Ritz-Carlton is synonymous with luxury, and they like it that way. Unfortunately for them, it is also synonymous with stiff, stuffy, old rich people…and they don’t like that. But Ritz-Carlton is setting out to change that with an ambitious integrated media campaign that includes–you guessed it–a series of online videos. Now, the Ritz-Carlton isn’t exactly the first company you’d expect to adopt a high impact social media campaign at a time when many old-school sticklers still feel that viral marketing is just now breaking out of its experimental phase. But the Ritz is doing just that and it seems to me like they’re doing it right.
Early next year, Ritz-Carlton will release a series of three short web films showing young, wealthy people enjoying themselves at the Ritz in ways that will help break down the stereotypes of the Ritz as being old and formal, while at the same time reinforcing that the Ritz is at the top of the game in both service and luxury. The films will be presented on the company’s website, but Ritz will use a bevy of tools to promote them. According to the Wall Street Journal, trailers will be posted on sites such as YouTube and Yahoo and there will be film screenings in cities like New York and L.A. At this point I can’t help but be reminded of the BMW Films: Shorts films, internet distribution, featuring a product in an unexpected way, and mainstream media promotion as a catalyst for the online viral process. The Ritz films are supposed to be entertaining, with small plots and young actors showcasing the ‘new side’ of the Ritz.
The interesting thing is that the powers that be at Ritz-Carlton feel that there is a risk of alienating the hotel’s older, traditional customer base. But, I think that concern is ridiculous (hence the title of this post!) Supposedly, the average age of a Ritz guest is about 46. According to the PEW Internet & American Life Project, only about 50% of people that age watch online video. I would venture to say that older (than 46) patrons are the one’s that the Ritz is most worried about offending, but in reality, the older a hotel patron is, the less likely they are to watch online video, so it is not very likely to have a negative effect.
In reality, I suppose it is not quite correct to refer to this move by the Ritz as viral marketing. The films are supposed to range from 4-10 minutes in length and that puts them at the long end of videos that go viral. Depending on who you talk to, viral videos should be no longer than thirty seconds to three minutes. The subject matter of the films is also a concern. They are not exactly supposed to be laugh-out-loud funny, action-packed, or mind-bendingly amazing (for plot synopses, see the 11/30/2007 WSJ article by Tamara Audi). My final concern is that Ritz-Carlton seems to be neglecting the potential power of a more comprehensive use of the social media universe. Sure, they are planning on using a couple big video sites to seed trailers, but they need to think of the viral catalyst they could leverage if they were to seed the trailers (or even specially cut, “exclusive sneak peak” trailers) among 20-30 influential travel bloggers, forums and travel websites. With just a little more effort on their part and help from viral marketing specialists they could micro-target the trailers in order to reach a critical mass of buzz faster and help drive potential guests to their website.
But enough of my commentary. The fact of the matter is that these films represent an online media element in a larger, integrated-media marketing campaign. And that is exactly how companies need to start thinking. With the promotion the Ritz has lined up, the shorts should draw a lot of traffic to the Ritz website (which will hopefully have tailored landing pages for the younger crowd). Additionally, the use of social media outlets for the trailers will allow for potentially explosive viral spread. With proper execution, some micro-targeting, strategic seeding and tracking, and monitoring of the blogosphere, Ritz should be able to execute a very successful social media campaign that generates a lot of buzz and a lot of new business.
- Tamara Audi, “Ritz-Carlton Web Films Play Down Its Ritzy Image,” Wall Street Journal, 11/30/07