Amid Racial Tension, Hyatt Pushes Understanding in New Spot

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Following a weekend of racial tension and violence, and this week's conflict-ridden political aftermath, one marketer is coming out with a message of unity. Hyatt Hotels has introduced the next chapter in its "World of Understanding" campaign platform with a video celebrating 50 years of inclusivity dating back to the chain's Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotel, which opened its doors to civil rights leaders in 1967.

The two-and-a-half-minute video, released Wednesday on digital channels, includes the spoken words of artist Tarriona "Tank" Ball. "When people come together and allow their commonalities to supersede their differences, they cloak themselves in a suit of armor, galvanized by openmindness," she says in the spot.

Though the message seems timely following the protests by white supremacists and counterprotests in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday and the argument over President Trump's response, the idea was conceived before any of that.

"The message of understanding transcends politics," says Maryam Banikarim, chief marketing officer at Hyatt. The brand debated whether to delay the ad's release after the events in Charlottesville but decided to proceed, she adds.

"The hotel showed bravery 50 years ago when others didn't," Banikarim says. "On the eve of the anniversary, shouldn't we as an organization demonstrate the same bravery?"

In August, 1967, the newly debuted Hyatt Regency Atlanta hosted the 11th annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference for Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists at a time when few hotels were as inviting, Banikarim says. The chain, which spent the last year looking for such historical events to support its "Understanding" platform, worked with MullenLowe on the effort. There are roughly 175 Regency hotels under the Hyatt umbrella.

Experts say that consumers can expect to see more messages of unity from marketers in coming months.

"We're going to see more of that just trying to tap into the social, maybe political, climate of the day as brands try to stay relevant and be part of the conversation," says Kevin Keller, E. B. Osborn professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. But he cautioned that while Hyatt has a legitimate historical link, marketers that do not may come across as "hollow" in their efforts -- like Pepsi with its disastrous Kendall Jenner spot from earlier this year.

Airbnb and Heineken have also embraced coming together and inclusivity in recent campaigns. Hyatt began its current messaging with its first Oscars ad in February.

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