Checking In: See How Three Brands Have Launched Innovative Hotel Experiences
Taco Bell, Oscar Mayer, and Jack Daniel’s have launched temporary hotel takeovers and branded overnight stays, complete with quirky amenities and activations for consumers.
Photo: Courtesy of Oscar Mayer
For anyone who has ever wanted to sleep inside an Oscar Mayer hot dog or have made-to-order Taco Bell in their hotel bed, 2019 is their year. These brands and others have recently delved into hospitality in innovative ways, which include launching temporary hotel pop-ups, Airbnb partnerships, and full hotel takeovers.
Oscar Mayer’s Wienermobile, the brand’s hot dog-shape promotional vehicle, has been popping up at events like the Super Bowl for years. But for the first time in August, the brand has invited fans to live and stay overnight in the vehicle. In celebration of National Hot Dog Day on July 17, the brand announced plans for the experience and listed the 27-foot-long vehicle on Airbnb on July 24. Three pairs of fans were able to book one night each, from August 1 to 3. The vehicle, which is big enough to sleep two guests, will be located in Evanston, Illinois, just north of the brand’s home base of Chicago.
Matt Riezman, associate director of marketing for Oscar Mayer, said the brand purposely chose to hold the experience during a buzzy music festival weekend in the city, which will be hosting Lollapalooza.
“We think this a unique opportunity to give our fans something they’ve always asked for—an overnight stay in the Wienermobile,” said Riezman. “Oscar Mayer is proud to call Chicago home and, since our hot dogs are synonymous with summer, we’re excited to make the Wienermobile available to book during one of Chicago’s busiest summer weekends.”
For the experience, Oscar Mayer outfitted the Wienermobile with hot dog-theme chairs and art, a fold out bed, a mini fridge stocked with hot dogs, and a roller grill. The stay also includes an outdoor space with lawn-style seating and an artificial grass carpet. Adjacent to the vehicle is a temporary, private bathroom that includes a sink and a shower. Riezman said three brand ambassadors who drive the vehicle will greet guests when they arrive, but otherwise, guests can make their own agenda.
“During their stay, guests can enjoy Evanston’s lakefront, downtown, and unique shops and restaurants. [They will] receive an Uber credit to make traveling to Chicago quick and easy during their stay,” said Riezman. “Oscar Mayer is focused on providing guests with the best possible experience and we are confident that’ll be the case in Evanston. While we’d hoped to be able to park it in downtown Chicago, there are only so many city-mandated hoops a giant hot dog can jump through.”
Earlier this month, Jack Daniel’s took over the Thunderbird Boutique Hotel in Las Vegas for its latest iteration of the whiskey brand’s House No. 7 experience. The whiskey brand debuted its traveling hotel-theme activation during N.B.A. All-Star Weekend in 2017, but its latest edition, which took place July 5 and 6, was the first time it was held at an actual hotel.
Grant Adams, brand manager for Jack Daniel’s, said from the activation’s original iteration, their goal was to have it occur in a hotel. But with the cities they had chosen and the timing, he explained it was more feasible to hold the events in warehouses. With the Vegas edition, he said the hotel venue allowed the brand to explore new experiences for guests. The event transformed the hotel for three hours each night although it included overnight stays for guests.
“Usually, we were in a warehouse, so a lot of the budget went to the fabrication of the walls and creating rooms with experiences,” said Adams. “When we came to the Thunderbird, fortunately we had 60 rooms already waiting for us. We asked, ‘What can we do to fill those rooms?’ and ‘What have we always wanted to do?’”
The brand partnered again with experience design agency Mirrorball to execute the event, which offered updated experiences tied to the original theme, inspired by brand founder Jack Daniel and his penchant for entertaining in his home in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
The hotel lobby evoked an old Tennessee gift shop with branded decor. Event rooms included a real wedding chapel, a hair salon, a room for pillow fights, and a replica of Lynchburg restaurant Miss Mary Bobo’s. The experience also offered what Adams called a “rock ‘n’ roller’s dream hotel room,” which was decorated with purple velvet and on-theme costumes for photo ops. Another room featured a live metal band playing throughout the night; guests were invited to get behind the drum set and test out their skills.
When holding a hospitality-focused event for the first time, Adams said it’s important for brands to make the event engaging and exciting, but to also find ways to “tie in brand stories and its history, so that you’re serving both purposes.”
In Jack Daniel’s’ case, the brand taps barrel expert Kevin Sanders to make furniture and other items from barrels, which are then branded with the House No. 7 logo for guests to take home. The items offers brand facts including why Jack Daniel’s has barrels and uses white oak.
While Oscar Mayer has turned an existing stunt into a branded overnight experience and Jack Daniel’s took an existing hotel-theme event to an actual hotel, Taco Bell is combining both of these elements for the fast food brand’s first themed hotel.
Taco Bell, one of BizBash's most innovative brands, has long been synonymous with quirky, innovative experiential marketing stunts, be it a drive-thru on a ski slope or a pop-up restaurant inspired by Demolition Man. Now, the home of the Crunchwrap Supreme is hosting what might be its most out-of-the-box project yet.
The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel & Resort will open in Palm Springs from August 8 to 12. The experience, which sold out in two minutes after it was announced, is taking over the V Palm Springs hotel. Pricing began at $169 a night and the hotel was available to book on a first come, first served basis on Taco Bell’s website.
The hotel will have more than 70 guest rooms outfitted with branded wallpaper, artwork, and bedding that includes pillows resembling hot sauce packets. An outdoor pool will have branded lounge chairs and floats.
“The hotel draws on Taco Bell's vibrant palette to create a unique and flavor-filled destination that is the ultimate expression of the brand, unlike anything the brand has done before," said Jennifer Arnoldt, the brand’s senior director of retail engagement and experience, in a statement. "We're excited to give a peek into Taco Bell's first hotel that is truly Taco Bell luxury at a value as we evolve how fans can celebrate with the brand this summer and beyond."
Of course, the draw for many fans was the food that will be served. In a release, the brand announced it will serve an “unexpected take on a resort poolside menu,” with yet-to-be-released test items exclusive to the resort and made with local ingredients. These include “Toasted Cheddar Club,” an “Avocado Toast-ada,” “Fire! Chip Chilaquiles,” and an “Horchata-Date Smoothie.” The brand also is using the hotel to celebrate the 15th birthday of the Mountain Dew Baja Blast frozen drink, which will be served in the hotel’s “Freeze Lounge.” Other services will include a room service menu that includes build-your-own breakfast tacos.
Additionally, Taco Bell has partnered with brands LSpace, Chubbies, and DIFF to sell resort-inspired clothing and merchandise on site. The hotel also will have DJs playing during the day and surprise performances at night.
For fans who were unable to book a stay at the hotel, Taco Bell is offering a recipe online for the chilaquiles that will be served on site. The brand also posted its Bell Poolside Playlist on Spotify, which features songs that will be played at the hotel.
See highlights Oscar Mayer, Jack Daniel's, and Taco Bell's latest hospitality-focused experiences below.