How to Create a Brand for a Boutique Hotel
A Case-Study on branding Marriott's boutique Hotel Vie in Toronto.
It’s not every day we get to do the brand development for a hotel that belongs to the Marriott Tribute Portfolio: a family of independent boutique hotels from around the world that are characterized by striking design motifs, bold use of color, and noteworthy art installations.
I was fortunate enough to be involved in such branding project here in Toronto. The goal was to create a dynamic brand for a boutique hotel that would serve as a beacon / magnet for experience seekers. They love staying at places where the service is outstanding, interior design is captivating, and that sparks a connection at every turn.
How the Project Got Started
It all started when local Canadian entrepreneur, Carlo Parentela, who runs a wedding & banquet event venue in Vaughan, called Chateau Le Jardin with the need to accommodate his guests. He wanted to create a dynamic meeting place where life is celebrated to the fullest. He partnered with Marriott Hotels to increase exposure and use their state-of-the-art global booking system.
Marriott has strict global requirements that new hotels in its system must adhere to. We were called in as the hospitality brand consultants to develop the brand for the hotel: everything from researching the area, identifying who the customers were, and coming up with the name, logo, and visual identity for the new hotel brand.
Our Target Audience
!he target audience for the hotel fell into four groups:
Celebrants and guests of weddings and events at Chateau Le Jardin. The hotel is an extension of their celebration, a place where the party starts in style and ends in joyous revelry.
Travelers visiting Vaughan for work or business. The hotel is a place in the region where they can find new and exciting experiences that mark a job well done and enhance their trip.
Friends and family visiting relatives in the Vaughan region. The hotel is where they can enjoy world-class hospitality in a stylish and intriguing environment.
The people living in Vaughan. The hotel is where they go to feel part of a larger community of interesting, accomplished people celebrating occasions big and small.
Brand Personality: Fun, Upbeat, Dynamic, Active
We discovered through our Brand Strategy Session, that if the new hotel were a person, it would be the kind of friend you just loved being around. The kind who finds the good in everyone and is forever looking to enrich others by connecting them to those around them. This person would be magnetic, fun, and forever up for anything, exhibiting the kind of zest for life that infectiously picks up the spirits of any room.
Brand Positioning: Where Celebration Comes To Life
From the early concept stage, we were called upon to guide the brand. In research, we discovered that the importance of the hotel would transcend its physical space and serve as a symbol of the city of Vaughan itself. Since the hotel would be closely associated as a wedding & banquet venue, the act of which itself is a celebration of life, we created the brand position “Where Celebration Comes to Life.” We wanted to remind customers who stay at the hotel that everything in life can be a celebration.
The Names We Came Up With for the Hotel
All the names we came up with had to meet the brand personality of fun, upbeat, dynamic, and active. We also showed the client some early color palettes & mood boards that evoked the names we were suggesting:
The Vaunt: Iconic / Bold / Lots of Attitude
Reminiscent of the name “Vaughan,” it also means to give high praise or to boast about accomplishments. A name that works two-fold: as celebrations are always an occasion to highlight achievements, but the hotel itself is something to be vaunted about.
The Lumin: Notable / Attractive / Optimistic
Lumin is how light is measured. It’s bright, optimistic and a celebration of life. It reminds us of the word “luminaries,” which are celebrities and distinguished people who can captivate an audience with great stories and insights, many of whom we imagine will stay at the hotel.
The Revel: Cool / Chic / Offbeat
Revel means to take great delight in something or indulge in boisterous activities. It speaks to the emotional feeling of celebrations and makes the hotel a place where you can revel in good company, revel in the moment, and revel in life.
Hotel Vie: Distinguished / Hip / Local
Vie means life in French. An appropriate name, as the very best parts of life seem to happen at this hotel. From weddings, to trips of wanderlust, to business ventures, the hotel welcomes all those who are determined to make sure every experience in their life is not only memorable, but extravagantly exceptional.
The Client Chose “Hotel Vie”
The main reason being that it was a French word, which not only brought the brand strategy to life, no pun intended, but it would also work quite nicely with some of their existing properties: Chateau Le Jardin, their event venue, Marché, the restaurant & marketplace, and Après Noir, a charitable event series that brought high profile celebrities like Jennifer Hudson and Drake to perform at their venue.
Based on the name “Hotel Vie,” we came up with the following four logo design options that adhered to the color palette and brand attributes of “distinguished & hip,” and also paid tribute to the brand position, “Where Celebration Comes To Life.”
Logo Design 1: The Modern
Here we were inspired by the classic martini glass, a symbol of celebration & good times.
Logo Design 2: The Sparkle
The sparkle, whether it’s being the life of the party, sharing good times with friends, or precious moments treasured, the sparkle was our inspiration for this logo.
Logo Design 3: The Art-Deco
Art Deco is a style of design that originated in France and represents luxury, glamour, and exuberance by combining bold geometric forms with exquisite craftsmanship. This was the style that was prominent in “The Great Gatsby,” where they would throw extravagant parties to celebrate the rich & famous.
Logo Design 4: The Embellishment
Here we used the letter “V” as the main symbol, which also sounds like ‘vie.’ The “V” is brought to life with embellishments of opulent filigree. Within the details, we pay homage to the pileated woodpecker, the native bird of Vaughan, and a single rose, which is taken from the existing logo of their event venue, Chateau Le Jardin, which represents the legacy of the Parentela Group.
The Client Went With the Fourth Logo Option
The idea of conveying “a life well lived through celebration” is everywhere in this design: in the business cards, items as small as shampoo bottles, and vehicles as far-reaching as their website. Since one of the design applications is to have a dynamic, ever-changing wall in the foyer, the elements of the V in the logo are designed to change equally dynamically.
On a wedding night, its images could be 100% relevant to the wedding party at the hotel. In the beauty of winter, it could be as broad and inspiring as snowy, icy imagery.
(Renderings by Provencher_Roy (Architects & Interior Designers of Hotel Vie)
The Hotel is set to break ground in 2020. We’re looking forward to bringing the brand to market as the hotel construction gets underway.
Three Key Takeaways for Clients Are Who Are Looking to Work With Design Firms on a Similar Project
Provide the design agency as much discovery material as possible. Don’t hold anything back, no matter how mundane or irrelevant you may think it is. You’d be surprised to see how seemingly insignificant information about your company can inspire creativity.
Invite staff members from across your company to have a seat at the table at the early stages. Insightful nuggets can come from anywhere: sales staff have valuable customer insights, IT members understand how staff communicate with each other and with consumers, product development teams have background information that provide great insight as well.
Get the design firm in early. Brand design works best when it is integrated into the inception of every other aspect of your business offering. In the case of a hotel, branding must work seamlessly with interior design, operationalization, food & beverage programs, and even architectural features. Bringing your multidisciplinary team of specialists to the table together can result in amazing synergies.
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