Brand Physical: Key Findings
Helmsley Hotels - five different unique properties in New York City - are well known by upscale leisure and business travelers around the world. The famous late 1980's branding and advertising campaign portraying Mrs. Helmsley as the "Queen Of The Palace," demanding quality in every detail and service in her hotels, is perhaps one of the most enduring branding campaigns in the history of marketing.
However, do to her past legal problems, she has became the renowned "Queen Of Mean," vilified for years in the headlines. In fact, in a survey, the public rated Mrs. Helmsley as "the most hated woman in New York." (Unfortunately, her millions of dollars of contributions to various charities did not get equal play in the press.)
Add to that the post 9/ll dramatic slump in business and leisure travel, and the fact that most Helmsley hotels reflected "old world style" hotels compared to much newer and contemporary styled competitors, Helmsley Hotels was in dire need of a re-branding program.
* Mrs. Helmsley is perhaps one of the most recognized icons in the travel and hospitality business.
* Despite her reputation, research showed that both upscale leisure and business travelers would indeed be open to stay at a Helmsley hotel if they were given good reasons.
* While Helmsley Hotels were not known for their contemporary interior design, some travelers attached a certain cache to the "European look" of the interiors, such as the prestigious Park Lane Hotel on New York's exclusive 59th street facing Central Park.
* It was determined that Mrs. Helmsley should not appear in the advertising - Mrs. Helmsley is now in her 80's, and did not wish to be portrayed in her advertising. * Because of the intimate design of the Helmsley Park Lane, in social circles, the hotel was considered to be an ideal choice for exclusive weddings and special events.
* While being one of the most dramatic restaurants in the New York City, the main dining room - "A Room With A View" - was virtually unknown among the "power" breakfast and lunch crowd.
* Do to the post 9/11 travel downturn, many domestic travelers and visitors to New York were coming by car, not planes.
* Helmsley Hotels offer you the sophistication and elegance of a better European Hotel, still with an uncompromising attention to quality and service synonymous with the Helmsley name.
Desired Brand Perception
* The Helmsley Park Lane remains one of the most elegant hotels in New York, at one of New York's most prestigious locations...facing Central Park.
Brand Sweet Spot
* Re-position Helmsley Hotels as "Classic New York Hotels in the European Tradition," and feature the Helmsley Park Lane on Central Park South as the brand anchor... and do so with the support of an icon synonymous with the Helmsley name...but not Mrs. Helmsley.
Helmsley's Unique Touch Point Map
* Advertising is the primary touch point with Helmsley's upscale business and leisure travelers. * Brand Ambassadors who have enjoyed their stay '"spread the word" among business associates and friends
"Influcencer-driven, buyer-directed" Communication Plan
* Travel planners are vital to Helmsley Hotel's domestic and international business travelers, and so special marketing efforts were directed at reinforcing relationships and offering special off-price incentives
* Because of the Park Lane's prestige, location and security logistics, the hotel was also a favorite of visiting dignitaries and their security teams, and thus these relationships were nurtured - creating an on-going business.
* Wedding planners and event coordinators could also influence a great deal of business for the hotels, and the Helmsley sales teams focused a great deal of their efforts toward building these relationships
Strategic Creative Development
* If Mrs. Helmsley was not to be the "star" of the advertising, then who? Harry Helmsley was a possibility but like Mrs. Helmsley, he represented too much of the past.
* Mrs. Helmsley's little dog, whose name truly is "Trouble," became the ideal representative! Trouble is often seen in the lobby to meet and greet foreign Heads of State, political dignitaries, movie and Broadway stars, U.S. and European CEO's, business travelers and families traveling with their own little dogs. "Trouble" exemplifies the friendly and welcoming attitude of this elegant European style hotel, known for its luxurious amenities and comforts
* To create immediate impact, our plan was to shift focus from the traditional choice of small space black & white ads in the back of the Travel Section of the New York Times, to full 4-color page ads in the Main News Section during the week...creating awareness in the U.S. and abroad
* To reach the influential travelers within driving distance of New York, advertising appeared in regional city books such as Boston, Philadelphia
In just the first four weeks of the campaign, the reservation call levels doubled, generating thousands of additional calls, achieving a record-breaking 30% conversion rate of calls to reservations at the Helmsley Park Lane, and all the other hotels in the Helmsley Group.
As the campaign continued, it help return the Helmsley chain to a high-occupancy success for many years.