Extreme branding

Extreme branding

Last month I read an article on the HOTELS website about The Halkin, a boutique hotel in London that is home to the Assouline Culture Lounge, a showcase of the publisher’s various coffee table books. I must admit, my initial reaction was, “Now the lounges as well!?!” 

Of course, it’s not unusual for one or two specialized areas of a hotel to be linked with a brand — for example, an Aveda spa that uses solely this make of cosmetics, a Starbucks café or even an entire property that has been cross-branded. But this lounge made me think — are we heading toward “extreme branding” in hotels, where every part of a property could be sold to the highest bidder and staying in a hotel would be akin to living in a shopping mall? Guests can already purchase a hotel’s furniture, linens and toiletries for use in their own homes, so this next step can’t be too far away.

“Dear Guests, 

Upon arrival you may choose between the Laura Ashley Chamber or the Victoria’s Secret Suite; for your convenience you will find all the latest technology gadgets in our Business Center, which has kindly been brought to you by Apple. Should you wish to relax, we are happy to welcome you in our L’Occitane Spa, or, for a little more action, a personal trainer will guide your workouts in our Nike Fitness Center. In the mornings, a wonderful buffet is waiting for you in our Kellogg’s Breakfast Lounge …”

In these financially stretched times, an advantage of this concept would be that “selling off” all the parts of the hotel could be a revenue generator that would also help attract the “right” guests by featuring the brands associated with their lifestyle. But from the design point of view, I am a little worried about hotels moving in this direction. Since each space would be an individual “boutique” designed to express the values of a specific brand, these sponsors would of course have an opinion about how the décor reflects their corporate identity. This would mean that we, as the hotel’s overall interior designers, would need to have a lot more discussions with a lot more decision makers — and in all likelihood, negotiate a lot more compromises. As they say in Germany, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”