Design Matters: Branding as the foundation of the hospitality experience

This month, Creative Director Tony Matters talks about the importance of branding as the first step in creating engaging hospitality experiences.

When people hear the word ‘brand’ they often think about one of two things; a corporate  ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to development or simply the design of a logo. Whilst both of these can be in part true, in the age of the unique, ‘authentic’ hospitality experience, your brand is so much more than this; it represents who you are and what makes you unique in the eyes of the customer. It’s your DNA.

It’s this central role your brand or ‘DNA’ can play in creating an engaging and memorable experience that makes it so important; and the outcome of getting it right so powerful. What can appear, on the surface, as a purely cosmetic exercise, can be the catalyst for a fundamental shift in the ‘experience’ you create.

It doesn’t matter whether you have one venue or ten; in the age of the anti-brand, where each location should have its own distinct voice, the same principles apply. It’s about the nuance of locality, understanding who your customers are and how you can connect and engage. 

Attention to detail is key. It’s the details that create a connection, the evidence that someone has cared enough to think about them, the ‘customer’. Get it right and you can tip them over the edge - trigger an emotional connection and create a truly memorable experience. The problem, however, is you have no idea which detail will be the one to tip them - so you need to do as much as you can.

Put yourself into the mind of your customer - what do they remember when they think of you? As the saying goes, ‘your brand is not your logo; it’s what your customers think of you’. Defining your point of difference is a key part of the branding process - which may involve repositioning or tweaking your offer to create something truly special.

You know from your own experience, the places that stick in your mind are the venues that create a unique atmosphere and a memorable experience; this can be manifest in the style of service or even what your team are wearing; the way the food is presented, creating those moments of ‘theatre’; and a stunning interior, the stage set for the show.

So what should you expect when carrying out a rebranding exercise? Getting back to first principles is key, defining the potential to create your point of difference. Once you have this vision, you can build the brand around this; brand mark (or logo), your ‘story’, tone of voice, communication style, key assets (such as menus and other collateral) - then onto the wider picture of your experience with staff uniforms, tabletop, interior design and so on.

This is where branding really plays its part - it lays the foundations, creating a central reference point for every single thing you do. Whether you’re doing it all at once or spread over a longer period of time, having this focus and vision ensures everything you do fits into the bigger picture.

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