The art of boutique branding

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as a point of contact or interaction between a business and its customers, in other words a touchpoint is each and every time your guest interacts with your hotel. An interaction could be the opening statement in your emails through to the spec of your bathroom.

This might sound relevant to an owner with a string of hotels; however this couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether you own just one boutique hotel or a collection of them, your brand experience is what defines you as a business.

Touchpoints are a tool for building a brand, they are tangible cues that help to trigger or create memories essential in creating a memorable stay. Each touchpoint carries and conveys a given message, and collectively, your touchpoints form your guest’s brand experience. So if your hotel message is "living life passionately", for example, each touchpoint needs to express this for it to make an impact on your guest.

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Like most hospitality businesses, the boutique hotel landscape is very competitive. If you’re trying to differentiate your property against your competitors then creating a branded experience is one way to elevate yourself above the noise in the marketplace.

A branded experience is not the same as having a ‘branded hotel’, after all, this term can carry a lot of baggage in boutique circles. It just means that every touchpoint is in sync and reflects what you stand for. A boutique experience is the art of creating a unique and memorable encounter and is only possible if all your touchpoints are in alignment.

More than a name
While your brand name and logo are not the brand itself, they are one of the many touchpoints that customers come into contact with. If you focus your attention on just the physical manifestations of your brand — i.e. logo, name, FF&E — then the bond between yourself and your guest will be shallow and weak.

Hoteliers are in a unique position to build a strong bond with their customers. Some companies never get to meet their customers at all, because all their interactions are via mail or online. Others only get 30 seconds to make an impression through expensive adverts; whereas a hotelier has hours, if not days, to create that special connection with their customer. Therefore a hotelier has countless opportunities to build a powerful message that will mould your guest’s boutique experience — there are no excuses.

Having a faultless reception is meaningless if housekeeping doesn’t meet the same standards. The same can be said for design; having an amazing reception is a good start, but if the rooms are uninspiring or ill equipped then all that effort is wasted. This is much more than running a tight ship, for a boutique hotel this should be the bare minimum.

We are all seasoned travellers and can sample five-star service at a three-star price, so our expectations are so much higher than they were 10-15 years ago. This is about creating a layered message that builds into a brand experience for guests to savour for themselves or share with others — critical for building customer engagement and loyalty.

Design is one of the key touchpoints of a hotel, but there are many subtle ones too, like the tone of voice in all your communications with guests; either through email or the copy used for navigating around your hotel — they all count. This is not about reaching your customers through repetition, but through impact. If you overlook one or two touchpoints it’s not the end of the world, but if you’re denying their power as a collective you are missing a serious trick.


Afroditi Krassa is a British product and interior designer who founded AfroditiKrassa in 2002. Email info@afroditi.com

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