News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Nancy Dillon, Daily News, New York
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 22, 2003 - Her grainy sex tape made her the third most-searched person on the Internet this year.
Her kissing-booth antics on Fox's "The Simple Life" beat out President Bush's interview with Diane Sawyer.
She's graced the covers of People, US Magazine and countless supermarket tabloids.
Wild child Paris Hilton is everywhere. And with no real claim to fame other than being the great-granddaughter of Hilton Hotels founder Conrad Hilton, she's become the de-facto face of her family's hotel empire.
Branding experts said the Hilton marketing department probably wishes the 22-year-old blond bombshell would just go away -- leaving them to pursue straitlaced corporate conventions and kiddie-friendly family packages.
But this is publicity money can't buy, the experts said. And Paris might actually help infuse the Hilton chain with some edgy brand distinction.
"They may inadvertently benefit from some kind of more youthful attention because of this," said Hayes Roth of local brand strategy company Landor Associates.
Wall Street analysts who follow the Hilton chain said the company might capitalize on her notoriety by launching a line of smaller, hipper boutique hotels for 20-somethings.
Paris could design the bedding, they said, and maybe do a cheeky video welcome.
"Potentially, [her antics] might add some spicy, salacious value for younger hotel guests who think she's fun," said James Bell, senior partner at global brand consultancy Lippincott Mercer.
Visitors to the Times Square Hilton agreed.
"If they were smart, they'd exploit her marketing potential," said Manhattan resident Enrico Gomez, 33, who ate lunch at the hotel's Restaurant Above last Tuesday. "She's hot right now. If they used a sense of humor and weren't afraid to make the connection to her, young people would flip for it."
"The hotel could use a little infusion," said Maryland resident James McNair, 35, who was staying at the Times Square Hilton with his wife. "It could use a good kick in the butt."
While the hotel chain has no plans to include Paris in any marketing, Paris stands ready to offer her services.
"I would be happy to do whatever I can to help my family," Hilton told the Daily News.
Although unconnected with any branding, Paris did recently appear on "Saturday Night Live" and answered a list of double-entendre questions about checking into the Hilton hotel in Paris, France.
"If [Hilton Hotels] could turn this in their favor, it would be an incredible coup," said Jim Gregory, CEO of Corporate Branding. "Her antics probably don't have an impact on the core Hilton customer. But there might be a real opportunity here to re-label the company as younger and more hip" to future customers.
As for possible backlash, the branding experts said it's not likely.
"As people get older and travel more, they adapt their sense of preference to things like comfortable beds and good locations. And Hilton is well-known as a quality international hotel," Lippincott Mercer's Bell said.
"And people sort of expect third and fourth generation family members to screw up," he said. "It's not like Patty Hearst's exploits with the Symbionese Liberation Army caused people to stop reading Hearst newspapers."
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