Our previous post in the values + stories = brand series reviewed the online eyeglass retailer Warby Parker.
This post goes a different direction by looking at the luxury Hotel Claridge’s.
If you are not familiar with Claridge’s now is a good time to take a quick look at the site. www.claridges.co.uk
Claridge’s is a luxury hotel in London, England with a long, proud and rich history. With rooms starting at over $600 per night, they don’t fit in everyone’s travel budget.
The Claridge’s archetype
Claridge’s could be viewed as a Ruler brand. An industry leading luxury hotel. One that sets the standard for luxury. However I think the Lover brand might be more appropriate. Lover brands are about appealing to the senses with a passion for beauty: visuals, sounds, words, fragrances, tastes–it is all about the senses.
Claridge’s definitely scores as a Lover brand with the design of their hotels. Notice how much of their history is firmly rooted in design. Art Deco updates in 1929, Diane von Furstenberg interiors in the 1970’s Thierry Despont redesign in the 1990’s, David Linely suites added in 2012 and their newest restaurant, Fera, inspired by the rhythm of nature and the designs of British Designer Guy Oliver.
The Claridge’s story is about opulence, and the celebrities, including royalty from around the world, who gravitate to its beauty and exceptional service (and, no doubt, the ego-boost)
The Claridge’s Story
Claridge’s story is found on their History page. It isn’t the usual hero overcoming an obstacle story so it doesn’t qualify as real purpose-told story.
Instead it is a recap of an institution through the years. The focus is on the grand building, and even grander people who stay there. Celebrities, including royalty from around the world, gravitate to its beauty and exceptional service. And of course, they can afford the steep price tag.
Had this been a different type of hotel, say an old family-run inn or a hip contemporary urban boutique hotel, the narrative would have been quite different. Perhaps a real story of the family nurturing a hotel through the generations. Or, what this new hotel offered to a new generation of travelers looking for a contemporary experience.
What are the Claridge’s brand values?
Claridge’s doesn’t have a specific Values page but it doesn’t take much detective work to figure out what they stand for.
The hotel is all about Art Deco and famous designers who work within the confines of the hotel’s history while adding contemporary elements for a discerning modern audience. And always with exquisite taste. The sleeping rooms, the public rooms, the uniforms, the restaurants, the bars and the smoking lounge are all designed to the nines. The photography on the web site is artfully crafted. All is done with intention and consistency.
Claridge’s walks the fine line of maintaining its tradition as one of the world’s leading hotels and a focus on its impressive history catering to the world’s celebrities. Yet it stays current with updated interior designs and menus. You can enjoy the latest food creations while still depending on a proper British afternoon tea or a find hand-rolled cigar in the Art Deco Fumoir.
Luxury is what they sell, whether the luxurious rooms and suites, high thread count sheets, fine dining, elegant bars, impeccable service, or grand public spaces. It is all luxury, all the time. You will not be schlepping your oversized backpack through Reception.
“Claridge’s prides itself on impeccable service. For generations we’ve catered to our guests’ every whim, both inside and outside the hotel, offering a unique, genuinely bespoke approach to meet the needs of the tired, the excited and the exacting traveller.”
You don’t need to go much further than the “Our Service Stops at Nothing” list to see what lengths they have gone to in order to satisfy their exacting guests. I attempt to travel light whenever possible so the idea of having hotel service unpack my 43 suitcases, unfolding, pressing and hanging the contents and then repack in 48 hours for my departure boggles my mind. But then, I don’t think I am Claridge’s desired guest. Come to think of it, I doubt I could fill 43 suitcases even with everything I own!
The copywriting drips elegance to reinforce these values
Look at the words used: breathtaking suites, grand event spaces, exquisite cuisine, impeccable service, cater to our guests’ every whim, renowned service, genuinely bespoke approach, prestigious awards, and bespoke (there is no doubt this is an English hotel).
But also notice the site is somewhat staid and angular. Squares, rectangles and linear borders. Gray text on white background. Restrained in look and in tone of voice.
Even the “Day in the Life of Our Executive Chef” includes calculated memories:
“He recollects sitting on the kitchen sink draining board, stirring lemon curd, or looking at the amber-like beads of sweat from a ripe plum, ready to burst from the tree in the family garden, and land in a pot of sweet jam.
These memories are strongly linked to his grandmother, who was a housekeeper at Highclere Castle, home of the phenomenally successful television series Downton Abbey.”
The memory may be from childhood but it is not told with childish joy. And, adding the Downton Abbey/Highclere Castle reference ties it to today’s celebrity culture.
Deftly done, but it doesn’t ring as heartfelt.
Stand back and take a different view
I am disappointed there are no full stories on this site. There are many small stories — meaning anecdotes, personal remembrances and staff quotes.
But then I stepped back and noticed a richness and depth. Taken in total, the images, the layout, and the text are really compelling. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Most hotels have basic sections about the rooms, pricing, reservations. They are transactional sites. Clear. Efficient. Competent.
When you start digging into the Claridge’s site you encounter layer after layer of content about the hotel, the designers, the staff, the guests, the service, the restaurants, the master classes, and on and on. Each page beckons you to click for more content.
Here is the paragraph on the map room
“Beautifully designed and furnished by the internationally renowned British design workshop Linley, the Claridge’s Map Room is the perfect bolt-hole in which to think, read, relax and be inspired. Designed expressly to meet the needs of global business travellers, the Map Room marries business needs with the elegance and art deco style that makes Claridge’s special. There are quiet corners for discreet conversations, a library of books curated by Assouline to stimulate the mind, timely deliveries of tasty treats fresh from Claridge’s kitchen and staff on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly. Accessible 24/7 to Claridge’s residents, it takes its name from the magnificent wall-size map of the world at its heart, crowned by a bespoke steel clock denoting Greenwich Mean Time.”
This pretty much sums up all of Claridge’s values . . . including the nugget that their books are not just any collection but specifically curated by Assouline. The Assouline of luxury book publishing fame.
Nothing is ordinary. Nothing is left to chance.
The web site does tell a fabulous story but it is best seen when looking at the whole, rather than dissecting the parts.
The Claridge’s people
and the ones who are not
Strong branding defines the target audience as well as the non-audience. Claridge’s manages this very well. You may look at their web site and start planning how you could afford a weekend in London luxury.
Then again you may have read their “Our Service Stops at Nothing” page and been outraged by the excess of “When a guest’s sweet tooth could not be satisfied, we had their favourite cookies flown in from New York.” Really? It is clear that Claridge’s is not for the minimalist, the eco conscious or the frugal traveler. That is fine with Claridge’s as there are apparently many people looking for their opulent experience. They have a clearly defined audience: Some people are Claridge’s people; others are Best Western folks.
When working on refining your brand, don’t be wishy-washy. State your position, make it clear, you are with us or against us. Apple vs. Microsoft. Your fans will love you for your clarity and your non-fans won’t waste your time (or theirs) sticking around.
We talk about attracting our perfect customers so often but rarely mention those non-perfect ones. Good branding makes the two sides very clear but without any fuss. You don’t need a bouncer at the door to screen the worthy from the not. We can self-select just fine, thank you.
Lessons to be learned
The Claridge’s web site is a good example for a high end brand. So many companies in this space assume the right people “just know” like a sixth sense and those other people will just not be interested.
This isn’t true. You need to send out the right signals, through stories, images and also depth of your content.
Claridge’s could ride on its fame, after all it is been welcoming guests since 1856. Instead it gives you a wealth of information about the hotel. All done very elegantly in a way that invites you to peruse but does not overwhelm.
Do you need to take a cue from Claridge’s and seduce your readers with small stories about your business that add up to a grand tale?
Do you need to speak in a way that tells your non-target audience that they should look elsewhere?
Did you miss any of the posts in this series?
- Tightening Your Values; Improving Your Story
- Your Values , Your Stories and Your Brand
- Review of Warby Parker values + branding through its web site