Holiday Inn has recently launched a major branding campaign in nine global markets, including the U.S. The theme of the effort is: Stay You. Compelling isn’t it? Stay me? What else would I do? I guess the creators of the campaign never saw the play: “I Love You Just The Way You Are. Now Change.” Anyway, the launch commercial is a series of lame vignettes depicting people in various situations. A super appears over each: “Stay Curious” headlines a couple peering over a bridge. “Stay Vocal” for a woman singing in a karaoke club. “Stay Dad” as a little girl puts a fuzzy pink tiara on her Dad’s head. And, since this is Holiday Inn’s first global effort, “Stay Fanatical” over a group of male business types in a pub/bar, ties at half-mast, cheering stiffly for a televised soccer match. Got the picture? For an added measure of toe-tapping, phony happiness, the visuals are accompanied by a witless little ditty: “I like your messy hair. I like the clothes you wear.” Really, when will ad land’s passion for obscure tunes from even more obscure CDs end? But I digress. Two-thirds of the way through the 30 -second spot, two guys (I think they were in the pub/bar) walk (stagger?) into a Holiday Inn. As they enter, a voice-over tells us “we believe you are at your best when you can truly be yourself.” Huh? What has that got to do with where I spend the night? What has that got to do with anything, except perhaps a Tony Robbins seminar? The company’s Senior VP, Global Brand Management, has the answer: “We want people to love the Holiday Inn brand because it understands the core values of our target consumers.” Of course, Holiday Inn understands me on a deep, personal, emotional level. How can I not love them now? Mission accomplished! I’m going straight to their website and book a room. There have been many successful campaigns based on real, genuine consumer insights. Nike’s “Just do it.” MasterCard’s “Priceless.” And the brilliant Dove work that celebrates “real” women to name a few. But Holiday Inn’s once-over-lightly, shallow, pat pandering isn’t insight. It’s a cliché served up in place of an idea that is truly unique and persuasive. What a missed opportunity. And what a colossal waste of money.
Got $100 Million to throw away? Apparently, Holiday Inn does.