Whether traditional or digital, every piece of hotel collateral from arrival to the point of departure should deliver the brand promise. These include often-overlooked opportunities like registration forms, luggage labels, key cards, brochures, signage and bathroom amenities. There is a tendency amongst many in the luxury hospitality sector to play it safe; they seem to be scared of displaying any intellectual playfulness when it comes to collateral design. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Working closely with a designer, hotel brands should strategically take advantage of all these applications, which are fantastic vehicles for leaving an impression and forming bonds with the guests. Every piece of collateral is a natural platform for enhancing the brand essence. Simply slapping the hotel’s logo all over these items or labelling them in unimaginative ways misses a fantastic opportunity. The results are utterly boring, whereas well thought-out and relevant pieces of communication – using words and/or graphics – can grab attention and create moments of magic.
The very best items are so desirable, they become memorabilia, promoting the brand well beyond the hotel’s confined perimeter as they will travel all the way back to the guest’s home. The best of the best are shared online, through social media and on the pages of trendsetting publications.
Which one of these two door hangers is more likely to seduce? The one that says ‘Please do not disturb’, or the quirky example created by W Hotels: ‘WHEN? Not quite yet’. With this witty, ‘on-brand’ message, W not only shows confidence but also portrays the brand as one of the smart thinkers who understands the sophistication of their hip, intelligent guests.
Another good illustration of my idea of efficacious collateral comes from the London-based agency GBH. They describe their branding work for Mama Shelter as: ‘Positioned as affordable luxury, The Mama way is both warm and cosy but also surreal and surprising’. They created a set of key cards that feature portraits of chickens and allow the front desk to write room numbers on the medals that hang from the necks of the poultry models. There are also bathroom amenities that talk in the MAMA language.
In these examples, the use of wit is very rewarding. But beware: a too-witty idea that bewilders guests is worse than no idea at all. If the concept isn’t truly strategic and effective, you’d be better served by playing it straight with a boring conventional approach.
One way to assess whether the cue will be grasped or not is to test it amongst a few people outside of your organisation or department. If you’re in doubt, make sure the concept works both ways: whether the viewer gets the witty idea or not.
While creating design perfection can be a near impossible task, spectacular collateral is a cost-effective medium for communicating with guests. Their curiosity is your opportunity to surprise and delight them.
Pierre’s Tenets For Ensuring Your Design Collateral is a Strategic Success:
1. Make sure the brand essence and the tone of voice are well defined. If your brand is based on embracing the local culture, you might create collateral that educates the guest with images of artefacts accompanied by cultural legends.
2. Be inventive, and create collateral beyond the expected list of items. These pieces should fit your brand but create a unique experience.
3. Assess each application to see if it fits the brand characteristics and criteria.
4. Make sure the design of each element is relevant to its application.
5. Allocate adequate budgets for design, photography or illustration, and copywriting.
6. To quote Antoine de Saint Exupéry: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Having analysed a number of studies about baby naming, pop economists Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt concluded “names are not destiny”. According to their meta-analysis, there seems to be little correlation between a child’s moniker and their future success. And to some degree, the same holds true for a brand’s name. So-called experts predicted that the Chevrolet Nova would do terribly in Spanish-speaking markets, as ‘no va’ means ‘does not go’. The car sold like hotcakes. Chase Bank (named for a mostly forgotten US Treasury Secretary) is worth about USD250 billion, even though nobody wants to ‘chase’ their bank for money. And one of the biggest successes in the video game industry came in 2006, when Nintendo released its Wii. The system was a smash, despite, er, the obvious.
The list of successful brands with ‘bad’ names is endless. Yet, agreeing on a name for a new hotel, company or product can often be the most contentious part of the branding process. Owners are justifiably concerned about choosing the ‘right’ name for their investment, spending hours agonising over hundreds of names. But are we all wasting our time sitting around conference tables arguing about whether ‘MonkeyHouse’ or ‘QX17’ best represents the concept of our millennial-focused brand? Yeah, we probably are.
Names are important. They can communicate something about a brand’s positioning, ethos or vision. And if you get it wrong, it can be the hardest thing to change, as a name holds more brand equity than the logo, corporate colours and building architecture combined. The Chevy Nova might have performed fine in Latin American markets, but the infamous Ford Pinto didn’t fare quite as well when it was released in 1980 in Brazil, where ‘pinto’ is slang for male genitalia. Ford changed the name to Corcel – ‘horse’ – and lost all the marketing dollars spent on the old name. These days, the Internet is full of similar missteps, and speakers of any language have surely seen LOL-worthy photos of foreign companies advertising brands with saucy names in the local lingo.
While the pitfalls of potty-talk make for great memes, more common naming problems are far less funny. The complex world of intellectual property law makes it near impossible for globally expanding brands with real-word names to enter new markets without some risk of trademark infringement. In countries where punitive damages can be awarded, a bad name can be a very expensive mistake.
More difficult yet is navigating the ever-changing world of SEO. Just when you think you’ve found the perfect name, you discover it’s already been taken by a guesthouse in Uruguay which has bought up all the best URLs and planted itself firmly at the top of Google’s search results. If you don’t have the appetite for buying or litigating your way into your favourite URL or trademark (see: iPhone), you’ll have to go back to the drawing board.
In response to these complexities, a whole industry has sprouted up around brand naming. Equal parts art and science, the process usually starts with analysing a brand’s DNA, target market and competitive set. From there, the hunt for a word that embodies the brand and appeals to its consumers can lead almost anywhere. Fairy tales. Thesauruses. Dictionaries of dead languages. Boggle. Linguists will agonise over the euphony of every syllable, dissect the shapes of each letter and disappear deep into semiotics as they look for that perfect word. A long list of possibilities will become much shorter as names are disqualified for problems with pronunciation, intellectual property and URLs. The winning name might come from an ingredient (Pepsi), a nickname (Adidas) or geographic place (eBay). It might even be totally arbitrary (Apple) or made up (Kodak).
In the past, owners named their companies according to personal taste. Now, most believe it’s more important to use a name to maximise brand value, rather than appease a whim. It is far more important that the name resonates with the target consumer than with the boardroom, after all. A name that sounds ‘cool’ to a 55-year-old man in a suit very likely won’t have the same appeal to a 20-year-old, and vice versa. Effective branding demands empathy with the consumer, so it’s often useful to think about how one’s mother, or grandkid, or favourite barista would react to the word. What does it tell them about the brand’s offering? How does it create an emotional connection with them?
A ‘great’ name won’t just appeal to customers, but to employees as well. The recently launched Hotel Jen is inspired by a fictional character – Jen. ‘A professional hotelier who loves life, travel and the adventure of discovering new places,’ the character helps to define the ideal member of staff. CitizenM prides itself on treating employees as ‘equals’ and ‘individuals’. Jaz in the City seeks out staff members who love music and the destination – passions that can be evolved into employee-led service concepts.
Conventional wisdom holds that the best brand names come from real words; some studies have shown they’re twice as memorable as made-up words. Pros will also tell you that a perfect name should have a ‘story’, though it’s often hard to tell how much the general public knows, or cares, about the deeper meaning of brand’s appellation. Ace Hotel’s name cleverly matches its from economy-to-extravagant concept with the position of an ace in playing cards, but I have yet to meet anybody outside of the industry who knows this. What the public does care about is their ability to remember a name. An effective name has to be distinctive enough to stand out from the deck, but not so complex that the consumer can’t spell it when they’re doing an Internet search.
A less clear-cut criterion is pronunciation. It’s very difficult to create a name that is pronounced the same in Cameroon, Cambodia and Cuba. Usually, a variety of localised pronunciations won’t hurt – indeed, it’s welcome proof that a market has figured out a way to make a foreign brand more indigenous. Other times, only a brand’s most loyal customers pronounce their name correctly while others falter. A correct pronunciation of Hermés or Moët signals to listeners that the speaker has a level of sophistication worthy of the products. Outside of the luxury segment, it’s probably best to choose names that don’t intimidate or trip up the speaker, which is why we see so many Latin- and Sanskrit-derived names in the market. These languages have combinations of consonants and verbs that are relatively easy for consumers to pronounce, no matter where in the world they’re from.
So you have chosen a name that’s clever, unique, pronounceable and visually beautiful. It doesn’t translate to naughty body parts in other languages, and it has a rich and meaningful story. Everybody loves it. Success must be right around the corner? Possibly, but it won’t have much to do with that amazing name. A great name will not save a horrible product any more than Nintendo’s questionable choice of name hurt its fantastic gaming machine.
No matter what name is ultimately chosen, it will gradually gain meaning as the rest of the branding and the product itself come to life. There’s nothing inherently luxurious about the words ‘Four Seasons’, but thanks to the brand’s history of excellence, those words now conjure up images of top-notch service and refined accommodation. And while Coralia, Adagio and Ramada all have mellifluous sounds, none are brands from which you’d expect a couture-clad clientele and endless Champagne. Trends in naming also change over time. Who would name their company ‘Yahoo!’ or ‘General Motors’ these days? But customers will continue to trust an old brand name if the product continues to deliver. In other words, a name is only as good as what it represents.
My ‘Ryan’ phase was pretty short-lived, though I do still use the nom de théâtre on occasion, usually when making reservations at a noisy restaurant. (There are only so many times you can scream “O – R – I – O – N” into a phone before you give up.) My unusual name hasn’t made me legendary like my namesake, but at the same time, sporadic teasing from classmates and frequent mispronunciations haven’t done much harm. My name is sometimes a good conversation-starter (“hippie parents,” I explain), but its ‘story’ is often misperceived (my grandmother-in-law was slightly disappointed to discover I wasn’t an Irish ‘O’Ryan’). Sometimes a name is an asset, sometimes an annoyance, but ultimately irrelevant if the person behind it is a jerk. A generous, friendly man named Onion will always win out over an obnoxious demigod called Orion.
Ten Tips for Naming
- No name will please everybody. Don’t make the choice by committee.
- The perfect is the enemy of the good. Don’t blow important deadlines or sacrifice time spent on business strategy in search of perfection.
- Choose a name for your audience, not your ego.
- Specialist intellectual property attorneys in countries of operation are essential.
- Consult an SEO expert. Another company in a different industry in a foreign country might or might not be a problem.
- While pronunciation should be reasonably easy for target consumers, allow for regional variation.
- A name will gain richer definition as the visual identity and product are developed.
- A name cannot explain everything about your brand. Choose your primary communication goals.
- Do not try to choose from a massive list of names. Have your agency only present 3-6 at a time so that you can consider them in depth.
- If people love your product, they will come to love your name.
Other massive redevelopments underway in the Big Mango include One Bangkok, a 16-hectare mini-metro next to Lumphini Park, and the Grand Rama IX super tower, which at 615 metres will be one of the world’s tallest buildings and an unmissable landmark when complete. And these projects are just the beginning of Bangkok’s megacity makeover.
But what exactly is a megacity and how does Bangkok compare with other global urban conglomerations? Those questions and many others will be answered at the 2018 Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF), the country’s biggest annual hotel event. The 2018 TTF spotlight will shine on Bangkok and speakers from some of the largest Thai conglomerates will discuss Bangkok’s future growth in new districts as well as the reinvention of historic areas.
QUO CEO David Keen will moderate a TTF panel discussion about Bangkok’s brand and how the new economy will shape perceptions of the city. David will be getting the opinions of some highly respected names in the local hotel and development industries including Ingo Schweder, CEO at GOCO Hospitality; Thomas Schmelter, IHG Group’s Director of Operations for Thailand & Indochina; and Cobby Leathers, Head of International Business for Sansiri PCL.
Organised by the American Chamber of Commerce, TTF 2018 is a unique opportunity to hear Thailand’s hotel and hospitality heavyweights candidly discuss the economy, growth and other issues affecting tourism. Attendance at TTF is complimentary but advanced registration is required.
Date: Monday, 22 January 2018
Venue: Grand Ballroom, Level 4, InterContinental Hotel, Bangkok.
Registration: Send an email to TTF@amchamthailand.com or visit AMCHAM website
For more information and to register, go to www.ThailandTourismForum.com
Perhaps with the help of articles, top-10 lists and published travel guides, they would have been OK. Better yet, they might have sought out their hotel’s concierge for sightseeing ideas, discussed Bangkok’s best street food stalls with a lively waitress at breakfast or discovered the neighbourhood’s temple after chatting with an ever-smiling doorman.
Inevitably, and thankfully, hospitality at its best requires genuine face-to-face human finesse. It is that very notion – and the idea that travellers are inherent story collectors and experiences seekers – that makes Airbnb’s recent offer, Trips, something to keep an eye on.
Guiding a New Path
In what seems like a natural extension of Airbnb’s mottos of ‘Live There’, ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘Belong Anywhere’, Trips enables plucky locals, and even non-profit organisations, to share their insights, passion, culture and art with curious travellers. Made to tap into Airbnb’s already substantial global network of hosts and guests, Trips is motivated by the fact that, as Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says, “You can spend as much time planning your trip, as on your trip.”
The new offering is something the company says will ‘fix’ this problem, giving travellers authentic local experiences while freeing up the time usually spent researching and arranging said experiences. Experience Hosts, as they’re calling these local insiders, can’t just be any regular Joes. They must be creative, expressive, welcoming and, most importantly, not think of themselves as tour guides. This extends to the types of experiences hosts should offer. Airbnb challenges them to create “an experience that your guests wouldn’t be able to find on their own”.
The latter point is perhaps the essential trait of Trips. Because, regardless of what travellers wish to do – dive with sharks, hunt truffles, learn Dominican bachata dance – it is still easiest (and safest) for them to ask their hotel to arrange it.
The reason Trips is such an exciting prospect is that many hotels either aren’t prepared or are too mired in convention, to cater to travellers’ growing appetites for off-the-beaten-path adventures. The majority of hotels and tour groups continue to peddle generic tours that don’t quite fulfil expectations or inspire the imagination. This is at their peril, as more forward-thinking operators are taking a leaf from Airbnb’s playbook, realising they need to offer distinct, bespoke experiences if they are to sell their tours.
Learning from Experience
Airbnb has already had a profound impact on the industry, and although it is less than a year old, Trips is shaking up expectations and business models in the hospitality and travel world. To the
benefit of travellers everywhere, this has been a motivating factor for all operators, from independent properties to global brands, to invest more into creating, and enhancing, their own experience offers.
While some are catching up, others are already well on their way. West Hollywood’s Sunset Marquis is leveraging its rock-n-roll reputation to tap into experiential travellers. From making their famous underground recording studio available to guests and adding the Morrison Hotel Gallery (an extension of the New York City-based gallery) to monthly themed events focused on music and artists, the Sunset Marquis has proven that hotels can more than compete with the independent local insider ‘host’. Perceptive guides and guest experience managers at hotels may even employ Trips as an additional platform – because if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Multinational hotel groups with brands that showcase local culture and design, such as IHG’s Indigo or AccorHotel’s MGallery, are also a step ahead and should have little difficulty adapting and even innovating. Still, while some will rise to the occasion, there will undoubtedly be a thinning of the herd.
Local tour companies dependent on standard one-day trips may have to go back to the drawing board. I doubt anyone will miss those loud, flag-waving, time-keeping tour guides, their military-strict
sightseeing schedules and their cold, uncomfortable minibuses. No matter what the future holds for this industry, one thing is for certain: it doesn’t pay to lather, rinse and repeat.
Hoteliers VS. Hosts
While independent hosts have agility going for them, hospitality expertise and training are not to be taken lightly. The very purpose of Airbnb is to connect regular people with, well, regular people – not seasoned hospitality professionals.
While there will always be outstanding, generous indie hosts, hoteliers as a whole still set the standard for service and care. A team of in-tune, dedicated specialists is better equipped to serve. And judging by the expansion of their training programmes and the growing intensity of their experience proposal vetting, Airbnb knows this.
Consumers and industry experts should not discount the value of brand standards, service and operations guidelines, job experience and ethical requirements. Each assures guests of respect and fair treatment.
Being a hotelier entails so much more than checking-in guests, offering poolside service or even being a local discovery guide. It is a specialised role that demands expert precision, commitment to guest
experiences, passion for service, creative innovation and enthusiasm for each and every guest. Hoteliers, whether seasoned or newly minted, have a very real stake in delivering the best services to guests.
For Airbnb, whose hosts are probably not seasoned hospitality experts, maintaining standards will be an ongoing challenge.
Last year, the company came under fire over its hosts’ ability to refuse potential bookings based on guests’ race, nationality, age, gender and more. A study published in May by Rutgers University, based on nearly 4,000 Airbnb booking requests, found that bookers with disabilities were refused at rates higher than people without disabilities.
While Airbnb has implemented a non-discrimination policy to “reaffirm their commitment to inclusion and respect”, there are obviously still ways around the language. Currently, the most severe consequence that rogue Airbnb hosts face is being removed from the platform. Meanwhile, Airbnb’s reputation suffers.
Naturally, hosts do not have the same connection or obligations to Airbnb as a hotelier has to their property and brand.
When you look at the numbers, it all makes sense. Globally, the industry is worth approximately 3.7 trillion USD, accounting for a little more than 5% of the world’s total economic output.
This swift growth has impacted the hospitality industry in remarkable ways. From 2014 to 2016, the wellness tourism industry grew 14% – more than twice as fast as overall tourism during the same period. No longer a niche market for hippies or new-age, patchouli-scented spiritualists, wellness tourism now accounts for 16% of all tourism expenditures. That’s one in every six tourist dollars spent.
Over the past decade, wellness has become something of an omnipresent mantra, a catch-all panacea for any brand at all that wants to stay on-trend and capture consumer interest. While the details shift from year to year – 2018 just can’t get enough moringa, 2017 was all about turmeric, and before that kale and quinoa – the overall concept of wellness is generally presented as an inherent and indisputable component of human life.
The wellness industry was not always the marketing juggernaut it is today. Just 40 years ago, it was considered a fringe, cult-like fad, with little scientific basis or credibility. Few had even heard of the word wellness, things like nut-milk yogurt were weird and gene-based dieting was something from dystopian sci-fi. So how did wellness become so deeply ingrained into our everyday lives, and why does it now play such a prominent role in the hospitality industry
“ The wellness industry was not always the marketing juggernaut it is today. Just 40 years ago, it was considered a fringe, cult-like fad, with little scientific basis or credibility.”
From Mumbo-Jumbo to Mainstream
Though its origins stretch back thousands of years to the teachings of Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and ancient Greek medicine, our modern idea of what ‘wellness’ constitutes only began during the 1950s, developing over the 60s and 70s. Our present day use of the word – first recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary in the 1650s – can be traced back to physician Halbert L. Dunn, chief of the U.S. National Office of Vital Statistics from 1935 to 1960.
In 1961, Dunn published a book titled ‘High-Level Wellness’, which he defined as ‘an integrated method of functioning, which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable’. The book was not exactly a best-seller, in fact it struggled to make an impact at all.
It wasn’t until the 1970s, before a small group of doctors and thinkers – including Dr. John Travis, Don Ardell, Dr. Bill Hettler and others – began to embrace and expand on Dunn’s ideas.
Interestingly enough, the term ‘wellness’ itself also took a while to gain traction. Dr. Travis, an early advocate of Dunn’s concepts, initially “thought the word ‘wellness’ was stupid… it would never catch on”. Nevertheless, he still used it to name his pioneering Wellness Resource Center in Mill Valley, California, in November 1975, thus sealing its fate as today’s biggest buzzword.
The Wellness Resource Center was instrumental in gaining a wider audience for the fledgling movement. There, Dr. Travis and his small team of doctors focused on addressing an individual’s overall state of wellbeing and championed self-directed approaches to treatment, rather than traditional illness-oriented medical procedures. In 1979, Dan Rather brought international attention to the Center with a short segment that aired on ’60 Minutes’.
“Wellness,” Rather says, introducing the segment, “now there’s a word you don’t hear every day.”
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
One of the first business to jump on the wellness bandwagon was Canyon Ranch, which opened in 1979 in Tucson, Arizona. Founded by an overweight property developer named Mel Zuckerman (he’s since slimmed down) and his exercise enthusiast wife Enid, Canyon Ranch was billed as ‘America’s first total vacation/fitness resort’.
It’s telling that one of the first modern wellness-related business ventures was in hospitality. At the time, the idea that you might need to travel hundreds of kilometres to have such an experience made sense – there simply weren’t many other options. However, there was also a historical precedence for such retreats, which could be traced back to European spa towns like Baden Baden, where baths were first built during the Roman Empire.
Canyon Ranch got off to a slow start, but by the late 80s they were financially successful and ready for expansion. They’ve since built a brand that’s well-known for its upmarket interpretation of wellness (rates start at USD 1,000/night), as well as its variety of products, including spa clubs, Las Vegas hotel spas and cruise ship spas. In many ways, their story epitomises the rise of wellness itself, from a small, fringe concept into a global symbol of luxury and status.
Wellness for the rich and famous, however, is only part of the story.
In the mid-80s, nearly half of the U.S. population worked out on a semi-regular basis (up from 24% in 1960) and they were starting to demand more from hotels than just a room to sleep in. Travellers increasingly wanted new amenities like a pool, a spa and a gym included as part of their stay. Hotels were slow to get with the programme, however. By 1991, 40% of hotels in the U.S. contained some sort of gym, but the quality was inconsistent and often gym-goers were squashed elbow-to-sweaty-elbow into an unused guest room or a dim, shag-carpeted basement.
Finally, in 2003, Westin launched WestinWORKOUT, effectively reimagining the hotel gym for a new generation of travellers. Featuring state-of-the-art equipment, workouts designed in partnership with Reebok, upscale amenities and a focus on natural lighting, Westin made wellness an integral part of the travel experience, rather than an add-on feature. In doing so, they sparked a hotel gym arms race that, 15 years later, shows no signs of slowing down. One only has to look at upscale gym Equinox’s move to launch a hospitality brand in order to understand how important the gym, as well as the broader concept of wellness, has become to hotels.
Wellness on Steroids
So why has wellness exploded to the extent that is has? Much of it has to do with the same global and technological forces that have transformed overseas travel from a relatively expensive and uncommon undertaking into a far more accessible, familiar and varied experience. And just as travel and wellness have become mass-market industries, they’ve also become the perfect status symbols for those living today’s most luxurious lifestyles. Both are powered by the same type of desire for rare and remarkable experiences, as opposed to traditional material objects.
The ever-growing wellness industry also taps into our age-old thirst for better health, better bodies and just generally better selves. And the future of wellness in hospitality will be focused on enabling this transformational potential, not simply providing a physical escape from daily life or throwing a yoga mat into the wardrobe your guest room. As Art Markman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, argues, ‘the path to wellness is much more about embracing enriching experiences than avoiding stressful ones’.
Hotels occupy a singular position within the wellness spectrum. They have the power to create immersive and highly impactful experiences, which can play a big role in our overall happiness. Like any diet or exercise programme, only the brands that can enable sustainable lifestyle changes will go on to define the future of wellness hospitality.