Ritz-Carlton Embraces Digital

In Global Push, Luxury Hotel Chain Will Pour Millions Into Web, Social Media

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The Ritz-Carlton might be best known for its customer service and old-fashioned, one-on-one human interaction, but the luxury hotel chain is embracing digital in a big way with its new global campaign.

More than half the $10 million budget for "Let Us Stay with You" will be allocated to digital and social media. It marks the first time that digital efforts have accounted for a majority of the marketing budget, but it won't be the last.

"Digital is a really important place where consumers are exploring their travel options. So being part of that conversation is really important to us," said Clayton Ruebensaal, VP-marketing. "People are daydreaming from their desks. That's what we're trying to take advantage of."

"Let Us Stay with You," is the luxury hotel's first major campaign in nearly two years; the last ran from mid-2005 through 2009. Mr. Ruebensaal said that during the recession, like every other hotel out there, the focus was on getting "heads in beds" rather than investing in marketing and making emotional connections with consumers. But emerging from the recession, the Ritz-Carlton and its competitors -- Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Peninsula -- were all starting to blur.

"We were all coming closer together in brand tracking. The differentiations were not as precise as they used to be," Mr. Ruebensaal said. "We saw a real purpose for investing money back into defining what's rare and special about the Ritz-Carlton again."

Ritz-Carlton is known for its customer handling and service. During orientation, employees are taught that their job is not to make a bed or pour a drink but to connect with guests, so that they'll want to come back again and again, Mr. Ruebensaal said. With that idea in mind, Ritz-Carlton and its agency, Los Angeles-based Team One, came up with the concept of the hotel experience sticking, or staying, with guests. It takes an age old hotel-marketing pitch -- come stay at our hotel -- and "flips that on its head," Mr. Ruebensaal said.

"Let Us Stay With You," will be the company's most comprehensive campaign to date. In addition to print and digital ads, a film will run on in-room TVs and the hotel's redesigned website. The campaign will also be integrated into Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare communications, as well as a mobile application.

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