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Why Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is embracing a digital future

Why Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is embracing a digital future

Consistency of strategy and execution works, through LONDON Advertising. 

By UTalkMarketing Senior Reporter, Claire Weekes.

Ten years ago, luxury hotel group the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group launched a global campaign which used celebrities who had stayed at its hotels to endorse the brand.

A decade on and that same campaign is still going strong. It’s a straightforward case of ‘if it ‘aint broke don’t fix it’ – the campaign has been a big success, reaped ROI of up to 450% and has had no shortage of celebs coming forward to endorse the brand.

In the past ten years the likes of Jane Seymour, Jerry Hall, Bryan Ferry and Helen Mirren have graced campaign collateral, which links the hotel’s fan logo to the concept of its famous ‘fans’.

“When the campaign idea was first born, we went in all guns blazing – we thought Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, those kinds of celebrity would create the most impact,” says Pip Landers, the Mandarin Oriental's head of advertising.

“But when we’d done some qualitative research we realised that we needed celebrities that would resonate with local markets. That has been one of the biggest challenges – making sure that a global campaign translates well into all of our markets.”

The Group’s most recent celebrity wins have been Harry Connick Jr., French pianist Hélène Grimaud and Sa Ding Ding (dubbed The Björk of Asia). Not one for being star struck, Landers says that Grimaud has so far been her favourite to work with, “because she is so non-celebrity, she was truly interested to hear more about the brand and the campaign, regularly invites us to concerts and we have a good open dialogue about how we could work together in other ways.”

A star (campaign) is born

The celebrity fans concept was the brainchild of Michael Moszynski and Alan Jarvie. Ten years ago they launched the campaign whilst  working at M&C Saatchi, in the present day they are still creatively guiding the campaign through the agency they went on to found, LONDON Advertising.

LONDON Advertising is a global agency based in Clerkenwell, which was recently also in the press for having launched the new highly acclaimed TV series, “The Walking Dead” starring Andrew Lincoln for Fox International Channels, globally.  They’ve positioned themselves as a creative agency that focuses on delivering the maximum ROI for their clients.  

Landers admits that the lion’s share of the Group’s marketing budget to date has gone on luxury print advertising, which has always been a highly effective way of reaching the Mandarin Oriental's target audience of high earning, discerning travelers. But digital forms a growing part of the marketing mix. At present, around 10% of the Group’s marketing budget is being invested in digital strategy.

"We do pretty much all of our tactical marketing online", explains Landers, "such as banner advertising and MPUs on sites like Trip Adviser, because we know that these are people on the verge of making a purchase.

"Social media is also an area with huge potential growth for us. We've started fairly small on that front but we have big plans to expand our presence there. We're testing things all of the time and optimising and refining, because of course that is a big part of any online activity.”


Part of the reason the Mandarin Oriental has so far taken a fairly toe-in-the-water approach to online channels is down to the resistance of the Internet by some sectors of the more mature market, which makes up a significant proportion of its target audience. "Some of our markets are more tech savvy than others," explains Landers. "In Japan, for instance, the age of adoption of Internet use is higher than in the West. Older audiences are more receptive to online channels than they are here."

The Mandarin Oriental has so far cultivated a modest presence on Facebook, with official fan pages for each individual hotel as well as a corporate site that has over 12,000 fans. The company’s website urges visitors to become both a fan of their favourite hotel as well as the corporate site. The Group has also embraced Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Most of its activity online is geared towards promoting deals and services on offer in its various hotels, but the Mandarin Oriental also uses Facebook to promote competitions to win stays at some of its venues.

One of the Group’s most exciting digital ventures to date involves the launch of “MO Hotels”, an iPhone app offering travellers the ability to make and modify “real time” reservations, view detailed hotel information and explore destination guides. “Mobile marketing is what we believe will be one of the big growth areas in 2011,” says Landers.

Gadgets galore

The hotel chain’s desire to be at the forefront of digital technology spans beyond its increasingly tech savvy approach to marketing. The hotels themselves are crammed with state of the art gadgetry. Several of the chain’s landmark hotels offer plug-and-play live broadcast capabilities, providing guests access to live television feeds, video conferencing and web streaming. Rooms are equipped with flat screen LCD televisions and surround sound speakers, and in presidential suites live interviews can be transmitted globally.

It also relies on its database of customer information to continually refine and improve experiences for visitors. Every piece of detail is stored - from which of the hotels a customer has stayed in to whether they ordered a particular type of pillow for their room during their last stay.

"We don't allow any third parties access to our database. We use to purely to enhance the customer experience. With that type of information we can also work out when and how often we should be contacting each customer with offers, so that it's neither too often nor too infrequently," says Landers.

The cost of the campaign to date totals £4 million - not a bad spend for ten years-worth of activity involving high profile stars. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that none of the celebrities are paid a fee for their involvement - instead $10,000 is donated by Mandarin Oriental to the charity of their choice.  

The luxury brand also made sure that it had a robust strategy in place to weather the recession. "We didn't concentrate on offering cut price offers like a lot of our competitors," says Landers. "We focused more on inspiring people to take shorter breaks. We also re-used campaign collateral we already had, rather than bringing out new creative - it didn't seem like the right time to be projecting an image that we were spending lots on advertising."

New territories, new opportunities

As the Fans campaign celebrates its tenth year there are no signs that the concept will run out of steam anytime soon. As well as the three new celebrity fans recently announced, a glossy magazine is about to launch marking 'A Decade of Fans'. The Group is due to open new hotels, in Marrakech and Paris amongst other destinations, in 2011.

"As we reach new territories, that opens up new opportunities for us to recruit local celebrities in those markets to the campaign, so it is always having fresh life breathed into it," Landers reveals.

"We've also found in the past that female celebrities generally achieve a better response than male ones for whatever reason, so we might have to look at recruiting a few more of those!"

If you’d like a printed copy of the Mandarin Oriental 10th Anniversary Special Edition magazine featuring the “Decade of Fans” campaign, email or call LONDON Advertising on +44 (0)207 324 1454.


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