Tag Archives: Brand experience

Ace Hotel: be different by really doing different

Last week I was in New York for a brand positioning assignment. The customer assured me casually that the hotel would be a unique experience. I was a bit skeptical, because in the past I have slept often in hotels all over the world and you basically see a lot of the same. Of course there were some exceptions such as hip design hotels, but I was always bored after a few days. There was always something that simply did not fit the image. Initially funny things suddenly became very obvious or even annoying. Or interaction with the staff was different from expected.

Then I came to the Ace Hotel in New York. The Ace is a hotel that does things differently, but in a challenging and stimulating way. For starters, the location of the hotel is in a neighborhood that does not come directly to mind for a new hotel. And that is how it started…


Upon entering I was greeted by a man in a big blue blouse with sleeves rolled up. He had a beard, unkempt hair and some tattoos. Indeed, this was the hotel manager. Super relaxed and sincere friendly. The receptionist had purple hair, sparkling eyes, a big smile and I got a greeting from the heart.

The crowded lobby featured a stuffed head of a deer, many copper items, an American flag and a DJ.

“Use your key card and start going places” was written above the key card slot in the elevator. My room is wallpapered with the sheet music of the opera Patience. Not some random sheet music, but an opera from the late 18th century that and as a satire also did things different. A perfect fit!

The hotel guide is called “The Ace Survival Guide – a manual for food, drinks and other ephemera. Then my eye falls on a set of cards held together by a thick band. I push the belt aside and read ‘Here are some art cards by artist Miho Hatori. We love them. We hope you will, too. Because they’re yours now. – Ace ‘.

Smoke outside. Meet a stranger.

Under the “no smoking” symbol in the room is written “Smoke outside. Meet a Stranger “and then in small text” Smoke inside, pay a stranger $ 250″. It can be that simple.

In the elevator I meet another guest who is so enthusiastic that he tells me he had a real DJ set and a guitar in his room. Where do guests talk in the elevator about their room? Neat!

The Ace Hotel is in my opinion THE example of a brand-worthy hotel. It is a hotel that continues to be Ace by being different and consistently executes that to the smallest detail with employees who have the brand in their DNA. 100% Ace! Doing so creates fans. And fans come more often, spend more and tell your story. This article shows exactly that!

Opel you surprised me! And you got me talking (again)!

It has been a while (understatement…) since my last post! Lots of things happened recently: we got a baby, we moved from New York City back to Finland and I got a new job. So, lot’s of excuses not to post anything but I intend to start ‘talking’ again!

Recently I had the pleasure to drive an Opel Astra station wagon as rental car. “The pleasure?” you might say? Yes! And I was totally surprised by it myself! Opel has had now for years issues in Europe with their sales numbers. To put it simply: the old Opel way of doing simply did not work anymore: the car business (except Opel) had moved on to more stylish cars, more standard equipment,  more car for the money. And with that consumers had moved on as well to Peugeot, VW and Ford (1).

I still remember very well the stories of my father when he purchased in 1977 an Opel Ascona B: nothing came with that car as standard equipment… even the passegner door mirror had to be paid for! Eventhough the German quality was admired and respected he was happy to switch in the beginning of the 80’s to a Mitsubishi Galant. The Mitsubishi simply had a-lot of things inside the car standard (interior reading lamp!) and came with a powerful turbo diesel engine. Never since my father returned to Opel and ever since I have seen people around me slowely but surely switching from Opel to another brand.

So, why was I so suprised with the Astra? To put it simply: Opel put a well designed and high equiped product on the market! No wonder the Opel Astra is the European car of the year 2010! Think about it: a rental car (cheapest model!) that comes with color screen for radio, board computer and navigation (you do need a navigation CD), parking assistant, cruise control, electric windows (front only…)  all wrapped in a well designed, good looking very very spacious wagon (more spacious than e.g. a Volvo V50!) for less than 20.000EUR! I am impressed and have only one remark that did put me a bit off guard and reminded me of the old Opel: with all those standard features how can you not include electric windows in the back? That simply puzzles me.

Nevertheless, Opel is doing great things these days. Take for example a look at the new Opel Meriva. It has innovative flex doors (rear-hinged rear doors) along with other great innovations.  Opel is taking their new brand mantra “Wir leben Autos” serious:

We never stop thinking about new and sustainable ways in which we can positively influence – or energize – people’s lives through every contact with the Opel brand.

Indeed Opel, you got me energized!  Thank you! And thank you for showing that the simple rules of “Great Brand = Great Product” and “Better Brand = Better Products than competition” simply keep on working. Of course “Better” being defined by the consumer aka me 🙂

Avis… what happened to “we try harder”?

AdAge lists the Avis “we try harder” campaign (1963) at #10 in the top 100 advertising campaigns. And for a reason: it was a well executed campaign combined with a well executed total brand experience.

It is still one of the best examples of what repositioning a brand in consumers mind can do. If Hertz is number one, Avis made an asset of being number 2!

I must admit, most of time I did rent with Avis. I kind of liked the idea of dealing with the “underdog” that tries harder. This, even though my New York City Avis experience was always the same: long lines, very slow service (I was thinking that the lines at Hertz must be even longer and slower!) but always I got the car I wanted.

One Sunday we went for a little ride to meet up with friends. While getting something from the trunk I accidentally left the key inside the trunk and closed it. All my daughters things like diapers, pacifiers, spare clothes etc were locked inside the car. Not having any spare keys I called Avis road service. The locksmith arrived after 1.5 hours and was able to open the front door (it was a Sunday but still). When the locksmith opened up the door the alarm of the car went off and the electric mechanism to open the trunk got locked. This happens as prevention. Unfortunately we couldn’t open the trunk from the inside… so, we had to call a second locksmith who was able to copy the key and open the trunk. The whole thing took 5 hours with numerous calls to Avis … I was all the time thinking…. Avis… we try harder? Why did the road service not know that our rental car did not have access to the trunk from inside the car? It would have really made my day when the road service would have told me “normally we would send a normal locksmith but with your car you cannot get to the trunk from the inside, so we send somebody special. And since you have a five month old baby we will make sure we help you super fast. No worries all will be fine”

Oeps… no access to the trunk from inside the car!

After this ‘accident’ I went to Avis’ website and found out that the slogan “We try harder” was actually not linked to their company logo anymore!  At least not in the USA. Perhaps it is a good thing. Once your brand promise and messaging does not equal the total product/ brand experience trouble is on the horizon. Brand authenticity will go in decline and people are up for a switch.

Avis.com, no more trying harder
Avis.nl, still trying harder
Avis.nl, still trying harder

Diapers.com: amazing brand experience

“We deliver everything but the baby” is the slogan of Diapers.com. A great one! And indeed they do deliver everything but the baby.

We use Diapers.com a lot. We just love the site. The layout is easy, the font is friendly and everything is somewhat playful.

Diapers.com has a smart approach to get you to buy more. Once you have bought things at diapers.com you will get a re-order mail that literally allows to reorder in seconds. How handy is that?

Recently something went wrong with one of our orders, a product was missing. So, I called the service number and had somebody on the line in seconds. The conversation was very friendly and casual. “I am sure the plant manager is very sorry as well for the missing item” (the plant manager…. wow!) “I already have reordered it for you and should be at your home within 2 days”, “again my apologies”.  I should perhaps have recorded this call, it was just so casual. So, a couple of days later I called again to see if I got the same experience and yes… their scripts are  perfect and so is obviously the training of the people in the call center.

This playfulness and friendly/casual approach can also been seen from their TV ad:

What can I say? When the total brand experience just works…. consumers will love you!