Campaigns: Consumer/tourism - Hotels and choccies create a classic mix

Campaign: New British Classics
Client: Macdonald Hotels & Resorts
PR team: Davies Tanner
Timescale: August-November 2010
Budget: £7,500

Macdonald Hotels & Resorts is the UK's largest independently owned hotel group, with more than 40 properties across the country. The group wanted to attract a wider audience to its properties and make the most of 2010's 'staycation' trend for holidays in the UK instead of abroad, by increasing traffic to its website and offering a number of short-stay breaks.

Objectives

- To introduce Macdonald Hotels to a wider audience through a partnership with a third party

- To gain increased exposure in key geographic areas, especially the flagship property in Oxford

- To increase traffic to the Macdonald Hotels website.

Strategy and plan

Davies Tanner set up a brand partnership with Thorntons, the UK's largest independent chocolatier. This united two of the country's brands at a time when Thorntons was also relaunching its best-selling boxed range, Thorntons' Classics.

The campaign was entitled New British Classics to highlight the quintessentially British experiences provided by Macdonald Hotels and Thorntons. The partnership was maximised through an extensive range of PR and marketing activity. Beginning with a New British Classics press launch at the Macdonald Randolph Hotel in Oxford, the partnership was promoted through goody-bag drops to national media, hundreds of boxes of Thorntons' Classics giveaways and discount vouchers to guests in 40 Macdonald Hotels properties, an online presence on each brand's website, and a series of competitions in national press and online.

Activity included a Classic British Break to capitalise on the staycation trend. This two-night break promotion encouraged couples to book a traditional British experience complete with English breakfast, afternoon tea and a 330g box of Thorntons' Classics, and ran for four months.

To ensure maximum exposure for Macdonald Hotels, extensive in-store marketing appeared in all 600 Thorntons stores in the UK. This included event bays, shelf highlighters, Macdonald Hotels branded till receipts and promotional leaflets promoting the Classic British Break. Thorntons' in-store personnel were also incentivised to sell more Classics with a reward of a Classic British Break for the top seller.

Measurement and evaluation

The New British Classics campaign generated extensive coverage in national newspapers such as the Telegraph and Sunday Express, regional newspapers including the Oxford Mail, South Wales Echo and Swindon Advertiser, consumer websites such as gmtv.co.uk, handbag.com, marieclaire. co.uk, and industry publications including Travel Daily, Square Meal and The Drum.

Results

Macdonald Hotels reached 4.8 million customers in Thorntons' stores and 350,000 via its online database. Thorntons reported an above-average redemption rate on the vouchers and record sales of Classics during the campaign, which produced year-on-year growth of more than ten per cent.

SECOND OPINION

Mark Perkins, Director, Cow PR

Brand partnerships can be very hit or miss, and on occasion defy logic. Considering the budget available, this is a campaign that ticks all the boxes including the one I admire the most: simplicity.

The association with a quintessentially English, indulgent brand such as Thorntons was spot on for Macdonald Hotels, but not so niche luxury or out-of-reach aspirational that it missed the core target of middle England.

Rather than blow the budget on a Z-list celeb or a spurious survey about 'New British Classics' (with Downton Abbey and Kate Middleton featuring prominently, no doubt) in the hope of some nominal branding and fingers-crossed association, Davies Tanner clearly looked at the target audience and how best to engage with it.

And that is where this campaign really delivers bang for its buck - reaching people on the high street with a presence in 600 Thornton's outlets, which is enviable delivery for Macdonald. Also, it was a reward for Thorntons customers in-store and online, so both brands benefited very well.

The other measure is coverage and Davies Tanner got a very respectable return with its resources and fulfilled the objectives required by the client.

It is easy to be sniffy about a conventional approach to PR, but this is proof that when done well it delivers, and with a small budget.

I suppose there was scope to use Twitter to amplify awareness, but I doubt, given the audience and time invested, it would have made a fraction of the impact of a competition on GMTV online.

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