Client: The Benjamin Hotel (New York)
PR Team: KWE Associates (New York)
Campaign: Sleep Concierge
Time Frame: January-April 2001
New York luxury hotel The Benjamin gave guests such a relaxing night's
sleep that they often asked to buy the beds they slept in. So, when
agency of record KWE Associates, New York, looked for a way to publicize
the hotel nearly two years after it opened, playing up sleep as the
"ultimate luxury" in our work-'round-the-clock society seemed the
obvious way to go.
The Benjamin, part of parent company Manhattan East Suite Hotels, opened
in April 1999, with good-quality rest as the central mission. Guests
received custom-made beds, an 11-selection pillow menu, soundproof
windows, white-noise machines, and aromatherapy.
KWE's strategy was to "remerchandise these amenities," says Maria
Andriano, vice president at the agency, enhancing them with a new sleep
guarantee: your money back if you don't get a good night's sleep. Plus,
head concierge Eileen McGill was dubbed "sleep concierge" and official
spokes-person to the press.
For McGill, the title was a logical addition. "I was spending 50% of my
time dealing with sleep problems and talking about mattresses and
pillows with guests," McGill recalls. She was also busily taking orders
for these products, which guests ordered for their homes. The challenge
was getting enough coverage for the remerchandising of services at a
hotel that had been open for so long. Positioning was everything.
"We went to The New York Times SundayStyles section first because a lot
of media people read that section, and we wanted to reach a larger
audience than we would in the Travel pages," Andriano remarks, adding
that she was able to use her connection with a Times freelancer to place
When KWE mailed more than 100 media kits containing the Times story,
which was published January 14, coverage began to snowball.
KWE focused on dailies and TV morning news shows. Producers at broadcast
media received one of the Benjamin specialty pillows as part of the
Pictures of McGill fluffing pillows or consulting with guests over a
tray of milk and cookies were also sent to demonstrate the visual
strength of the story.
KWE also aimed at international travelers through British Airways' High
Life magazine, The Financial Times, and the Travel Channel. For these
pitches, "it was the jet-lag issue."
The angle that worked the best was the sleep-deprivation one. KWE and
McGill pointed to National Sleep Foundation statistics that say 63% of
American adults do not get eight hours of sleep. "It affects every part
of their life and is the first thing people will push aside," says
McGill. Her family is amused at her role because she can sleep anywhere,
while her husband suffers from occasional insomnia.
This angle - broad and familiar - struck a chord. On the Good Morning
America set, made up for the hosts to sample the pillows, Diane Sawyer
confessed on the air that she brings a Benjamin Hotel pillow on business
Each time a story hit, McGill was inundated with calls asking for sleep
advice - some 40% from outside the hotel, and many from journalists, she
In addition to the Times, stories appeared in USA Today, The Wall Street
Journal and all the major US market dailies, the German Elle magazine,
and the leading Swiss newspaper. Pieces ran on 20 TV programs including
the Weekend Today show and Today in New York. In addition, travel trades
such as Hotel Business and Travel Agent magazine featured the
story."We've picked up 9% market share from last year," says John Moser,
the Benjamin's general manager. "I'm pleased with that number in a down
hotel season - and the campaign has played into it."
The campaign resulted in a whole new profit center. So many guests asked
to buy specially designed beds or other sleep-inducing products that the
hotel is launching a catalog - Gifts and Indulgences - in late
KWE is also handling that project.