Contenders at Cannes 2024: Letters to Neighbours – Mandarin Oriental, Singapore | Forsman & Bodenfors

Leading up to Cannes Lions, we showcase creative campaigns submitted from across the Asia Pacific.

Campaign Background

Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore

Cultural Context

Mandarin Oriental, Singapore has been a hallmark of the city for over 36 years. Throughout its existence, it’s seen the literal transformation of the area through land reclamation into what would become Singapore’s landmark sight: the Marina Bay.

It’s not just 36 years of history,  but 36 years of playing a key role in the lives of tourists and locals alike, as the hotel has become an iconic venue for the most celebrated moments from annual holidays, to weddings, to its infamous champagne brunches.

Mandarin Oriental, Singapore is the epitome of Singaporean hospitality.

So, closing down, even for a temporary renovation, was a big moment for the landmark hotel. And the Mandarin Oriental team felt the iconic hotel, with a 36-year-old legacy, deserved not just a grand reopening post-renovation, but a grand send-off before its long hiatus.

We couldn’t have agreed more.

Background

On March 8th, 2023, Mandarin Oriental, Singapore closed its doors for the first time in 36 years to embark on a huge, 6-month renovation – a strategic investment to update  the hotel’s facilities, design and create a more welcoming, comfortable and luxurious establishment for guests.

With 36 years of legacy, the Mandarin Oriental couldn’t simply shut its doors and vanish for six months.

But closing your doors for 6 months isn’t great for any business let alone a hotel. Besides the 50% cut in expected revenue for the year, there’s also the impact on the brand’s overall visibility: That’s 6 months of being away from the media and consumers’ minds.

With 36 years of legacy, the Mandarin Oriental couldn’t simply shut its doors and vanish for six months.

How could we minimize the impact on brand and business?

Idea

The most important pillar in hospitality is service. And true service is going above and beyond to ensure your guests always have the ultimate experience.

Service is an attribute very dear to Mandarin Oriental, Singapore. So when we closed for renovation, we realized we had a unique opportunity to promote this obsession with service.

After all, that’s the ultimate challenge: how do you display exceptional service, even when you’re not around?

To ensure our guests had the best possible service, we went above and beyond what anyone in the hospitality had ever done – inviting our competitors to step in.

To prove we always put our guests first, we decided to reach out to our ‘second-best’ peers in town and invite them to take on our most precious assets: our guests. With a simple call to action, a truly unique and genuine gesture was made.

To ensure our guests had the best possible service, we went above and beyond what anyone in the hospitality had ever done – inviting our competitors to step in.

Strategy

It is hardly headlines when a hotel is up for renovation. In fact, most hotels hope no one notices until it’s time to reopen. But we felt the iconic hotel deserved not just a grand opening, but a grand send-off before its long hiatus.

We wanted to create an earned media moment for the hotel, by marking the occasion in culture in an unforgettable way. All while keeping the brand top of mind as a leader in its category.

True hospitality is not always something that you can sell. It needs to be inherent in the brand or service being offered. By casting the hotel’s GM next to his closest competitors all in the name of hospitality, this campaign spoke to The Mandarin Oriental, Singapore’s true DNA of personal, exceptional hospitality.

More than that, it allowed us the possibility to reach an audience far greater than our social fans/followers.

Execution

On March 20th, we released 5 letters and a video on the Mandarin Oriental, Singapore’s owned social media channels, followed by a ‘Letter to Editors’ that pitched the story across a broad media audience ranging from local mainstream to trade media in marketing and travel/hospitality verticals.

The social media buzz escalated within hours, prompting responses from Singapore’s most renowned hotel brands and competitors – The Fullerton Hotel replied on 03/21, followed by Raffles Hotel on 03/22.

Our cheeky gesture fuelled extensive social buzz within the first 48 hours. The Shangri-la Hotel then shared a full video response on their channels, prompting further articles from media.

True hospitality is not always something that you can sell. It needs to be inherent in the brand or service being offered.

The climax to the buzz came in a rare feature in Singapore’s leading mainstream title, Channel News Asia, highlighting the clever strategy and response that ensued on 03/24.

On LinkedIn, the C-suite community shared generous praise for the campaign with some of the world’s top global hotel group leaders applauding the spirit of camaraderie displayed.

Results

The idea cost a total of $0 in production, with a total of $0 in media investment – all executed by the agency team. But that didn’t stop our little film for punching above its weight:

Generating over 20 million impressions globally, worth US$200,000 in PR value.

Letters To Neighbours was featured extensively in Singapore’s No #1 news title — Mediacorp’s Channel News Asia and in the publication’s luxury section, targeting a collective readership of + 2.5 million daily readers.

The campaign was also singled out as one of Campaign Asia’s top creative campaigns for 2023 and was featured across travel and advertising trade media with a collective readership of +10million.

The campaign reached over 100,000 people on social channels, 90% of which were non-followers (and therefore, considered new potential guests).

852% reach .8.1% new followers.105,000 views of our film.

And a 100% positive sentiment for the campaign on social media including the Executive C-suite community and competitors from global hotel groups.

Garnering not only great comments from our fans (and other hotels’ fans too) but also unprecedented headlines from publications across the luxury, travel, and advertising trade verticals:

“Mandarin Oriental’s charming campaign marks the start of six-month renovation.” – Channel News Asia Luxury

“Brand closures as important as brand relaunches implies Mandarin Oriental’s cheeky activation.” – Campaign Asia.

“A bold, sleek show of hospitality and service.” – Travel Weekly Asia

Budget Breakdown

$0

The creation and execution (i.e.: production, design, delivery) were all done internally, by the agency and client teams, even having the hotel’s bellboy – Mario – deliver each letter to each hotel’s lobby or directly to the GM, when they were available.

There was no paid media behind this campaign, as our agency orchestrated a strong earned PR push, pitching organic content to the media.

The Work

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