I recently took a leave of absence from Blizzard to visit my sister in Wellington, New Zealand. During our visit together to the South Island, we made a stop in Christchurch, where we stayed at the Hotel So. Opening in 2007, the designer hotel is a recent addition to the city’s myriad of accommodation choices. They market themselves toward a younger, style (yet budget) conscious crowd, mainly composed of 20 and 30-something adventurers, as well as some business travelers. The overall feel of the hotel is modern and chic, with minimal yet appealing interior design. The bar serves designer martinis; the café menu is eclectic and trendy.
The thing that grabbed my attention the most about this hot spot was their branding strategy. Every detail of the hotel was considered in the planning of the business; all elements communicated with each other visually. From the logo to the wallpaper, right down to the tea bags and chocolates, everything matched perfectly. Simply said, it’s a designer’s paradise, and I fell in love immediately. If their marketing team hasn’t won an award for this place yet, it’s about time they did!
When I returned to the states in March, I hadn’t checked out the Hotel So website yet, so when I finally did I was pleased to see that their website carried the same stunning brand identity that the hotel did. Not only did the professional photography sweep me right back across the Pacific Ocean, but the graphic elements of the site reminded me of how carefully their designers made the place a cohesive whole. The same unusual color combinations of brownish taupe and various pastel colors (which are all very fashionable combinations right now) that I found throughout the hotel itself, were now echoed on my computer screen.
So what’s so important about creating a brand identity for your property? Well, there are lots of reasons. For starters, if you create a lasting impression on your customers, they will become repeat customers. There is no doubt that if I were to find myself in Christchurch again, I would make a point of staying at the Hotel So. Since my sister and I stayed in a variety of hotels and hostels all over New Zealand, many of them blur together in my memory. However, this place was an experience in itself, and I won’t soon forget it.
The AVS Group, a web services company in Wisconsin, explains another reason that branding is so important. “Brand identity commands a price-premium. Why is someone willing to pay thousands of dollars more for a Lexus than for a Toyota? They are virtually the same product with the exception of some additional options and accessories…the value proposition is wrapped around the brand. The Lexus…[is] worth more in the minds of consumers regardless of whether the product actually functions better.” According to an article by Lara Appelhans at INeedHits.com, “building your brand will create credibility, implies trustworthiness, and should make your business name synonymous with the product or service that you sell.”
When it’s time to start establishing your brand, make sure your design is consistent online and offline. You and your designer(s) should work together to establish a standard of typefaces, layouts and color palettes. If your outdoor signage is designed in the font Soho Gothic, carry that font over to your website and use it on some of your buttons (remember though that for many areas of a website, such as the copy, you will need to stick to web-safe fonts). If the color of the walls in most of your rooms is hunter green, try using a similar color in your website design.
One of the design elements that we see on the Hotel So website is the repeated abstract line pattern at the bottom of the screen:
Although not identical, it is very similar the line pattern found on the wood panels and comforters found in every room:
To the non-designer, details such as repeating lines may seem trivial. However, when several of these small details tie together, it can create a visual theme that wows the consumer. Next time you order new comforters for your beds, or new packaging for in-room amenities – think about the “style” you’re conveying with your property and with your website. Sometimes making a few simple purchase decisions can go a long way towards giving your guests the experience today’s traveler is craving.