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Spinning the Recession: David Melancon, Ito Partnership

Feeling guilty about ordering that $14 capiranha while headlines trumpet economic collapse in every quarter? Morgans Hotel Group has a message for you: “F&%k the Recession!”

Feeling guilty about ordering that $14 capiranha while headlines trumpet economic collapse in every quarter? Morgans Hotel Group has a message for you: “F&%k the Recession!”

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recession-bartender That’s the sentiment adorning the back of the bartenders’ T-shirts at the posh new Mondrian here in South Beach. The front of the shirt urges guests to forget the collapse in retail sales, the burgeoning foreclosure figures, the potential demise of the Big Three automakers: “RecessIsOn” they say.

It’s a campaign that New York branding consultancy Ito Partnership concocted for the hotel chain as a way of dealing with the dissonance travelers might feel about booking themselves into a hotel known for the chandeliers in its showers instead of a monk-like Motel 6.

“The strategy behind “RecessIsOn” for Morgans is: 1. Keep our cool (maintain the vibe and image that our guests expect) and 2. Give our guests permission to enjoy the brand, even in negative economic times,” says Ito Partnership’s CEO, David Melancon, at a party celebrating the Mondrian’s opening during Art Basel Miami.

“The first phase was about instantly connecting with customers by verbalizing the pungent, slightly off-color thought that we all have: F#*k the Recession. We did that through guerilla media tactics (video projections, wild postings and some other outdoor media.” Morgans had wanted to buy print space, but couldn’t find a way to do that would sufficiently convey their feisty sentiment in a family-friendly way.

They also launched a YouTube channel — RecessIsOn — that has a short video with images of caviar and people flipping the bird alternating with screens trumpeting, “Attitude is Everything” and “F$%#k the Recession.”

Ito has asked various celebrities to talk about “what they want to tell the recession” and will continue to post their responses as they come in. One filmed with Shepard Fairey, the artist who created Obama’s HOPE portrait, in Miami will go up on the site later in the day.

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Guests who are enthusiastic about the campaign can buy their own “F%$#k the Recession” t-shirts at vending machines in the Mondrian’s lobby. But one guy sporting a shirt was annoyed with his purchase. “It says “F&^%k the recession” on the back,” he says, “but it’s in gray, not white. You can hardly see it. It’s way too subtle!”

Serve that man a pricey beverage!

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About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.

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