Hotel Sax gets celebrity inspired

When the House of Blues Hotel in Chicago came under new management, the executives saw the chance to rebrand. With an upscale look and a twist on typical amenities, they could position the hotel among the top luxury hotels in the city, but avoid the stuffy connotations.

When the House of Blues Hotel in Chicago came under new management, the executives saw the chance to rebrand. With an upscale look and a twist on typical amenities, they could position the hotel among the top luxury hotels in the city, but avoid the stuffy connotations.

With its former ties to the music world, the renamed and redesigned hotel (with Zapwater Communications) decided to offer guests Celebrity-Rider Inspired Packages. "It was a natural fit... the idea of celebrities, entertainment, and music," says Adam Kaplan, director of marketing for Hotel Sax Chicago.

Strategy
With more than $25 million sunk into renovation, there was obvious news to share, but Zapwater also wanted to show how the Hotel Sax Chicago was doing things differently than other hotels.

The hotel had always prided itself on its efforts to get to know each of its guests and make them feel important, including the many celebrities that stayed in luxury suites, enjoying personally tailored service and catering. With its newest iteration, it wanted regular guests to indulge their inner-celebrity, and return to the hotel out of not just a desire for shelter, but also for lifestyle.

Zapwater designed four packages that were based on the styles and actual contract riders of celebrities. "We knew it would be a good press tool," says Susan Schreiber, publicist for Zapwater.

Tactics
For two nights, guests could "Rock Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers" (pictured below), have "Glam Nights like Jennifer Lopez," or "Move & Shake Like Ari Gold." The guest would enjoy VIP treatment through various perks, such as an in-suite personal stylist from Gucci or the use of a personal assistant.

The firm knew it would be a great marketing device.

Following the introduction of the packages and an unveiling event, there was a major push to overhaul the packages page on the hotel Web site, which helped to increase marketing for the hotel's other packages

The firm issued a press release pitching local and national lifestyle, hospitality, and trade publications. In November, the packages and hotel were featured on the "Sign of the Times" segment on Nightline, which wanted to show how even hotels were grabbing onto celebrity fixation and the desire to live that lifestyle.

Results
The Nightline segment reached approximately 6 million viewers, and stories of the packages garnered the greatest amount of press the hotel had seen since its rebranding, receiving placements in Time, Forbes Traveler, and the Chicago Tribune, among others.

Calls regarding the celebrity-rider packages have led to bookings of more than 80 rooms (about $14,000 in revenue) and many of the hotel's corporate clients have expressed interest in customizing "celebrity" packages of their clients, Schreiber says.

Future
The hotel not only intends to continue the celebrity-rider packages, but plans to add to them further, Kaplan says.

They will ask celebrities that stay at the hotel to design their own packages, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the celebrities' charities of choice.

PR team: Hotel Sax Chicago and Zapwater Communications (Chicago)

Campaign: Hotel Sax: Turning Everyday Joes into J-Los

Duration: June-November 2007

Budget: about $15,000

PRWeek View
Rather than focusing on what many firms might see as the bottom-line objective of money, Zapwater zeroed in on the hotel's true desire - the longevity of customers' patronage - and designed the campaign accordingly. Playing off of a cultural shift rather than a fad, the firm was able to tap into the factors that might motivate the typical guest making a choice between upscale hotels.

Like the ever-changing roster of celebrities, the constant update of the different packages will pique both potential and current customers' interest, and the philanthropic element will have a similar effect on the celebrities staying at the hotel.

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