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In its first campaign centered around art and design, Kimpton Hotels is hosting an experiential pop-up that immerses the senses and emphasizes connection and self-reflection. The traveling exhibit showcases photography by three female artists who each interpreted the hospitality brand's "Stay Human" mantra, which is grounded in the idea that people crave deeper relationships and intimate experiences in a rapidly changing, tech-driven society.
Kimpton's latest in-hotel experience is part of a new partnership with Fotografiska, a Swedish photography museum that opened its first U.S. location in New York in December. Elements of the exhibit seem to touch on most senses — sight, sound, taste — through photos, audio guides and cocktails.
By making space for interactive exhibits, Kimpton hopes to help guests and the public foster connections with others while bringing to life its human-focused messaging.
"[The partnership] is a way of anchoring our guests to our common humanity and breaking down the mentality surrounding art shows. We want to democratize art by removing barriers and sharing this incredible work," Kimpton's Chief Commercial Officer Kathleen Reidenbach told Marketing Dive.
Immersing the senses
An audio guide and QR code-enabled placards gives visitors further information about the art and partnership with Fotografiska. The photographers — Evelyn Bencicova, Kelia Anne MacCluskey and Elizabeth Bick — each narrate their process and point of view behind their work and share how they interpreted the human-centered theme.
"To create that intimate feeling, we flew out each artist to a recording studio and dove deep to try to understand the emotions or thinking that inspired the art," Reidenbach said. "The installation portrays a wide array of emotions. Whether it's looking at a darker side of humanity that depicts feelings of loneliness or the more joy-filled moments, everyone can find something that resonates."
Along with the artists' narration, the guides aim to enhance the visual displays with vivid sound design. A dedicated microsite serves as the digital hub of the installation, the first of which is at Kimpton Hotel Eventi in New York through Feb. 25. The campaign will be promoted via paid digital and social media and influencer partnerships, while a 360-degree tour — set to air on the microsite later this month — will virtually place at-home users into the exhibits, likely extending the campaign's reach.
To enhance the interactivity of the effort, which was developed with agencies Allison+Partners, CSM and Visiting Media, Kimpton is partnering with Fujifilm Instax to offer cameras on loan and to serve "Foto-gin-ic" cocktails. The hospitality brand hosted a launch event in January to showcase the campaign's partners and debut the pop-up's promotional video, which will serve as a key marketing tool as the exhibits travel to each new city, per Reidenbach.
Because the exhibits are housed in public spaces of the hotels, Kimpton hopes to draw in locals along with hotel guests.
"We knew early on that we couldn't limit this to just hotel guests… and with our digital components, it’s inviting in art lovers around the world," Reidenbach said. "Through the microsite, which houses many of the images in the installation and details on each artist, we hope to bring a new outlook on art and the idea of 'Stay Human' to people everywhere."
Just two weeks into the first installation, early results show "extremely positive" sentiment among Kimpton loyalty members and guests, per Reidenbach. Her team's KPIs will be based on guest feedback, influencer partnership metrics, paid media performance, social engagement, web traffic and conversion and earned media coverage.
After its New York run, the installation will travel to five more Kimpton properties through August, though the partnership with Fotografiska runs throughout 2020. Reidenbach said there's a chance for additional art-focused experiences following the current tour.
Extending the 'Stay Human' mantra
The traveling art exhibits are the latest in Kimpton's experiential efforts around the "Stay Human" messaging. In September 2018, it transformed a traditional hotel room into a shareable, interactive space where guests could leave mementos for the next occupant through a guest book, Polaroid pictures, message boards and shared Spotify playlist.
"Design plays a critical role in helping reimagine our guests' stay by creating an immersive experience that inspires and connects them and others to their surroundings," Reidenbach said.
The Room 301 effort quadrupled Kimpton's engagement on Instagram, demonstrating the power of tapping into consumers' interest around authentic experiences. In March 2019, Kimpton announced it would expand the interactive Room 301 effort to 20 cities.
These "money-can't-buy experiences" within the broader "Stay Human" project aim to give hotel guests and the public memorable moments that deepen connections with Kimpton and bring people together. The experiential strategy could be effective with millennials and Gen Zers who tend to seek originality and authenticity in their travel experiences. The trend has driven growth of startups like Airbnb that target travelers seeking lower-cost or "more authentic" lodging.
Tapping into experiential hospitality
Kimpton is not alone in reimagining travel or creatively engaging guests. Marriott's Aloft hotel chain hosts tech-powered concerts at some locations to showcase local artists and woo consumers looking for interesting, shareable experiences. Even brands ranging from Mattel's Barbie to Taco Bell are tapping into this consumer desire by producing their own branded overnight experiences.
But for Kimpton, the traveling pop-up and broader human-focused mantra is centered around taking a step back from fast-paced society to appreciate art and nurture meaningful connections with others.
"'Stay Human' is all about self-reflection, forging meaningful ties with others and adding that personal touch in everything that you do," Reidenbach said.