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  • Posted by: Rob Meyerson on Wednesday, January 29 2014 06:57 PM | Comments (0)

    Ace HotelCreated in 1999 by Alex Calderwood, who passed away last November, Ace Hotel is famous for disrupting the hospitality industry with a fresh identity catering to the “creative class.” Countless books, articles, and blog posts have already extolled the strengths of that identity (and Portlandia has mocked its eccentricities). 

    For example, according to a 2010 post on this blog, the brand’s approach to co-branding and partnerships is “endlessly creative” and “always perfect.” Gawker quotes the co-founder of review site Mr & Mrs Smith: “I can't think of another hotel group with such a strong brand and all-pervading identity – everything from the cocktails to the cleaning signs is unmistakeably Ace." On a recent trip to New York, this author had the pleasure of staying at Ace Hotel.

    The room’s artwork (local artist) was impressive, as were the vintage-style furnishings (Smeg fridge, reclaimed mirrors) and carefully selected brand partnerships (Fred bottled water, Pearl+ soap-on-a-rope). But it’s more than art, music, and hipster-friendly ephemera that surrounds the guest at Ace; painted on the walls, printed on signs, handwritten onto the bill, words also permeate one’s stay. And it’s through these words—through the brand’s voice—that the hotel’s personality shines brightest.

    You Are HereIt starts with an amusing, reassuring welcome note on the front doormat: “You are here.” Once inside, signs at the elevators remind guests, “If you took the stairs you would be there already.” 

    Many other hotels have exploited the “Do not disturb” sign as an opportunity for brand expression; Ace provides a “Not now” magnet stuck to the room’s metal door. In the room, clothes hangers assert, “You look good in that,” seals on the minibar liquor predict, “This will be your drink,” and under the towel rack, a painted message quips, “Want a fresh towel? Leave it in the tub. No tub? Leave it in the shower. No shower? Leave it in the sink. No sink? Leave it on the floor. No floor? Leave.”

    This is Ace’s distinctive style of writing—informal, quirky, irreverent, witty, and blunt. Clearly, it’s not appropriate for every brand in every industry. But it would be a mistake to disregard Ace as nothing more than an extreme case and assume other brands can’t benefit from this approach. Poignant or playful, rash or reserved—just as public speakers must “find their voice” if they wish to be heard and remembered, so must every brand. As with people, having less of an “in your face” personality is not the same as—nor is it an excuse for—having no personality at all.

    In a 2011 interview with The New York Times, Calderwood explained, “There’s a lot of pieces of the puzzle. It is not just an interesting design, it is not just the right choice of typeface, it is not finding the right executives or team — it is all those pieces of the puzzle.” At Ace Hotel New York, the completed puzzle is that much richer because the brand’s voice colors every piece, first to last. In one more demonstration of that unique sense of humor, the visit ended with a handwritten note at the bottom of the bill, stating simply, “Thank you for sleeping with us.”

    Rob Meyerson is Director, Verbal Identity, for Interbrand San Francisco.

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  • Posted by: Fatima Urigüen on Monday, December 16 2013 06:30 PM | Comments (0)
    Munich Airport

    One must be brave to attempt to refresh the classic Otl Aicher M created for Munich Airport in 1979. Daring to take on modernizing the design while honoring the original, Interbrand Cologne aimed to strengthen the airport's already successful position among its global competitors, enhance its brand appeal and boost its attractiveness as an employer.

    Munich Airport's New LogoMunich Airport, or Flughafen München as it’s known in German, is the seventh busiest airport in Europe, meeting the needs of almost 40 million passengers a year. Connecting tens of millions of people to their dream vacations, visits to family and friends, and business opportunities, and building on the brand's original philosophy that at the heart of the business are the people it serves, a new brand idea emerged: Verbindung Leben (Living ideas – Connecting lives).

    At its essence, the idea was to transform how we see the airport space from portal to human experience. Bringing natural light, creating a clean and open space incorporating natural greenery, a livable space for the people who work within the space and experience it during their travels was created.

    The new logo becomes the symbol of this transformation. Building on the original form of the old "M," the right upstroke in the letter plays a fundamental role in the new concept at the core of the new visual identity. It becomes a "connector," or a linking element within the M, serving as an anchor between two lives. The M symbolizes the airport bringing people together, and it also serves to unite Munich Airport's stories, its history and its future.

    Images that accompany the logo bring the concept to life. A family is connected as they reunite at the airport. People travel to new experiences, live their dreams and achieve their goals. Munich Airport is what connects them to those moments.

    As each image depicts a unique human story of connection, the logo appears in different colors, symbolized the multifaceted experiences offered at Munich Airport. The colors can change dynamically, creating ease in adaptation to many applications.

    The colors not only serve as a way to communicate diversity of experience, but represent a brushstroke, making the original M now feel transformed from a static symbol to a dynamic sense that the brand itself is taking flight. The brand comes to life and tells powerful stories about a place where unique experiences can be lived.

    We believe Otl Aicher would be proud.

    Fatima Urigüen is a designer with Interbrand Cologne.


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  • Posted by: Amy Edel-Vaughn on Tuesday, October 22 2013 05:56 PM | Comments (0)
    Dubrovnik, Croatia

    This year ABTA’s annual Travel Convention celebrated its 60th anniversary. Each year the event is developed around discussing travel in the context of world events, consumer behavior, the latest in the travel industry, new technology, marketing innovations and networking opportunities.

    This week, for the first time, the event was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia at the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel located on the Adriatic coast. Among the celebrated speakers were Kevin Mathers, MD of YouTube UK; Matt Warman, Head of Technology, The Telegraph; and Graham Hales, CEO of Interbrand London.


    From a YOLO take on what inspires travellers to a session on “Tourism in an uncertain world,” speakers and panelists covered issues facing the travel industry from customer service to embracing digital technology. Graham Hales, talking about “Building a valuable brand in the connected world,” touched on digital technology, brand building and internal brand engagement.

    Hales shared that a brand is more than an element of a communications strategy. It’s one unified vision that drives business performance, culture, experience and attitude. It becomes part of every aspect of what a business does and is, incorporated in all of its touchpoints, both internally and externally.

    Hales noted the importance of internal brand engagement. Clearly and credibly communicating the brand to employees is critical. His advice? Be it. Do it. Say it.


    With more choice in the post-digital world, the role of brand is more critical than ever. In order to create awareness and inspire not only consideration, but purchase in today’s noisy marketplace, strong brands must engage authentically throughout the customer journey.

    As Hales pointed out, customer perceptions of brands are now significantly shaped through the influence of other customers in the digital world whether from online reviews or customer tweets. Hales asked, from booking a trip through the travel experience and to the post-holiday feedback “What are the ownable opportunities to amplify the brand?”

    A brand needs to be about identifying customer needs, a real human personality that customers identify with and will seek out, values and a strong positioning, which all equal, as Hales said, “the most inspiring and compelling thing we can convey about the brand to this audience” or the “brand proposition.”


    KLM’s Meet & Seat was an example Hales shared of integrating digital technology in a clever way to engage customers and create a personalized flight experience. Passengers have the option to share their Facebook and LinkedIn profile details and check out other participating passengers. Allowing passengers to customize what they share about themselves, learn more about fellow passengers, such as who is attending the same event, and even select a seat based on that information, creates a unique brand experience.

    Also spotlighted was EatWith.com, a unique brand that creates an online global community inviting people to connect with hosts and fellow travellers for some homemade dinner experiences. EatWith hosts serve up meals from Whiskey Wednesdays in LA to dinner with a Michelin starred local chef in his home in Barcelona. Creating memorable and genuinely human experiences differentiates this brand.

    Key takeaway? “Be human rich.”


    Amy Edel-Vaughn is Interbrand's Community Manager.

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  • Posted by: Ariën Breunis on Friday, June 7 2013 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

    Walt Disney World

    Recently my wife and I returned from a road trip through Florida. Planned beforehand, of course, was a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Something you just have to do, right? Upon arrival at the Disney resort, we were greeted with the magic words: Welcome Home. With that, we knew that our visit to this place would be different.

    Walt Disney himself said, "I don't want the public to see the world they live in while they're in the park. I want to feel they're in another world." Indeed, the world-famous amusement park lived up to its moniker: "The Happiest Place On Earth."

    While many restaurants around Walt Disney World such as Sanaa in Animal Kingdom and Citrico at The Grand Floridian have received rave reviews from travel and dining critics, the food within the Magic Kingdom remains traditional amusement park fare, but the whole experience made me quite forgiving of lengthy ride lines and somewhat limited food choices. Both of these issues, the lines and in-park dining, Disney has plans to improve upon as well with the addition of a new and improved Downtown district, Disney Springs and the implementation of MyMagic+ digital wristbands.

    I admit that I did spend money on a Disney t-shirt that I might not have seen myself buying beforehand, but when in Rome, right? After all, the experience was proving to be more enjoyable and relevant than I had ever imagined.

    What began with one little mouse has transformed into one of the world’s largest and most beloved entertainment companies. While Disney is primarily understood to be a children's entertainment brand, there’s more than just great experiences for kids.

    The different parks are meant to have a differentiated positioning, taking on their own life and in turn attracting their own crowd. While Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Toy Story Mania appeal to kids, with Cinderella’s Castle as a backdrop, a spa at The Grand Floridian and adult focused entertainment at a piano bar, Jellyrolls, dancing at Atlantic Dance Hall and live radio sports shows at ESPN Club, Disney is expanding its appeal and becoming a wedding and honeymoon destination. Each of the resorts on the property has its own brand experience as well.

    Despite the bubble-like atmosphere, sightings of external brand stores and restaurants provide flickers of reality, a fleeting reminder of the world beyond and an intricate part of the complex brand identity that is Disney. As with any retail hub, Disney is working on activating changes—some subtle, and others major—that will keep visitors from ever having a need to exit the resort. The planned overhaul of Downtown Disney into the new Disney Springs will include an expansion to over 150 retail and restaurant outlets, spanning an area double the size of the current park. The brand also recently began allowing alcohol sales in the Magic Kingdom, proof of the purchasing power that adult consumers hold for the brand.

    As a branding professional, I can see why it isn’t any wonder Disney has ranked consistently in the top 20 of Interbrand’s Best Global Brands ranking. While the global economy might be recovering slowly, Disney continues to see increasing consumer demand for its parks, various resorts and retail merchandise. I’m sure that Disney’s rich heritage and continuing quest for relevance holds a strong promise for future success.

    Ariën Breunis is Associate Director Brand Analytics in Interbrand Amsterdam.


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