Brand Disruptors, the New Normal

By Trish Donnally Public Relations Manager, Perkins Eastman | September 09, 2018

We live in disruptive times-and not just in terms of politics, trade and the economy. Things are being turned upside down and inside out, even in the world of hospitality. "Shake it up, stir it 'round," seems to be the motto for brand disruptors who are challenging the status quo.

"All the brands are trying to disrupt each other," said Steven Upchurch, Managing Director/Principal and a Firmwide Practice Area Leader in Hospitality at Gensler.

What's causing this? Lots of factors. Non-hospitality firms tossing their hats into the ring. Think Baccarat, Karl Lagerfeld and CuisinArt. The sharing economy. Think Airbnb and its upstart emulators. Another disruptor is the emergence of the "boutique hostel," which provides social culture and innovative design at affordable prices. Consider Marriott's Moxy, Hilton Worldwide's Tru and AccorHotel's Jo&Joe brands. Hotel mergers are also causing upheavals. Think Marriott International, Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. And the rise of uber-personalized, micro-boutique hotels - such as The Pioneer Woman's Boarding House and Hotel San Cristóbal are part of the mix.

Hotel accommodations these days had better have verve. Whether that manifests itself as an unforgettable experience, an Instagrammable environment or an authentic sense of place, the hospitality industry is experiencing a sea change. Free, fast Wi-Fi is a given. Smaller guestrooms and larger lobbies are a trend. Brand disruptors have hutzpah and are creating hotel hybrids and new configurations, starting from the top.

Fashionable Brands Extend Their Reach

"The new Baccarat hotels are disrupting luxury markets. They're creating something that immerses someone in the product. They're taking crystal into architecture. Someone who might have stayed at and appreciates the luxury of the Ritz-Carlton, but loves crystal, may prefer to stay at a Baccarat hotel," Upchurch said. The Baccarat Hotel in Manhattan, a Forbes Five-Star Hotel designed by Gilles & Boissier, was meant to emulate "private Parisian pied-à-terre living in the heart of New York City," according to the website. Recognized among the Best Hotels in the World by Conde Nast Traveler (CNT), named to the 2018 CNT Gold List and offering "the World's Most Extravagant Afternoon Tea," according to the Robb Report, Baccarat takes the luxury hotel to a whole new level. Who expected a revered French company, founded in 1764 and renowned for its fine jewelry and exquisite gifts, to enter the hospitality arena?

Hotel San Cristóbal, Liz Lambert's 32-key boutique hotel in Todo Santos, Mexico, captures the kind of authenticity travelers seek. Photograph by Nick Simonite.
Moxy Hotels forego closets and use hooks on a wall instead as in the Queen Guestroom at the Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho. Photography Courtesy Moxy Hotels.
Moxy Hotels feature communal ironing rooms, such as this one in the new Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho. Photography Courtesy Moxy Hotels.
In the heart of Miami's Brickell financial district, the 250-key citizenM Miami Brickell is a prefabricated, modular hotel designed for efficiencies and to create spontaneous connections and a sense of community. Rendering Courtesy of Gensler.
Creating an Instagrammable setting is a requisite element of design these days. El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas, provides remarkable glamping vignettes at every turn. Photograph by Nick Simonite.
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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.