IHG campaign brings guests’ stories to life

Storytelling—whether it’s used to pass down tales about the past or inform about the future—has long been a way of effectively communicating how things were or how they can be. So, it’s no wonder that InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), chose storytelling as a way to celebrate its rich, 70-year history and to ignite peoples’ passions for exploring the world, discovering other cultures and experiencing luxury travel.

Stories of the InterContinental Life, a campaign launched by InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, which has 183 hotels in more than 60 countries, is a series of multisensory “journeys” that feature stories told through different mediums, including videos, animated illustrations and podcasts. “One of the things we discovered when talking to our target guests is that they have a very rich memory of InterContinental,” said Jason Moskal, VP Lifestyle Brands, The Americas, IHG. “We explored a number of avenues to bring to life these very immersive experiences. Stories of the InterContinental Life became to us the strongest way to organically intersect our target guests’ lives with content or topics they would find very interesting in their everyday life and in how they travel.”

To create the interactive campaign, IHG turned to Mirum, a global digital agency that is part of the J. Walter Thompson Company (the agency of record for IHG) and WPP Network. “Given that the strategy behind the campaign was very digitally and auditorally led, Mirum had not only the expertise in those areas but some really great ideas about how to bring this campaign to life,” said Moskal.

“Our objective was to demonstrate the allure of the IHG life, some of the values that embody it such as being interesting and interested in the world, being more connected to your surroundings, wanting to discover new things, valuing discretion more than over-the-top ostentatious and being a worldly individual with stories to tell,” said Erik Wagner, business director, Mirum.

Each episode of Stories of the InterContinental Life features podcasts, video storylines and animated illustrations like those shown here.

The agency focused on providing an immersive, multisensory journey through a collection of stories. “We wanted to use these stories and use the different hotels as a launchpad to explore these more intriguing, emotive topics through really compelling individuals,” said Wagner. “We felt an audio-first approach would allow us to take a different tactic to storytelling. It allowed us to focus more on content and it gave us a more documentary or editorial feel.” Added Moskal, “The campaign has a number of storylines that are built around the connection to the brand. Our content hub is the heart and soul of the campaign.”

To demonstrate the global reach of IHG while balancing locations that had interesting stories behind them and a strong historical connection, the first three episodes of the campaign, titled Fascination, Worldliness and Empathy, focus on three of the brand’s hotels in New York, Beijing and London.

Each 15-minute episode features real people telling true stories about experiencing luxury travel at IHG properties around the world. Using a mix of podcasts, video storylines and animated illustrations, the stories hope to immerse the audience into exploring and learning about different locations, cultures and people. For example, the campaign’s first episode, “Fascination,” which features the InterContinental New York Barclay, uncovers a secret, underground city. “Worldliness,” episode 2, showcases the InterContinental Beijing Sanlitun and focuses on discovering a global outlook wherever one travels. The third episode, Empathy, revolves around the InterContinental London Park Lane and explores how connecting with other people and cultures can deepen a person’s connections to the world.

Mirum worked closely with the production company m ss ng p eces to create the first episode. The Fascination video is directed by Tucker Walsh and the podcasts star and are edited by Bianca Giaever, a regular contributor to NPR programming. The illustrations are by Greg Betza, with animations from Smith Design.

There are several ways to view Stories of the InterContinental Life. The main destination is the url intercontinteal.com/life, explained Wagner. “That’s where we aggregate all of the episodes and storyline contents in one place,” he said. “The site experience will continue to evolve and be built out as the campaign continues to grow over the coming year.” It can also be viewed on IHG social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as in-hotel activation where guests can watch the episodes on IHG hotel televisions. “We’re also offering event experiences that bring to life this idea of Stories of the InterContinental Life,” said Moskal. “A few weeks ago, in Washington, DC at The Williard, we had a true, worldly, immersive culinary experience with multiple courses. It was built upon this idea of storytelling and the stories that are created around the brand.”

Some podcasts of the episodes are currently available on iTunes, said Wagner. “The audio podcasts are interesting. We’re working with Wondery and the New Yorker and some interesting things are rolling out. We’ll continue to explore iTunes and potentially push into other audio platforms, as well.”

Wagner said choosing the people to tell the stories was a true team effort and he enjoyed the process of ensuring the stories fit IHG’s global brand identity. “Having been on an agency side for a while, you only get to produce one piece of content, print ad or something like that, but to really see these stories round out—by taking what we call a multi-sensory approach to audio, visual, film and illustrations to longer-form articles, if you will—we think it will be really compelling to people as they experience the content,” he said.

So far, feedback about the campaign has been positive and plans are underway to expand it both domestically and globally, according to Moskal. “The learnings we get from the initial phase will really drive the continued momentum into next year,” he said. “We’re excited to drive further engagement and continue to build on this in 2017.” HB

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