Current Racial Tensions Intensify Message of Unity in Hyatt's Latest Ad

Brand Deliberated Before Deciding to Air New Inclusivity Ad

Published On
Aug 16, 2017

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Following a weekend of violence and racial tension in Charlottesville, and this week's conflict-ridden political aftermath, one marketer is coming out with a message of unity. Hyatt Hotels Corp. aired 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 spot, 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. The idea was conceived long before recent events, though its message is all the more timely today.

"The message of understanding transcends politics," says Maryam Banikarim, chief marketing officer at Hyatt, noting that after Charlottesville, the brand deliberated over airing the already-planned piece. "The hotel showed bravery 50 years ago when others didn't, on the eve of the anniversary, shouldn't we as an organization demonstrate the same bravery?" Banikarim asks.

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. 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's disastrous Kendall Jenner spot from earlier this year.

Other major advertisers have also embraced inclusivity in recent campaigns. Airbnb's "Accept" ad, which aired during the Super Bowl, preached how everyone "belongs," no matter what their ethnicity, religion or political stance, while Heineken's social experiment united people from different walks of life (including a transgender woman and a man espousing right-wing beliefs). Hyatt debuted its current messaging with its first Oscars ad in February.

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Aug 16, 2017
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