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By The Drum, Editorial

June 6, 2024 | 6 min read

Winning Influencer Marketing Gold in The Drum Awards for Marketing Americas is Allison Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, part of IHG Hotels & Resorts’ luxury and lifestyle portfolio. Here is the award-winning case study.

Objectives and Challenges

Commitment to diversity and inclusivity has been central to Kimpton’s brand ethos since it opened its first hotel in San Francisco – decades before DE&I became a business imperative. For the growing, international boutique luxury hotel brand with 78 properties, valuing the uniqueness of people and empowering employees and guests to be their true selves was never a fad; it was authentically baked into the company’s DNA and a promise to every person who walked through its doors. Kimpton believed that no two humans are the same, and no two stays should be either.

While the entire travel industry appeared to want to embrace and chase inclusivity, were they really in their marketing and social media content?

It was time to cast a critical eye on practices, and reflect on Kimpton’s own content. Was Kimpton doing all it could to authentically demonstrate its DE&I ethos to travelers through its social media content, and hold itself accountable to the highest possible standards? As a rapidly-growing leader in the luxury and lifestyle hotel space, it aimed to model its deeply held values and beliefs in everything it did, showcase diverse perspectives and craft truly unique experiences that inspire and empower the world’s diverse global travelers.

Insight

Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion has reached a tipping point for businesses in developed countries worldwide. Consumers overwhelmingly support brands that demonstrate an authentic commitment to hiring a diverse workforce, serving diverse consumers, and meeting their customers’ individual needs and interests. Just as no two individuals are the same, Kimpton believed that no two travelers, or travel experiences, should be the same either.

But a sweeping glimpse across travel social media content revealed how awash we are in aspirational travel imagery. The models are often too white, too well-groomed and dressed, too idyllically happy -- the personification of all-too-picture-perfect lives that don’t feel -- let’s be honest -- quite real or inclusive. Or at least, not necessarily real or inclusive to each of us.

So how was it that the travel industry’s content creators hadn’t gotten the memo? That a lot of content is still the antithesis of being diverse or inclusive in its appearance?

When is the last time, for example, that you saw disabled travelers in marketing content? Or senior travelers in their sunset years? Or true representation of the diverse ethnicities, sexual orientation and cultures of society at large? Uh, like hardly ever?

The PR team put global social media travel content under a microscope and discovered a paradoxical truth: nobody was really showing the truth.

Travel content creators were portraying a travel utopia – a manicured world of attractive, stereotypical people living perfectly aspirational lives in exotic locations. It was an over-filtered, over-curated, homogenous version of both the world’s travelers and travel experiences.

Consumer perceptions confirmed our suspicions: many just don’t see themselves portrayed in today’s travel media content. Yet they all want to be seen, heard, included and understood.

Our data intelligence gathered in the U.K., U.S., Australia and Japan confirmed that just 20% think travel brands’ social media is realistic; only 22% say content makes them feel included; 85% want more inclusive content; 84% believe travel brands can do more to support diverse travelers, and 64% prefer inclusive travel brands.

Approach/Strategy

We set out to disrupt the status quo in social media travel content, challenging both ourselves and travel content creators worldwide to do better in more fully representing diverse travelers and their needs.

So, we brought together a diverse collective of global travel content creators who wanted to BE the change, joining Kimpton in a first-of-its-kind campaign to present a more truthful and inclusive travel reality in social media and set a new industry gold standard.

At the heart of the Kimpton Creator Collective was a pledge to “Stay Human” and transform travel content to show more diversity and inclusivity in the travel experience.

Chosen because they often didn’t see themselves reflected in travel content, the Creator Collective worked hand in hand with Kimpton to expand the definition of diversity beyond race, ethnicity, beliefs or sexual orientation.

We pledged to throw away the conventional creator content brief, end digital distortion of individuals in content, and ensure our creators aligned with Kimpton’s DE&I goals.

First, to bring global media attention to the lack of representation in travel industry content, we brought our Collective to the Kimpton Fitzroy in London to immerse themselves in the brand, glean insights from our data, and shape the future of influencer marketing in travel together through their diverse individual lenses – with the pledge as our blueprint.

We hosted a Future of Travel Workshop and filmed our creators discussing their unique perspectives. A highlights video was shared with international travel media and featured on Kimpton’s social channels to introduce each creator.

Energized by the experience, each creator produced inspiring content from the event and released it on their channels, showing their real, unfiltered selves and their Kimpton experiences.

To bring the campaign alive in 18 international markets, Kimpton launched inclusive creator-curated “Come As You Are” travel experiences and a dedicated “Stay Human” Concierge to curate bespoke local itineraries for guests.

Results

Kimpton’s pioneering Creator Collective generated a universally positive media and organic social response in 18 key markets across the U.K., U.S., Australia, Japan, Thailand, and Singapore.

  • 613 earned placements globally; 2.1B media impressions
  • 6.6M social impressions, averaging a 7.7% engagement rate on organic posts; 2,575 social media shares on earned channels
  • 943k views of our Creator Collective video
  • Kimpton increased its share of industry voice to 25% among its competitive set during the campaign and currently ranks #1 in SOV

Ready to get your work recognized on a global stage? Enter The Drum Awards today. Need more inspiration, read our Award Winning Case Studies.

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