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Mexico City-born Javier Benito Will have Up to $100 million
 Budget to Build an Emotional Bond Between
 Starwood's Customers and Brands
By Lore Croghan, Daily News, New York
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Mar. 29, 2005 - STARWOOD HOTELS & Resorts is bringing in new firepower from Coca-Cola to spark greater brand awareness.

The hotel giant, which owns the Westin, Sheraton, St. Regis and W Hotels, hired Javier Benito as its chief marketing officer.

Like Starwood's new CEO, Steven Heyer, Benito comes from Coca-Cola -- where he was president of the U.S. retail division and chief marketing officer of North America.

Mexico City-born Benito, who had previously worked for Procter & Gamble on marketing campaigns for products including Tide and Mr. Clean, will have a $100 million budget to figure out how to build an emotional bond between Starwood's customers and brands.

Benito will get help from talent agency Creative Artists Agency -- which was hired by Heyer to find pop-culture tie-ins for Starwood -- and Scott Bedbury, a consultant from Starbucks and Nike.

Consumer-product marketers like Coke are old pros at the emotional appeal -- but it's a new tack for hoteliers, which sell their properties' physical attributes, said consultant Sean Hennessey of Lodging Investment Advisors.

"Surveys show that corporate travelers' number one reason for their choice of hotel is its proximity to where they're doing business," Hennessey said. "Starwood needs to find a way to move people off this mind-set."

If Benito succeeds in adding more pop to Starwood brands, increased profitability will follow, Hennessey predicted.

For consumers, some engaging hotel advertising would be a welcome change. The industry's known for its dull commercials.

"Hotel advertising all tends to blur together," said Cheryl Berman, chairman and chief creative officer of Leo Burnett USA.

Benito earned a master's from University of Chicago, has seven years experience at Procter & Gamble and worked for a decade at Coke.


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