T-Bird Drives Hotel's Makeover Campaign

A classic car to represent a classic hotel is the message of a marketing campaign by The Melrose Hotel, New York, to promote its renovation and June 1 name change from the Barbizon Hotel.

The campaign's centerpiece is a sweepstakes offering a chance to win a 12-month lease on a 2002 Ford Thunderbird convertible.

“The catch for us [is] the visual of the Thunderbird and the concept of 'win,'” said Barry Caplan, vice president of sales at The Melrose Hotel. “We wanted to get right to [the] call-to-action. Get them to the Web site and register, and if they wanted more information about our hotels they would be able to get it there.”

Berwind Property Group bought the hotel in May 2001. The Barbizon was for women only until 1980, and most guests throughout the years were attendees of New York secretarial and beauty schools. Among the upgrades Berwind has made are 24-hour room service, a lounge and redesign of the lobby and other areas of the hotel.

“We are embracing the tradition of the Barbizon but want to bring in a new level of service,” said John DePaul, president/CEO of the Melrose Hotel. “The Barbizon didn't have the cachet of the bigger hotels in New York, and we are going to try and bring that to it. The goal is to communicate to existing and future clients that by embracing the history of the Barbizon and introducing new and improved service levels we are taking a classic and making it better.”

Though total response numbers were not being tallied until late June or early July, DePaul said the site has averaged 2,700 hits a day since the campaign began last month, up from 900 hits a day previously. There have been 5,000 registrants to the sweepstakes, 3,500 from the marketing efforts.

The campaign includes direct mail, e-mail, cards left in guest rooms, print ads and a one-day guerrilla effort in which more than 10,000 Thunderbird model cars were given to people riding Amtrak's high-speed Acela train.

All components direct people to melrosehotel.com for more information on the sweepstakes and to register. The tag line, accompanied by an image of a Thunderbird, reads “As of June 1, another American classic makes history. The Barbizon becomes the Melrose Hotel.”

Direct mail went the second week of June to more than 40,000 recipients. The oversized postcard self-mailer went to business and leisure travelers who have traveled and stayed on the East Coast.

The front of the postcard, sent to prospects only, simply states “WIN” in big letters behind a photo of a 2002 Thunderbird convertible. The hotel's address and toll-free phone number also are on the front. On the back are four black-and-white interior shots of the hotel and mention of the sweepstakes and the hotel's name change. Copy directs recipients to www.melrosehotel.com “to learn about the classic, comfortable luxury of the new Melrose Hotel, New York and winning a new 2002 Ford Thunderbird convertible.”

The hotel followed that effort by giving away 10,000 model cars to people riding Amtrak between Boston and New York, New York and Washington, and Washington and Philadelphia. Some of the model cars were handed directly to commuters while some were placed on the seats of cars to be picked up by people as they boarded.

An e-mail campaign began the same time as the direct mail effort. More than 25,000 e-mails went to current clients, travel agencies and associations that have particular needs in business travel. The e-mail contained the same messaging and was designed to achieve the same effect as the direct mail piece.

Print ads ran throughout June in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Boston Globe and other daily newspapers. They have the same look and feel as the direct mail and e-mail efforts with the goal of driving people to the Web site to register for the sweepstakes.

The sweepstakes ends Aug. 30.

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