Sunday, August 14, 2011

Whatever/Whenever - The W brand

There's beach balls in the swimming pool, condoms in the mini-bar and a concierge service that promises to bring you "Whatever, Whenever" - the W Hotel really is a home away from home for the Executive Hipster. Working abroad in San Francisco means I occasionally have the good fortune (and good budgets) to stay there and they are true to their word. I once ordered fried chicken, hair straighteners and the original manuscript of The Rum Diary, and they had it to my door in under ten. Ok, maybe not the manuscript, but they're pretty bloody on it.

Aside from all the frills and fluff, The W makes for an interesting case study. They seem to have embraced the scope of a hotel brand, to truly "own" each touchpoint a guest (or potential guest) might encounter. The scent in the lifts, the textures of the soft furnishings, the music in the bar, even their own fashion magazine all add up to a 360 degree brand world which somehow makes sending work email from bed feel cool.

Two elements really stand out for me. First, is the genius copywriting found throughout your stay. The messaging acts as a written extension of their service offer - a little note under your water glass says "Why not?", their in-room massage is described as "In, Aah, and Out", and their porters wear t-shirts with "Ask me what's next" written on the back. Without sounding sycophantic, it's these tiny little moments which somehow transform what can be an isolating experience into a conversation. You may be alone in strange city, but someone's looking out for you. "Who wants eggs?" asks the in-room dining card. I do please!

The second element is their pairing with Bliss salons. Bliss was "the" spa and beauty product brand post-Millenium. With its soft blue packaging and charming product naming such as "FatGirl Slim", it was one of the quintessential touchy-feely brands to take us out of the minimalist 90's along with Innocent Smoothies and Carluccios. Today, Bliss is no Aesop, but its comfort clinical (comflinical?) tone puts you at ease, whilst somehow justifying a $200 massage. Bliss products are in all W bathrooms, and are often found in spa form down in the basement. Their similar messaging style and "I deserve it" clientele, make W and Bliss firm friends and a great example of a successful brand collaboration.

Working in branding it can sometimes be hard sit back and just enjoy a good brand at work, but The W is one I am always more than happy to let get on with it. Sometimes it's seeing the smoke and mirrors behind the magic which makes it all so much more impressive.