I recently stayed at the Shangri-La World Hotel in Beijing and while I was sitting in my room looking out at a warm but hazy Beijing day I noticed the TV was showing an advert for the Shangri-La chain. It featured a story about a man lost in snow-covered mountains. Pine tree rose out of the deep snow like a green curtain that has just come down on a stage. The sun was setting and the man was getting colder and colder until he reaches the point he can go no further. He has seen that wolves have followed him for a while, he tried to escape them but has no energy. Finally he sinks to his knees to try to light a fire but he’s so cold his hands are too cold to work. Exhausted he lies down an succumbs to the cold loosing consciousness. All this time the wolves are getting closer, but in the final scene, we see the wolves circle him and rush in for the kill of their wakened prey. Instead of the pack tearing into him they lie down next to the man, keeping him warm and protecting him through the night cold. The film ends with the line.
“To embrace a stranger as one of our own. It’s in our nature”.
This is a great way to use storytelling to position the brand Shangri-la Hotels. I really sensed the feeling of an embraced stranger. I was in a foreign land but felt “protected” and “warm”. The room and the ambience of the hotel said comforting to me. The payoff part of their tag line sets out there challenge, to show it’s in their nature. It seemed to me that the whole hotel had bought in to the vision. I have stayed in Shangril-la hotels before in other parts of Asia but something felt different this time. I wonder how this was embedded in the organisation? The new campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather and directed by internationally renowned commercial director Bruno Aveillan.
The interesting part is how they transformed the “its in our nature” tag line to a story and used multiple visual and verbal metaphors to get across the brands essence quickly with complete understanding. The Metaphor of snow allowed me to understand the warm comfort I wished for as a traveller symbolised on screen as a lone young man trekking through the snow. We don’t know where he came from or where he was going, the watcher adds that to the main story to hand over control of the story to the watcher. The wolves add threat and conflict, allowing the film pace and urgency to bring a resolution for the traveler. As mystical creatures the wolves evoke an inbuilt fear of nature and transmit vulnerability on the traveller, a metaphor for me the watcher. Waking up surrounded by the warm comfort of the wolves coats, who are now guardians for the traveller shows exactly what experience the hotel wants you to have. You transform from the fear of what to expect to the security of knowledgable guardian. Great stuff.
The making of the video was also shown on the TV after the advert. Its worth watching to see how the communication concept was created in story to communicate the positioning and brand essence.