Halekulani (Hawaiian for "house befitting heaven"), acclaimed for service, elegance, and style, strives to provide unique, individual experiences for guests.
Last year, as COO Peter Shaindlin contemplated the property's underperforming presidential suite, he realized the concept seemed somewhat irrelevant.
The boom in "chain luxury" made presidential suites commonplace, which is certainly not the guest experience that Halekulani wanted.
"I had been watching a Fred Astaire movie and thought, what if we bring back a bridal suite that is sophisticated and relevant for today?" Shaindlin says.
The hotel partnered with Evins Communications and designer Vera Wang, because of her ability to convey timeless sensibility, in reimagining its suite.
"Vera said, 'Bridal will limit your message and audience,'" Shaindlin says. So the original vision evolved to the concept of "romance-modern" and delivering a truly unique guest experience targeted to special occasion, destination wedding, and romance getaway travelers.
"In a time-starved world, [romance] gets lost in the shuffle," says Mathew Evins, CEO of Evins Communications.
Although there's a trend in the luxury travel industry of designers working with hotels, "they'll do all the rooms. It's a homogenized aesthetic," Shaindlin says. "There is one [Vera Wang suite]. Halekulani [has created] a unique suite that is rarified."
Wang personally designed (or found) everything - the china, linens, food, cocktails, and even DVDs. To increase revenue and extend the experience, the hotel opened a Vera Wang lifestyle boutique in December, allowing guests to buy products aligned with their experience in the suite.
Shaindlin was hoping for coverage in hotel publications and lifestyle books. "Evins advised that we grossly underestimated play," Shaindlin says. "Through Vera, [we increased marketplace] relationships. Trust in [her] is so strong. Mathew said, 'You've got to hit them with their trust in her and their lifestyle perspective.'"
Keeping with the rarified strategy, the suite was announced to select media in face-to-face interviews that focused on the lifestyle philosophy with Wang, Shaindlin, and Patricia Tam, VP of Hotels and Resorts of Halekulani.
Exclusive photos also were released. "We don't allow photography in there," Shaindlin says. "With one key, we control the qualitative side of the messaging about the product."
In addition, the effort included VNRs, ANRs, and interstitials.
Year to date, the hotel has exceeded its revenue goal by 425%. As of August 2005, more than 600 million impressions had been garnered in outlets such as Travel & Leisure, CNN Headline News, USA Today, The New York Times, and Town & Country. Media traction is credited for allowing the agency to come in under budget by more than 20%.
"This [campaign] is a fabulous PR vehicle that speaks to the quality of [our] approach toward growth," Shaindlin says. "We've established that we will be very creative and substantive. International brand awareness has grown tremendously through one suite. That's a remarkable accomplishment."
Promotion of the suite will continue on an ongoing basis, and new elements are expected to be added going forward.
The campaign's success was founded on the insight that hotel presidential suites had become outdated. In reconceptualizing its suite, Halekulani addressed a homogenized, static slice of its industry and positioned itself as an innovator.
Uniqueness was a key element. Wang designing only one room in one hotel dovetailed with Halekulani's messaging about creating individual experiences and also distinguished it from its competitors because the terms and execution were quite different from other hotel/designer relationships. The theme resonated in the media, playing through the reputation of Wang and the hotel to present travelers with something fresh, yet trusted, with the appeal of individualized experience.
PR TEAM: Hotels and Resorts of Halekulani (Honolulu) and Evins Communications (New York)
CAMPAIGN: Launch of the Vera Wang Suite at Halekulani
DURATION: February 2005 - ongoing (suite launched in May)