exhibit of the drawings and diagrams of master Spanish chef Ferran Adrià at the Drawing Center in New York.  And then there’s the Food Hotel which we’ve written about before. What does this all mean to marketers? Capturing the imagination and interest of these young foodies can create indelible memories that can translate into a devoted customer-to-be.


Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

House Calls Spread to Other Retail, Service Areas

kwe goat2


Just when one thinks s/he has heard or read everything, how about this one — rent a goat, or rather, up to 800 goats. In the latest in ‘house calls”, Travel and Leisure describes a new Washington-based business that rents goats for brush removal . The animals are said to be able to eat two dump trucks’ worth of debris. The cost? $325. There are also podiatrists, car mechanics who fix your problem in your driveway, vets and even a nonprofit that sells medical marijuana to patients in San Francisco (prescription required). Next up in the hospitality industry? Rent a chef for dinner parties or room service (rather, house service) beyond the hotel doors.

PR Director: the new Director of Content?

In this time where content is king, where is the responsibility for content best placed?This was the topic of a provocative article in Digiday on “PR Nudges Its Way to the Content Table.” My contention is that we’re not nudging our way, we’re already in the game. Whether identified as such or not, public relations pros who are at the top of their game are evolving into “Directors of Content”, responsible not only for developing ideas, but also, for creatively distributing the information in different iterations through varied distribution channels.  For example, let’s say xyz hotel launches a new restaurant. The first channel is obviously the PR “evergreen” – a news announcement to the media. The same information can go out as a consumer piece – as a recipe, and in an e newsletter to the hotel’s mailing list. Putting the chef’s or food and beverage director’s byline with an opinion piece on how to make your operation environmentally sustainable – “best practices” – makes it a shoe in for any number of blogs – from hotel industry and Slow Food to those dealing with the environment. And then there’s the whole area of social media where the slant is engagement and conversation, certainly a forte of any PR professional. In a article mentioned, they also referred to “native” advertising, in other words, the world of sponsored posts which are more editorially oriented (less flowery copy) than advertorials. To be sure, the space is purchased, so then it might follow that advertising will do the copy. For PR professionals, this native advertising is just another name for articles we call “service” pieces. And then there’s another perspective expressed in the Digiday article from an ad exec:

“Creating content is still a line item on an invoice, whether that’s for PR agencies or ad agencies. What experts say, however, is that owning content-creation will come down to one thing: execution. PR has just as good an opportunity as any other industry to be in a strong position to own this stuff and play a leading role helping brands,” said Rick Liebling, creative culturalist at Y&R. It comes down to: Do you have chops or don’t you?”

To be sure, the challenge is that PR especially in hotels often has responsibilities other than “content”. Sometimes it’s special events, other times crisis communications, counsel, guest relations, and more. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. For sure you’ll be reading more about this in future blogposts.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

Digital Strategies for Luxury Brands #1 of 9

It’s no surprise that a brand’s digital presence (its website, its social media – especially Pinterest and Facebook) contributes a great deal to the way customers perceive brands and, if done successfully, will influence sales. Yet many marketers struggle with the way to do it, understandably wary of diluting the luxury brand’s mystique and trying to meet the digital expectations of different affluent age groups. Here’s the first of eight top strategies for bridging the divide and telling your luxury story. Stay tuned this week for one a day through Friday, resuming next Monday until we run all nine.

 How to Best Tell a Luxury Story?

1.Communicate the vision, the dream of the luxury brand by articulating what the brand is passionate about. Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica used its Facebook presence and social media influencers to get the word out about its environmental and philanthropic programs. The effort helped raise $140,000 in donations. Loro Piana is credited for saving the endangered Vicuna, their passion, from extinction in Peru to produce blankets, sweaters and pieces for the affluent.