Stuart Foster serves as Vice President of Marketing, Hilton Worldwide Luxury Brands, which includes Conrad Hotels & Resorts and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. He has an extensive background overseeing marketing initiatives for the world’s top luxury brands, most notably Moët-Hennessy.
During his 15-year tenure with Moët-Hennessy, Foster utilized his deep marketing and sales experience and luxury consumer insight to provide leadership in some of the world's top markets, including New York, Paris and Tokyo. While based in Paris as Global Brand Director for the group's namesake champagne brand, he developed and implemented a highly successful brand renewal strategy. While working in Tokyo as a Senior Marketing Manager, he reinvigorated the presence of one of the world's premier champagne brands, accelerating its growth in traditional channels while also developing its visibility and presence in hotels, restaurants and wine shops. In his most recent role, Foster was charged with the development of existing and new brands' distribution, sales and profit, account planning and pricing across the region.
1) How did you get into the hotel industry?
My whole career has been in the luxury goods industry. I started in cosmetics at L’Oreal and then spent 15 years developing Moët & Chandon around the world. People often think that champagne and hotels are at best tangent industries, but in fact there are so many parallels. Both are selling experiences – one the potential of an experience the moment a cork pops, the other a variety of potential experiences available on property. That’s what we’re selling – aspirational experiences. It’s not about the bed, the shower or the towels; nor was champagne about the juice or the bottles. They’re both about creating meaningful experiences with other people that become lasting memories. Building brands with strong heritage and legacy is the commonality between my job at Moët & Chandon and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. It’s about taking the decades and centuries of history and making them relevant to today’s consumers.
2) Define Success. What does Success mean to you?
Success to me comes on a number of levels. It’s about satisfaction: I have to be satisfied that I am providing a good life for my family and opportunities for my children. This is the most personal level of success. Success for me also comes from building a business and being part of a team that is launching new properties and creating innovative programs and marketing campaigns that contribute to the success of the business. It’s also about being challenged and stimulated – growing personally in my experience as well as my skillsets. When you combine all these things - family, business, and intellectual satisfaction – I feel success is reached.
3) What is your favorite travel destination?
There are too many to have one. I have travelled to over 70 countries in my life, and so many of the trips have varied. I love the buzz of Shanghai and of Hong Kong, but Tokyo is one of my favorites. I lived there for four years and barely scratched the surface. The Japanese have a concept of tatemae and honne, which is about what you see, and what is real beneath the surface. Tokyo is full of examples – from architecture and cuisine, to people and art – that reveal this idea, but it takes time to discover it. You can’t visit Tokyo over a weekend. The Conrad Tokyo, which opened when I lived there, is the best place from which to explore Tokyo. It’s perfectly located between all the various places you want to visit.
I also love the beach, in particular pure, unadulterated beach, like you would find in the Maldives. The Conrad Maldives is the kind of oasis of retreat I long for, especially after a winter like this one!
4) What is your most successful marketing strategy?
There isn’t just one. Marketing luxury requires a deeper aesthetic and knowledge of the subjective than marketing say soup or baby products. It starts with truly understanding the DNA behind your brand: you have to know your history as well as your values, and you have to articulate them today in a way that is relevant and resonates. And then comes execution, which is constantly evolving. Media, digital, PR – they are as important as events, networking and partnerships. It requires integration, and of course, having a great team in place that you trust implicitly to execute on instinct.
An example of a recent successful marketing execution is Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts’ launch of “The Story Begins Here” campaign. First, we had to identify the core of the Waldorf Astoria brand – the true heart of its legendary history and where it is today – which is that it is simply “unforgettable”. Unforgettable experiences happening at iconic, landmark destinations. Next, it was about creating disruption and impact through an innovative and creative process that identified a new face for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, actress Olga Kurylenko, who epitomized the elegance of the brand while bringing us firmly into the contemporary. From there we brought on a rising star author, Simon Van Booy, who wrote a short story inspired by Olga that spoke to the inspirational spaces and unforgettable experiences present at each and every Waldorf Astoria property around the world. The story and the campaign, as well as three vignettes inspired by the story and shot by Bruno Dayan, now live on a custom- designed parallax website where consumers can read Simon’s words and go behind-the-scenes from the shoot. We introduced the campaign through a thoughtful PR and media plan. From my point of view, this was a stellar example of a strategic, yet fully integrated marketing campaign.
5) Do you utilize social media and to what capacity?
In this day, you have to have a presence on social media. It’s a part of our consumers’ lives – where they learn, share, brag and explore. Therefore, social media is a way of life for our team and our brands. It’s important that we remain thoughtfully engaged with our consumers through all marketing touch points whether it’s via email, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The challenge for any brand is striking the right balance and cadence for sharing and engaging authentically and thoughtfully.
2013 was a big year: we introduced new and unique branded content on our social platforms for both the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad brands. Waldorf Astoria released short videos on Facebook that chronicled “Unforgettable Stories” from all 26 hotels in our portfolio, including 3 Michelin-starred Chef Heinz Beck speaking to the food culture in Rome.
On the Conrad side, we introduced “Conrad Connections” videos connecting fans on Facebook with the cities around them, featuring local insiders in five different cities where Conrad properties are located. We also executed an exciting Instagram activation for Conrad – dubbed Conrad 5/5/5 for the five digital influencers we had traveling to five Conrad hotels in five countries. Each influencer shared inspiring travel photography from the Conrad property they visited via their own social channels, tagging the brand along the way, and by the time the program wrapped our Instagram following had grown by nearly 500%.
6) How do you differentiate your brand from all other luxury hotels - have you found "co-branding" successful and in what way?
Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts speak to two very different groups of travelers – the former to the discerning, established traveler and the latter to the super- connected global travelers. Our two luxury brands have very distinct and different positioning. Waldorf Astoria is about unforgettable experiences, whereas Conrad is about smart luxury for the traveler whose life, business and pleasure seamlessly intersect. An example of this is how we deliver against our different service models. Waldorf Astoria offers its guests a Personal Concierge, a high- touch engagement offered to ensure every moment of their stay is taken care of.
Conrad also delivers high level service, but we offer an alternative in the Conrad Concierge app. The app allows guests to access all of the hotels’ services, including in-room dining, transportation, wake up calls, and even selecting their preferred brand of toiletries from three options – all from the convenience of their smartphone or tablet before they even set foot in the hotel. We think the best way to differentiate ourselves from the competition is through our impeccable service, not bricks and mortar.
7) What’s next for your hotel?
For Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, there are four new exciting openings in Dubai, Beijing, Amsterdam and Jerusalem. These truly inspiring new properties epitomize the future vision of the Brand. Each are in iconic landmark destinations on the Palm in Dubai, Wangfujing in Beijing, UNESCO protected townhouses in Amsterdam, and steps from the Holy City in Jerusalem. The environments created at these new properties will inspire grandeur, elegance and emotion. And the unforgettable experiences we are offering at each, combined with our signature True Waldorf Service, will make them and the brand unforgettable in the minds of the consumer.
For Conrad Hotels & Resorts, we recently opened new resorts in the Algarve and South Africa and new urban hotels in Seoul, Beijing and Dubai. At these and every other Conrad property, we continue to evolve the functionality of the Conrad Concierge app too keep our guests connected. We have added pre check-in functionality to the app, allowing users to bypass the normal front desk process, and will soon be adding meeting planner and attendee functionality as well.
Fluent in English and French and proficient in Japanese, Foster brings a global perspective to Hilton Worldwide Luxury Brands. He received his Master of Business Administration from New York University's Stern School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts from Colgate University.
Stuart reports directly to John Vanderslice, Global Head of Luxury & Lifestyle Brands, of Hilton Worldwide and works from the Hilton Worldwide Headquarters in McLean, Va.
Conrad Connections & Unforgettable Stories Videos.