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Hyatt’s New Brand Strategy Hinges On Cultural Diversity And Understanding

This isn’t a Cheetos marketing moment, but an ideal that CEO Mark Hoplamazian says is essential to the company’s business.

Hyatt’s New Brand Strategy Hinges On Cultural Diversity And Understanding

A woman in a headscarf sits across from a blond woman on the train. An Asian man walks into an Irish pub. A black woman walks through a remote Middle Eastern village. A white dude wanders among the throngs of an Asian city. All are initially looked at with what appears to be skepticism, maybe even mistrust. But as Andra Day croons a cover of the Hal David/Burt Bacharach classic “What the World Needs Now is Love,” we see these people experience subtle moments of understanding.

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Okay, okay, this is where the cynic in your head says, “Hardcut: Cheetos.” But if ever there was a brand with legit cause to address and utilize the ideas of diversity and cultural understanding, it’s one in travel and hospitality. It’s something Airbnb has hung its hat on almost from the start, and here it’s Hyatt with a new campaign launching during the Oscars, that the company calls one of its biggest rebrands ever.

“We operate in 54 countries around the world, we employ people from hundreds of different nationalities, so we live this every day,” says CEO Mark Hoplamazian. “We have an incredibly diverse employee base and are in all these markets, so the whole idea of elevating understanding is really essential to our business.”

Beyond the ad campaign, created with agency MullenLowe, Hoplamazian says the brand is taking the idea of spreading cultural understanding to other areas of the business. The company is collaborating with AFAR to engage guests beyond traditional hotel stays with an immersive once in a lifetime excursion to Tokyo. Hyatt is partnering with non-profits like Learning AFAR and No Barriers USA to support a program that gives students who might not otherwise have the chance, a life-changing experience designed to help them better understand themselves and the world around them. Chicago Public School students will participate in an immersive four to six month curriculum that culminates in a 10-day trip to Costa Rica. Hoplamazian says they’re working with other partners to bring similar opportunities to more students in the future.

It also coincides with a major restructuring and rebrand of Hyatt’s loyalty program, announced last fall but launching March 1st.

Hoplamazian says extending the brand beyond just hotel stays is key. And while promoting understanding around the world has really been our focus for the last four months or so, the company’s shift really started much earlier. “Several years ago we looked at the company and realized we were doing something that was about much more than heads and beds, it was an expression of care,” says Hoplamazian. “Empathy plus action equals care. We think about understanding our own colleagues, which has led us to do things like turning over decision making around uniforms to our employees, so they can be their full selves at work and really bring themselves to work. It’s based around the insight that we all have this innate desire to know and be known.”

Hyatt has also enlisted its frontline employees as broader brand ambassadors, with various social media projects, including a globe-trotting look at the brand through Snap Spectacles.

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We live in a time when the simple idea of cultural understanding will no doubt come across to some as a political stance by the brand. But Hoplamazian says the new campaign is less about social commentary, and more about reflecting the brand’s long-held values.

“We thought about this idea of understanding as essential to our business, and our own diversity as a company,” he says. “It’s a universal message. The scenes are all in some ways, things we can all relate to. We’ve all been in unfamiliar situations, and we’ve dealt with that and come out the other side with a deeper sense of understanding and appreciation. That’s the key human reality, and we think that makes it timeless.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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