This is the first in a series of articles and interviews with historic regional businesses heavily reliant on their own history, local history, or historic elements for their identity, marketing, and sales.
The Pfister Hotel has been the premier downtown Milwaukee hotel for more than a century, and continues to celebrate a tradition of gracious service and impeccable style. Home to the largest collection of Victorian-style art of any hotel in the world, The Pfister is a AAA Four Diamond property with membership in three of the industry’s leading organizations: Historic Hotels of America, Boutique and Lifestyle Lodging Association, and Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
How does history influence the promoting of The Pfister?
The vision of businessman Guido Pfister and his son Charles, The Pfister opened in 1893 as a “Grand Hotel of the West,” and a welcoming and luxurious meeting place. It was the most lavish hotel of its time, constructed at a cost of over $1 million, with groundbreaking features such as fireproofing, electricity throughout the hotel, and thermostat controls in every room. It instantly became a landmark in the city and is still known as the most distinguished hotel in Milwaukee.
Since it opened, The Pfister has been committed to providing the highest level of service for its guests. That tradition has been carried on throughout its history and is still the hotel’s number one priority today, as evidenced by its AAA Four Diamond status, its top Tripadvisor ranking, and its recent naming to the top 1% of hotels in the world with its Expedia “Insider Select” listing.
In 1962, Ben Marcus purchased The Pfister, which was then showing its age, vowing to renovate the distinguished hotel to its original beauty. Significant renovations were completed and a new 23-story guestroom tower added. Thanks to him, an extensive art collection continues to grace the walls of The Pfister today. Mr. Marcus’s dedication to the arts is another piece of the hotel’s history that is still highlighted today.
Is the historical nature of The Pfister part of your branding strategy?
The Pfister’s history is definitely part of its branding strategy. In fact, the hotel’s tagline is “Grand Elegance. Historic Tradition.” The hotel today focuses on offering luxurious, excellent service and a commitment to the arts—all of which have played a significant role in its history. A member of Historic Hotels of America, the hotel uses that designation in its marketing efforts as well.
What are some examples of specific promotions that play to the Pfister’s history?
The hotel has done an excellent job in honoring The Pfister’s history, which is very much focused on its commitment to the arts—it boasts the largest collection of Victorian-style art of any hotel in the world—in some of its current initiatives.
For example, in 2009, the Pfister incorporated an annual Artist-in-Residence program, in which a local artist is chosen from the Milwaukee community to set up shop for a year in the hotel’s working art studio. He/she interacts with visitors and guests while creating original pieces of art and also leads walking tours of the hotel’s collection. This has reinforced The Pfister’s support for the arts and has strengthened its presence in the local arts community.
Another program that demonstrates the hotel’s commitment to the arts and to its tradition is The Pfister Narrator, created in 2010. For this program, a member of the Milwaukee writing community is selected to serve as an in-house blogger for the hotel for six months, interacting with guests and sharing their unique stories on The Pfister’s blog. This is a unique initiative that not only reinforces the hotel’s art-focused brand, but also incorporates social media and face-to-face interactions with guests.
The Narrator Program has significantly increased traffic to both the hotel’s blog and website. From the time the program started to now, visits to the blog are up 49%; page views up 51%; pages per visit up 4%; average time on site up 22%; and new visits up nearly 17%. In terms of the website, visits are up 30%; page views up 25%; and average time on site up 19%.
How important for your business is being a “Historic Hotel of America”?
The Pfister’s association with Historic Hotels of America is significant because the organization helps preserve the authenticity of America’s most prominent lodging addresses and offers visitors a remarkable travel experience to savor, celebrate, and share. The Pfister Hotel and other member hotels are promoted nationally and internationally to those who prefer historic settings for their leisure and business travel. Historic Hotels of America identifies quality hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture, and ambiance.
What are some interesting ways you tie the hotel’s historical elements with what your business is today?
The Pfister has created a history wall and has on display various historic artifacts, including a charger from the hotel’s previous restaurant, an original folio, and silver pieces. Photos from the opening of the hotel have been preserved to show the direct tie to the current lobby design. There is also a time capsule in the lobby, which was installed on the 100-year anniversary of the hotel.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about The Pfister’s history and its relevance today?
As the first luxury property in the hotel division, The Pfister is Marcus Hotels & Resorts’ flagship hotel and the model to which all hotels in the portfolio are held. Founder Ben Marcus’s mantra of “people pleasing people” is alive and well today with the leadership of his grandson Greg Marcus. Marcus Corporation is a third-generation Milwaukee-based company with deep roots in the region.
Company website and social media links:
- Website: thepfisterhotel.com
- Blog: blog.thepfisterhotel.com
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thePfisterHotel
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/PfisterHotel
- Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/pfisterhotel