Skift Take

The Shangri-La concept has always had a fantasy streak. But a new marketing video cleverly connects real-world experiences at its luxury hotels with a conjured haven of imaginary delights.

Anyone still in touch with their inner child may be drawn to the whimsy, color, and movement in Shangri-La’s new brand video. But will the marketing campaign resonate and boost bookings among guests looking for a luxury hotel experience?

The 90-second story follows a bellhop as he guides a blooming peony that’s a traveling protagonist, in a parallel that will be familiar to fans of Beauty & the Beast’s iconic enchanted rose. Shangri-La’s lush blossom is escorted to Paris, China, Muscat, and Singapore to experience the brand’s core offerings: wellness, family travel, culinary excellence, and special occasions.

“It’s the ultimate Shangri-La, so this campaign really speaks to me,” said Chekitan Dev, who has written a textbook on hospitality branding and who is a distinguished professor at Cornell University’s Nolan School of Hotel Administration in the SC Johnson College of Business.

Although the video doesn’t focus on Bhutan specifically, Dev said that it’s reminiscent of the time he spent living there.

The “Find Your Shangri-La” campaign passes his litmus test for a solid campaign that helps the brand stand out in people’s memories, the professor said. “If I was to replace the branding for Shangri-La at the end of this video, would I be able to simply insert another one? My response is definitely no.”

hummingbird in shangri-la hotel brand video 2023
Hummingbird in a Shangri-La Hotels brand video in 2023. Source: Shangri-La.

Not Perfect

Other people might be more critical of the video. While a bubble-blowing toy train may be analogous with a multigenerational adventure, whether swimming pool penguins equate to wellness or a hummingbird sipping nectar to fine dining is a fuzzier corollary. 

Like Peninsula Hotels’ bid to capitalize on celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz for its recent ad campaign, Shangri-La enlisted Grammy-Award-winning video director Dave Meyer. While he’s renowned for his fresh and thought-provoking work with musicians like Missy Elliott and Kendrick Lamar, the Shangri-La campaign leans into convention by using a tune as iconic as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Experiences That Make the Feeling Real

Yet while the music may be unoriginal, Shangri-La’s new themed experiences that it’s rolling out globally seem exclusive and unique. 

In Paris, Shangri-La just launched a new package featuring the iconic Guerlain fragrance boutique on the Champs-Élysées. The private tour includes a special bottle filled with the guest’s perfume of choice, as part of a package recently priced starting at about $3,400. In Istanbul, guests can try their hand at painting Ebru marble art or meet with the city’s first “Baklava butler” for a private demo.

Shangri-La Al Husn, Muscat is introducing Oman’s first “Frankincense butler” for a history lesson on Omani culture and a private tour of the resort’s Frankincense garden. It’s complimentary for guests.

The rarity of the experiences helps to give credibility to the Shangri-La campaign, another rare connecting-of-the-dots in hotel marketing.

Sustainability Motif

”The video is timely in that it uses ‘eco-luxury’ nature images like flowers, foliage, topiary, and the hummingbird – all visual cues that evoke ‘Shangri-La’ as I imagine it,” Dev said.

Dev highlighted Shangri-La’s use of other technology like computer-generated art as rare in the hospitality advertising space, which typically relies on images of guests hanging out at a property’s pool.

What joy first impressions leave from Shangri-La’s colorful content can have a powerful effect even if it doesn’t tie into a product initially.

The professor said Shangri-La’s campaign artfully captures some of today’s top trends in an approach that he called “‘Polar Express’ meets luxury hotel.”  

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Tags: advertisements, advertising, branding, digital advertising, experiences, experiential travel, hotel marketing, shangri-la, Shangri-La Hotels, shangri-la hotels and resorts

Photo credit: Penguins in a Shangri-La Hotels brand video in 2023. Source: Shangri-La.

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