It was during a chance meeting with an old colleague at Ace Hotel Shoreditch, whilst philosophising over zeitgeist hotel brands, that it dawned on me that the new approach to travel marketing and content isn’t just about lifestyle: it’s a whole new mindset.
It wasn’t a statement by my colleague that triggered this thought, nor was it something that I had even a seed of a preconceived notion about. Instead it was a moment where the context of the Ace met the content of the conversation and sparked what you might call the recognition of a ‘shift’. The lobby and rooms in the Ace offer you the opportunity to purchase and literally buy into their philosophy. This ‘shift’ is not an aesthetic or fickle one, it’s in the core mindset of what a hotel brand can and should be. What Ace has created is a completely immersive 360 degree horizontal market mindset, one that you either intuitively get or you don’t. If you don’t, you never will: but nonetheless, here’s the breath of fresh air, Ace won’t mind.
Ace has created a line of lifestyle products for every point of their guest’s journey, a bag, a coat, even a Converse branded shoe that kickstarted a long-running partnership between the two brands. Putting this kind of industry transcending initiative under the spotlight, we see an equally intriguing brand collaboration between W Hotels New York and Ray Mendez. This saw the creation of five skateboards designed by David LaChapelle, Cara Delevingne, Amar’e Stoudemire, Cope2 and Zana Bayne, whereby the public was given the option to buy the prints of these limited edition skateboards. This gave birth to an overnight package called Room & Board, which includes board rental during your stay, one pro skateboarding lesson and a print of all board designs. The partnership between Dorchester Collection and Smythson’s also springs to mind, where a simple tweet prior to arrival leads to a complimentary Smythson’s notebook in your room when you enter.
Should you take the time to apply this brand collaboration strategy to any number of brands outside of contemporary hospitality, you’ll see it as not only common practice, but also common sense – primarily because intelligent brands appreciate the value in cross-pollinating their audience with likeminded brands and their respective audience. This is where the battle is won, not necessarily by bigger or better hotels, but by cultural values that are intrinsic to your customer. Collaborating with other brands that add equity and cultural value to your own brand offers your audience a story and a benchmark.
Not all hotel brands will be able to roll out marketing activity with the likes of Converse or Cara Delevingne. But what they can do is find suitable brand partners that assist in driving their core message within a culturally savvy manner. This affords them an air of brand integrity: the Holy Grail of brand expression. This strategy also creates an opportunity for these hotel brands to compete more aggressively and be in a position to leverage brand equity for commercial gain, whilst ensuring the hotel stands for something.
“If everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other,” as the song goes. Hoteliers must find ways to think differently and allow their products to transcend the industry. In other words, hotels must be more than hotels in the way that Nike is more than just sports apparel. Their philosophy and what they stand for are what will be remembered long after the guest checks out.
Build something new and compelling, start from the bottom, understand your vision. Make sure it’s an initiative the public can get behind, create touch-points for each of the outlets – something a consumer can walk, talk or share. Deliver strategically and focus on what it will look like a year down the line. Create a movement and you’re en route to a mindset.
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