Preparations are underway for the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, the biggest festival for Muslims across the globe. Like every year, brands are capitalising on the festivities and etching compassionate campaigns that are both creative and engaging. Aslew of Eid ad campaigns madetheir way across social media platforms.The insight that the brands tapped into this time ranged from harmony to situational humour.
Mondelez India’s Tang TVC beautifully brings out the elements of togetherness. The commercial begins with a voiceover narrating how the holy festival of Ramadan should be welcomed every year by imbibing in children the value of doing good deeds and praying, while pouring love throughthe family’s favourite beverage, Tang. The film ends with the visuals of a family enjoying Iftaar and Tang’s product shot with the voiceover “Tang, Maa ke haathonka pyaar”.
A three-minute ad titled ‘Raya Around The World’ crafted by the M&C Saatchi Malaysia team portrays Eid as a unifying force across different countries. A voiceover says, “A life without borders is a life more meaningful”. The voiceover speaker is revealed to be Captain Zakir Ibrahim, a real-life pilot from Malaysia Airlines, who is then shown celebrating Eid with his son. The commercial takes an in-depth look into how varied cultures celebrate the festival and spread a message of unification, harmony and acceptance across borders.
Brand Factorybrings out its latest campaign called #SpreadSmartness. The TVC called ‘Mir ki Eid’ conceptualised by Karma, a division of DDB Mudra Group, pictures a family celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr. It narrates a tricky situation faced by the protagonist, Mir, when he meets his in-laws and how Brand Factory comes to his rescue.Using situational humour, it communicates that shopping at Brand Factory is the smartest thing to do, while hinting at the discount and low pricing of the products at this retail store.
Until last week, Travis Kalanick, a founder of Uber and its chief executive, ruled his company absolutely. That was the Silicon Valley way; ever since Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple in the 1980s, tech founders have demanded, and been awarded, enormous deference by investors and corporate boards. So even as successive waves of scandal have hit Uber, Mr. Kalanick’s position looked safe.
Then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Amid many reforms, Mr. Kalanick announced a leave of absence last week and late Tuesday said he was resigning as Uber C.E.O.
It is the swiftness of the fall that’s interesting here. In another time, Mr. Kalanick might have been able to hang on. But we live in an era dominated by the unyielding influence of social feeds. Every new Uber revelation ignited a massive campaign against the company on Twitter and Facebook. A swirl of negative branding took on a life of its own — and ultimately could not be ignored.
The story is bigger than Uber. Online campaigns against brands have become one of the most powerful forces in business, giving customers a huge megaphone with which to shape corporate ethics and practices, and imperiling some of the most towering figures of media and industry. Look at how quickly Bill O’Reilly, the former Fox News host, was dispatched from the network after The New York Times dug into his history of sexual harassment settlements. The investigation inspired an online boycott against his advertisers, who, despite Mr. O’Reilly’s soaring ratings, began to drop him faster than day-old beef tartare.
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But the effects of these campaigns go beyond business. In a nation where politics have grown pitched and sclerotic, fighting brands online suddenly feels like the most effective political action many of us can take. Posting a hashtag — #deleteUber, for instance, or #grabyourwallet — and threatening to back it up by withholding dollars can bring about a much quicker, more visible change in the world than, say, calling your representative.
Brand-focused online activism can work for every political side, too: Don’t like a New York theater company’s Trump-tinged production of Shakespeare in the Park? There’s a boycott for you, and Delta and Bank of America will give in.
Yet the mechanics of social media suggest it will be the cultural and political left, more than the right, that might win the upper hand with this tactic — especially when harnessing the power of brands to fight larger battles for racial and gender equality, as in the Uber and Fox News cases.
“Women and people of color have gravitated to social media and were early adopters of it,” said Shannon Coulter, a marketing consultant who co-founded Grab Your Wallet, a campaign aimed at urging retailers to stop selling Trump-branded products. “Social media is actually a lever for social justice. It’s a way of leveling the playing field.”
To see why, we must first understand why brands are suddenly more vulnerable to consumer sentiment than they once were. It all comes down to one thing: Social media is the new TV.
In the era when television shaped mainstream consumer sentiment, companies enjoyed enormous power to alter their image through advertising. Then came the internet, which didn’t kill advertising, but did dilute its power. Brands now have little say over how their messages get chewed up through our social feeds.
Yes, they can run ads on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and everyplace else. But social media elevates consumers over corporate marketing; suddenly what matters isn’t what an ad says about a company, but what your friends think about that company.
It’s no coincidence that the only ads that get talked about these days are those that ignite some kind of social-media outrage — Pepsi’s strange Kendall Jenner commercial, for example, or the Budweiser Super Bowl ad that some viewers took to be a pro-immigration political statement. Just about every cultural sentiment — even what to think about a piece of corporate messaging — comes to you filtered through a social feed.
It’s this loss of power that explains why brands have become so jumpy and reactive. Take the production of “Julius Caesar” that opened last week in Central Park as part of Shakespeare in the Park. In the play, a Caesar who is styled to look like Mr. Trump is graphically assassinated on stage, which many on the right took as disparaging the president.
A Shakespeare scholar might point out that a production of “Julius Caesar” that features the assassination of a Trump-like king is not likely to be an endorsement of presidential assassination — after all, one point of Shakespeare’s play is to warn against political violence. The scholar might also point out that featuring present-day personalities in old plays is an age-old practice; in 2012, a New York company staged a “Julius Caesar” with an Obama-like king, Delta sponsored it, and nobody got really bent out of shape about it.
But none of that matters in 2017, when Twitter shapes the news. On social media, there’s no room for nuanced portrayals of complex artistic treatments. There are only quick snatches of graphic imagery in your scrolling feed — and the sight of a Trump-styled Caesar getting assassinated proved too much for powerless brands to stomach.
The dropped “Caesar” sponsorship — and JP Morgan Chase’s recent decision to hold back advertising on NBC News’s interview with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — prompted some worries that brand boycotts could chill art and journalism. But Ms. Coulter, of Grab Your Wallet, argued that even so, they were legitimate expressions of political sentiment.
“I think it’s ultimately healthy and positive even when I don’t agree with it — it’s healthy and positive that consumers are making themselves heard,” she said.
She also argued that it is the causes she is fighting for, including women’s equality, that will likely benefit from pressure on brands in the long run. Women tend to dominate social media. On most metrics, including sharing and usage, they outrank men online. If you’re a man, there’s a good chance your social feed was programmed by a woman. Women are also more deeply enmeshed in the consumer economy than men — by some estimates, they account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases.
“It’s only in the last 15 years that women became aware of their own consumer power,” Ms. Coulter said. “And now, online, they can show that they’re willing to flex it.”
There. I said it. Never thought those words would come out of my mouth in that order (or any order), but the camouflage trend has received the Jenner stamp of approval. The youngest of the Jenner clan recently launched her version of camo apparel via her official online store. Doesn’t matter what people think about their show or lifestyle, because the fact is that the whole Jenner family are mega cultural influencers. And 19 year-old Kylie is showing her business savvy on a lot of levels. After all, she’s had a great role model through her older siblings. According to Forbes, sister Kim made $51MM in 2016 from a variety of endorsements and business ventures.
But wait. On the heels of Jenner’s big unveil, there’s controversy in the camo fashion world! According to People.com, “Kylie Jenner launched her collection of camouflage gear on Thursday, and social media users were quick to point out the similarities between Jenner’s camo line and the New York-based brand PluggedNYC.” Jenner has been accused of copying PluggedNYC’s designs and the brand’s founder, Tizita Balemlay, spoke out on Instagram to call out the Keeping Up with the Kardashians reality star.
Ok, I’m not writing about the drama behind the fashion side camo, although I find it fascinating that camo even elicits drama at all. At its core, camo is an essential tool for the millions of hunters in the New Heartland (Midwest, Southwest, Southeast). For many of the 60% of US consumers who call the New Heartland home, the love of hunting is an important part of their lifestyle and for many, passed down through generations.
Camo as a branding creative element
Brands have flirted with using camo as a creative element over the years. For the brands that do it right, the payoff is real. As a matter of fact, New Heartlanders are 32% more likely to find outdoor activities appealing as an advertising element versus their coastal counterparts. But using it incorrectly could backfire.
I was meeting with a client who targeted millennial males. They said they were going to use camo in their packaging. When I asked what camo pattern they were considering, they replied, “You mean, there’s more than one?” Speaking of millennials, a small panel of males who hunt and fish conducted as part of a Cultural Immersion Trek for brands said they would ‘buy anything with camo on it’. There are hundreds of camo patterns, and more being created (and patented) each year. Camo is influenced by science as advances are made in better understanding how animals see. The science of camo doesn’t apply to packaging or fashion, but understanding the basics is important especially if authenticity is a goal.
The U.S. hotel industry continues to remain robust, with 191,832 new rooms under construction as of May. That represents a 16.4% increase compared with May 2016, according to research firm STR’s latest pipeline report.
Hoteliers are also investing more in various markets, renovating hotels across the country. Here’s a roundup of some notable openings, renovations and brand announcements.
Hilton’s new Tru brand debuts
Hilton has opened the first of its new midscale brand. The debut of the first Tru by Hilton Oklahoma City Airport hotel marks another milestone. It is Hilton’s 5,000th hotel. Hilton now has 14 brands.
The McLean, Va. Company has 425 signed deals to create new Tru hotels. Ten properties are slated to open this year and 75 next year.
Hilton says it is targeting a “value-conscious” customer. The price point will be in the $100 range, depending on the location and time of year. The Tru in Oklahoma City has a 2,880-square foot lobby with spaces for working or lounging. The front desk features a social media wall with real-time content. A 24/7 “eat. & sip.” market offers snacks and refreshments, single-serve wine and beer, and light-meal options and sundries.
A complimentary “Top It” breakfast bar has 30 options for sweet and savory dishes, including bagels, donuts, yogurt, granola, hard-boiled eggs, and oatmeal.
Rooms have platform beds, 55-inch TVs, eight-foot wide windows, and several outlets for powering devices. There is complimentary Wi-Fi, mobile check-in, room selection and digital key entry to rooms available through the Hilton Honors mobile app.
“There are a whole bunch of customers that we haven’t been able to serve that we want to serve,” says Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta about the market segment Tru is targeting.
Wyndham announces a new brand
Wyndham Hotel Group has announced that it will start a new brand—its 19th. The Trademark Hotel Collection will include independent hotels in the upper-midscale-and-above category.
Hoteliers who operate three- to four-star properties will be allowed into the collection, provided they meet Wyndham’s standards. In return, the hotels will be able to leverage Wyndham’s scale, distribution systems and loyalty program. Wyndham has a portfolio of 8,000 hotels worldwide. The Wyndham Rewards program has more than 50 million members, who can redeem a free night’s stay for a flat 15,000 points. The hotel is working on 50 possible deals, including existing hotels and new builds.
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“Soft brands,” as these collections are referred to, have become a popular way for companies to tap into a market of travelers who want to stay at independent hotels. Among other soft brands are Curio by Hilton, the Ascend Collection by Choice Hotels, and Marriott International’s Autograph Collection. Most other collections cater to the luxury hotel market.
Ian Schrager brings ‘luxury for all’ to New York
Hotelier Ian Schrager, regarded as a pioneer of the boutique hotel concept, is trying another twist with his new PUBLIC hotel in New York City’s Lower East Side.
The 370-room hotel has all the hallmarks of a luxury hotel: a restaurant helmed by a celebrity chef, three hip bars, a performance venue and a rooftop bar with views of the Empire State Building. Guests can have that all for as low as $150, a concept that Schrager is calling “luxury for all.”
Schrager says he wanted to create a building where people can do much more than just sleep: “You don’t have to leave the building. It’s like a resort.”
On the first floor is a boutique and LOUIS—part grocery, part luncheonette, part coffee shop and part market by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Behind that is PUBLIC Kitchen, also by Vongerichten. The restaurant has a smoker, wood burning oven and wood burning grill. Attached to it is a patio for al fresco dining.
A stainless steel escalator with yellow neon lighting leads to the second-floor lobby, where “Advisors” help guests check in via iPads. Guests can either have key cards made or use their smartphones to unlock the room door.
There is free Wi-Fi throughout the building and outlets and charging stations throughout the hotel, including in a second-floor lobby lounge that has areas for both working and socializing.
“The idea is for the lobby to be completely activated 24 hours a day,” Schrager says.
Schrager, who co-founded the legendary Studio 54 nightclub, made sure there is no shortage of places to drink. There are three bars—Diego, The Roof and Lobby Bar. The Roof has 360-degree unobstructed views of the city.
Schrager, who has launched hotel brands such as Morgans Hotel Group and EDITION hotels in his long career, plans to open more PUBLIC hotels.
Nashville gets a museum hotel
Nashville is known for its art and music scene. Now, it has a hotel that honors its creative side. The 124-room 21c Museum Hotel Nashville has opened in the historic Gray & Dudley Hardware Co., built in 1900.
It is the seventh 21c Museum hotel in the USA. All the hotels feature rotating exhibitions, site-specific installations and a roster of cultural programming curated by a museum director. The 21c Museum Hotel Nashville offers 10,500 square feet of contemporary art exhibition space. It is open free of charge to the public, and museum docents give free tours on Wednesday and Fridays at 5 p.m.
“With such a robust and exciting art and music scene, we felt the destination matched perfectly with our brand,” says Steve Wilson, founder and CEO of 21c Museum Hotels.
There is art throughout the hotel, including hallways, public restrooms, and guestrooms. The guestrooms also have wood floors, high ceilings, and large windows. The rooftop floor has seven suites, including the 21c Suite overlooking the Cumberland River. The penthouse level 21c Suite includes more than 1,700 square feet of indoor and outdoor space.
As an homage to the history of the building, the on-site restaurant is called Gray & Dudley and led by chef Levon Wallace, who has worked at other 21c Museum hotels. The menu has a West Coast flavor, inspired by Wallace’s roots.
Historic hotel gets ready for the future
The Jefferson Hotel, a historic Richmond hotel built in 1895, has completed a three-phase reconstruction, and its new rooms are now even more spacious.
The Virginia property once had 262 rooms. Now it has 181, including 15 suites. Rooms now feature entry foyers, dressing areas, marbled baths, walk-in showers, and television screens in vanity mirrors.
Public spaces have also been re-done, including the restaurant and lounge, Lemaire. The century-old Rotunda ceiling has been restored. Other public spaces such as the Palm Court lobby have also been revamped with new furnishings.
Ballroom spaces, including the Grand Ballroom, Empire Room and Flemish Room, have new color palates, draperies, LED lighting, and carpeting.
The hotel is both a AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star award winner for 2017.
“This project has allowed us to elevate an already unique travel experience to the next level of luxury,” says Joseph Longo, managing director of the hotel.