Four Seasons taps “Love” for brand messaging

“Luxury is our Love Language” is the powerful new brand creative platform being launched through the next year across all Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts brand portfolios and lines of business.  

The full 360 platform for the brand’s creative re-launch is intended to be more than an ad campaign, but an enduring program and a new way to evolve and express the brand’s essence, according to Four Seasons Chief Commercial Officer Marc Speichert. With Four Seasons operating some 127 hotels, he said it was important to reimagine its messaging in fresh, new, relevant and modern ways. Developed by Publicis Groupe’s New York City-based creative collective, Le Truc, the work highlights real stories of actual Four Seasons guest experiences, reflected in feedback surveys, comments and conversations with hotel teams. The media spots are each based on true stays, featuring artful interpretations of Four Seasons teams going above and beyond to provide guests with anticipatory, personalized experiences rooted in generosity, kindness and care.  

The targeted, high-impact multi-million-dollar media spend is the largest by Four Seasons to date, marking the first time the company is supporting brand equity messaging with significant paid media amplification.  

HOTELS reached out to Four Seasons to better understand the reason behind this high-profile campaign and talked to Speichert to learn more.  

HOTELS: This messaging seems like it means more to the brand, almost suggesting a bit of a pivot in positioning. Is this the case?  

Marc Speichert: I joined Four Seasons about 18 months ago and am new to the hospitality industry. I told the team let’s take a bit of a step back and understand what makes the brand so successful and what we want to do to evolve at the same time… We haven’t pushed out much creative during that time, taking a pause to think about the brand’s bedrock, its DNA and how to best push it out into a brand creative platform.  

We did quite a bit of work with guests to understand what makes the hotels and their experiences special, and then to understand what’s happening broadly in luxury, in general. We found out that this notion of luxury being authoritarian was a bit bogged down for the guests that we wanted to go after. This notion of leading with a genuine heart was something that was incredibly relevant for the guests that know the brand really well and much engrained into how they loved interacting with the brand.  

The insights we gathered was that folks love to be welcomed, treated as a special guest, but also almost welcomed as a friend… We want to make sure that we’re creating this sense of belonging as almost the definition of how we define luxury… Small acts of unscripted empathy, those small acts of love, make a difference, and sometimes they make a much bigger difference than making a big splash… All of this is encapsulated into this campaign.  

H: How is this more than a marketing campaign?  

MS: It seems like kind of a brand repositioning. So, we tried to encapsulate that into a what we call an enduring creative idea. This is something that we want to build over time, that we want to stick to, and that very much is part of the brand positioning… This was very much done with marketing teams, but also with the general managers and the heads of HR. It’s a much broader way of making sure that we’re all consistently talking and living the brand and then translating that into creative work that is going to be there for a number of years because we think it has the potential to be a true, enduring creative idea. 

H: This time of media amplification is a first for Four Seasons. Why so?  

MS: This has been a first for us on a couple of different levels. The first is that we anchored it into the guest’s understanding, probably more so than ever before, because we understand our guests now better than ever before. Any kind of work that we’re doing is very much informed by that guest’s understanding and it is a key driver behind this.  

The second shift was considering how to amplify our message in a way that cuts through in a very competitive environment. Again, we didn’t benchmark ourselves versus the hospitality brands in the luxury space; we really benchmark ourselves versus all luxury brands because that’s our aspiration moving forward.  

Then, how do we dial up to make sure we maintain and grow that lead through our competitive set in the hospitality space and start to show up as a complete luxury brand. In certain instances, we have very high levels of brand awareness and brand preference. And in some other instances, we have businesses where we have lower brand awareness and brand preference scores… We stepped deeper into retail more recently, where we think we have a lot of potential. But it requires us to drive the brand awareness and preference in those spaces so that we can credibly show up as a more complete luxury brand.  

The third piece works hand-in-hand with making sure that what we’re doing above the hotels connects really nicely with what’s happening at the hotels, and that takes time… It’s almost the beginning of the journey going back to the enduring creative idea because all the work that we’re doing above the brand is fantastic, but how do we then scale it across all the different hotels is part of what we’ve been doing since we launched the campaign? The scale and how systematic we are about it is new.  

Four Seasons “Based on a True Stay” stories offer glimpses into the ways its teams go above and beyond, such as bringing the magic of winter right to the guest or making a budding equestrian’s dreams come true.

H: Four Seasons is becoming a bigger, more mature brand. Are you trying to bring back that small brand specialness with this positioning?  

MS: We have to consider how we maximize that level of scale without losing the secret sauce that always has made us successful. Guests told us that what makes Four Seasons special are these acts of unscripted love… We had a big event with all of our general managers at the end of September and took them through all the work and the rationale… We asked them to write down their true stay stories that will get us most excited to produce next year. It creates a bit of that competitive spirit that our GMs love to display in a good way. Now we have this pile of true stay stories and it’s what I feel is cool about this platform – its legit longevity because every single hotel will have its true stay story that they can start to talk about. It feeds the machine and what we know makes Four Seasons what it is.  

It’s creating that framework. Of course, we have standard operating procedures, but I think what makes Four Seasons Four Seasons is giving the ability for people to have license to step out of it to deliver against it for the guest. From a brand perspective, we’re giving them a framework to play within, but that framework is important as we continue to have ambition in terms of taking the brand further into spaces like retail… “Luxury is our Love Language” will show up differently in residential versus food and beverage versus retail. But we need to be clear on what the thread is and that one, plus one, plus one equals more than three.  

H: How is Four Seasons managing today’s labor challenges?  

MS: We’ve seen this creative platform become quite powerful in boosting morale of the troops. We’re actually celebrating all the folks within the organization and it has been a powerful lever. It just feels like we’re walking the talk in regard to how we are recognizing our people.  

Then there are other things that we’re looking at such as leveraging technology in a way that wouldn’t automate tasks because that’s not Four Seasons. How do we create high human touch enabled by technology? For example, we have this chat feature on our app and we have seen a massive boost in inbound messages – mostly when people are staying with us. On our back end, they get connected to the right experts so they don’t talk to some generic person somewhere. The technology just enables us to route the conversation in the right way.  

H: What are your hopes for the “love language” campaign? How will you measure it?  

MS: We certainly want it to be an enduring creative idea… We received some results back on the campaign, which was quite exciting because we were monitoring brand awareness lift and brand preference lift. We had significant results on both of them. On the brand awareness side, we had a four-point awareness bump, exceeding expectations. But what’s even more exciting is the preference scale and that was almost a 10x lift.  

H: Can you share the investment Four Seasons has made in this program?  

MS: I’ll just say that this was the biggest investment we’ve ever had. It is also pushing us into channels that we hadn’t necessarily used before like Hulu and a beta with TikTok going after high-net-worth individuals. We also did more high visibility takeovers like JFK airport with all the digital screens at certain terminals during high-traffic Thanksgiving period.  

H: Any other takeaway that you could share?  

MS: I’m so pleased to have made the decision to join Four Seasons, but it just feels like it’s an industry that could benefit from having some creative bravery in terms of how they put some of the messaging out there because it’s such a high touch industry… The better the work across the industry, the better it will serve the industry as a whole.