Shangri-La Hotels: Emotional Branding A+ / Execution D-

There is a television commercial for Shangri-La Hotels that supports the grades given above. The crux of the spot is a solo hiker, trudging through heavy snowfall in a remote forest. Cold, hungry, and apparently lost. He’s in a bad way. He’s probably going to freeze to death.

Then, we see a pack of wolves, stalking him. They’re closing in, as he weakens further and collapses in the snow. He’s doomed, right?  Wrong…. according to Shangri-La Hotels advertising. The camera pulls out to an overhead shot of him lying in the snow, surrounded by the wolves lying on him, keeping him warm, helping him survive till morning.

And the tagline, one that wholly captures the emotional side of the Shangri-La brand, paraphrased slightly, “To embrace a stranger as one’s own…It’s in our nature.”

It is a killer of a brand statement, dripping with warmth and welcome. Perfect for a hotelier. And one that earns, from me, an “A+”.

HOWEVER, and there are many times a “however”, the perfect copy line and its communication is ruined by the silliness of the execution’s portrayed situation. Hungry wolves (meat eating predators, remember?) stalking a weakened homo sapiens and they decide to help him survive the night. What for, breakfast? Why not just let him stumble into the little farmhouse in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre?”

Unfortunately, one of three things happened at this commercial’s birth. One, the creative team, seized on a metaphor that they thought captured the objective, but didn’t realize that its utter absurdity offset the majority of the desired impact. Or two, they realized it “didn’t quite work,” but it was so dramatically powerful that it would offset the rational weakness of the emotional payoff. And then maybe, three, they knew it was structurally weak, but kinda liked the “on the way to Grandma’s house,” physical set and thought its “production values’ (which are strong) would save it.

For whatever reason, they made a mistake, and therefore get a D-. I’m not sure just what better “casting” would be best for their all-powerful tagline. I’m sure there are other pairings that could capture the “…embrace a stranger” idea, without causing a discerning viewer to say, “Wait a minute; how’s this make sense?”

Unfortunately, what had the potential to be an A branding communication all around, probably averages out to a “C,” or maybe a bit lower.

I did like the cinematography, though.

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