W Hotels: Creating A Brand
We were building a series of videos with an agency for a car company to use in their training. The challenge was to inspire discussion about brand. What is it? How do you build it? Manage it?
Grow it? Carlos Becil, Vice President North America Brand Management, Luxury and Design Brands for the Starwood Group agreed to be interviewed about the W brand. Carlos’s account of creating the W hotel brand set a nice framework for the discussions.We were building a series of videos with an agency for a car company to use in their training. The challenge was to inspire discussion about brand. What is it? How do you build it? Manage it? Grow it? Carlos Becil, Vice President North America Brand Management, Luxury and Design Brands for the Starwood Group agreed to be interviewed about the W brand. Carlos’s account of creating the W hotel brand set a nice framework for the discussions.
We interviewed Carlos at the original W hotel in New York where we learned about some of the thinking that launched a very successful industry segment, twelve years earlier. The W is part of a larger family of nine hotel brands within the Starwood group. It holds a very special position within the family.
Everything started with the living room concept. The idea of transforming the lobby, into what they call “a living room experience” was a shift in the usual thinking of luxury hotels. They see the W as a “Lifestyle Brand”. Their unique approach stayed away from income segmentation and standard demographics. Instead they identified their customer by segmenting the market by mind set, and psychographics. Their core clientele for the W is what they call the “trend setter”. They are a very narrow and exclusive consumer group. This is a group that is always looking for the next great thing in design, food, music, and more. Once they understood who their customer would be they engaged world class designers, chefs and bar operators to create an attractive environment and unique experiences for this core demographic
The result has been a very different luxury hotel experience that attracts more than the original core group. What they created became an attraction to other customer types who began to engage the W brand as well. It makes sense, build for the trend setter and there will be followers. It is now a brand that extends around the globe and offers a unique experience and connection to their locations while refining the brand they created.
Mercedes-Benz: The Story So Far
“The Best or Nothing” is more than a marketing tag for Mercedes. It is part of their heritage. It influences their brand and culture. It was a phrase that came from founder Carl Benz, and it has woven through a 125 year history of technological firsts and advancement of the Mercedes-Benz automobile. Now it is also an influencer of behavior in customer service.
This project was to create a series of videos to support customer service training spanning from the manufacturer’s management teams down to the dealerships at the consumer facing level. Working with the agency that developed the training to understand what role the videos needed to play in the program, we wrote, cast, shot and edited multiple cinematic videos with different roles in the program. But to set up the training there was a lot of information to review and establish with the audience so that they all were starting on the same page. It needed to be delivered consistently, every time. Only video would make that happen yet cinematic wasn't right for this opening statement.
As we began to understand the amount of information to be covered, we became concerned about how we would keep the audience’s attention. It was a lot of history on past programs and needed to convey a lot of important thoughts. A short punchy and emotional inspiration piece was just not going to deliver. We needed to express abstract ideas that you just were not going to be able to set a scene to shoot, or find existing images for, and computer animation would be totally cost prohibitive. We went to the whiteboard. We worked to develop a fun tone through scripting, visualizations and editorial magic to carry the audience’s engagement all the way through.
The final story speaks of heritage, pride and corporate culture. It is a story that speaks to brand from the inside. It establishes a proud history to connect people who are joining the team to the heritage they represent when they are part of Mercedes-Benz. It sets a common understanding of the extraordinary steps the company has been taking to make things right for everyone. Then it delivers strategic concepts that will drive behavior that will bring customer relationships to higher levels of satisfaction.
All this from a set of dry markers!
When you are a nonprofit, your ability to tell your brand story is the key to your survival. It is everything. It is the core of your passion and commitment. It is the driving force that engages supporters who enable you to do the good work your vision and purpose demands. It is your ability to tell this story that will drive everything. But the personality of a nonprofit founder may not be ready for what it takes to push that story and tell it as it needs to be told or even know who needs to hear it. The result of not being able to do this will ultimately mean failure.
The Annenberg Foundation has a long history of philanthropy. Their specialty is in finding promising non-profit organizations that have the potential to make a difference in their communities. Years of experience lead the Annenberg Foundation to develop their Alchemy program. It is advanced training for non-profits to help them to survive and scale beyond their founders. The foundation joined in to help the CNN Heroes program by providing the top winners their Alchemy training.
We went to the third day of the training to meet with and interview the CNN Heroes for the Annenberg Foundation. The Heroes were still on adrenalin highs from participating in the televised awards event. Their heads were spinning from all the training and discussions of the past few days. Charming and engaging, their stories and their passions are very compelling.
Have you ever wondered what happens to all the soap that never gets used in hotels? One of the Hero’s did, and he started a nonprofit that has been changing health conditions in cultures around the world.
Ever heard that dog is man’s best friend? A Veteran who trained dogs for our military is now using her skills to train dogs from shelters that become loved companions and major therapy for our PTSD inflicted veterans to reintegrate into normal lives because the companionship rebuilds their sense of trust.
In Kathmandu when a woman is incarcerated she brings her children with her into the jail. Would you walk into a prison in Nepal to bring early age development to the children there? It’s a brave act that could break the cycle of poverty for some and change the outcome for many. One of the CNN Heroes found her life’s mission by doing just that.
These are the kind of brand stories that drive nonprofits that people want to be part of. Now, through Annenberg's Alchemy training, each of them, have been given skills to expand their operations to do more and even have their mission extend beyond their founders.
We Love a Good Story
Your brand is a never ending story, a story that must be relevant to many audiences. Consumers are one audience, but there are other key audiences to be engaged, audiences who need to appreciate your brand and discover what makes you special and unique. Your suppliers, retailers and even your employees all need to know what you stand for. We’d like to share a few stories with you.
We have done interview based documentary work with many people for many reasons. Usually we are looking to learn something that is connected to our client’s business, then use that to teach and inform. We see great value in bringing the inner voice of management, product experts, or even customers to our audiences. Here are three experiences from creating three different videos that connect to brand stories in three different ways.
What is the most important story your brand tells?
"...if we kind of build from that consumer and understand what they want, then you start getting broader sets of consumers…"
How do you drive your brand? Does your brand inspire engagement? Enthusiasm? Loyalty? Who do you need to tell your story to? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave us a comment below.
"We are looking after the children whose parents are in prison …they go inside the prison with their parents ... and we rescue them from the various part of the jail from Nepal.
Pushpa Baznet - The Butterfly Home
"We are taking dogs out of shelters and rescue organizations and pairing them with the men and women who serve this country and have come home injured."
Mary Cortani - Operation Freedom Paws
"The Global Soap Project has an explicit purpose and it is to take used bars of soap from hotels which we then recycle into brand new bars and give to what we call, vulnerable population or refuges and orphans and the goal of that is to really fight diseases."
Derrick Kayongo - Global Soap Project
If you are interested in seeing the videos we would be happy to share them with you in private. Just contact us
and let us know what you are interested in.