How the Hoxton Hotel Brand Director “bottles the magic”

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 17.57.34I recently got some interesting insights into how you "bottle the magic" of a service brand, by interviewing Timothy Griffin, the Brand Director of The Hoxton hotel group. This followed my trip to the Hoxton's latest opening, in Amsterdam, that I posted on here. I was keen to learn how Timothy and his team were so effective at capturing and exporting the essence of The Hoxton, from its London birthplace to Amsterdam and on to the planned openings in Paris and New York.

1. Living the brand

The first thing that struck me when I visited Hoxton HQ was how cool the reception area was. This is no typical, boring corporate office. Rather, you are immediately immersed into the brand world, feeling like you are signing in to a Hoxton hotel, complete with old leather armchairs, vintage furniture and industrial warehouse-style finishings. For people working here, from day 1 you must get a feel for what The Hoxton is about.

2. Front-line experience

There is a saying that "retail is detail", and the same goes for the hotel business. Timothy's previous experience means he has a real grasp of the thousands of little things that make up a hotel brand. He started out on the front desk of The Waldorf Astoria in New York. And prior to becoming Brand Director of the Hoxton, he spent four years working in the original hotel, in Shoreditch, first as Director of Operations and then as General Manager. Getting this front-line experience seems obvious, but many brand directors, CMOs or CEOs of service brands seem to parachute in to jobs with little or no such experience. Should Dave Lewis not have spent a few weeks working in Tesco's stores after leaving Unilever, prior to taking over the CEO job, for example?

3. Really invest in creativity

I'm impressed by the coherence of the Hoxton brand, from the style of the interiors to the in-hotel communication through to the digital presence. This a brand with a clear and distinctive voice. One explanation for this is the in-house creative team that Timothy leads. 12 people work on every aspect of the brand delivery, including identity, communication and digital media. The only other place I've seen like this before was innocent, as I posted on here; funnily enough, they also had a 12-person in-house creative team. This investment in "on-tap" creative resource means that everyone is immersed in the brand world on a daily basis, and exposed to what other people are working on. There is much less opportunity for dilution or mis-alignment when briefing creative work compared to briefing a selection of different agencies, and much more opportunity for co-creation.

4. Make it real

There was no big brand guidelines book on show at Hoxton HQ. Rather, the brand values are brought to life and communicated internally mainly using examples of Hoxton service. To do this, Timothy spends a lot of time out and about in the company's different properties, collecting examples of good service and brand delivery. Certain of these examples have become "defining gestures": replicable and distinctive service features that help make The Hoxton experience memorable. One example is the brown paper breakfast bags they hang outside your room each afternoon. Check out below the sort of creative detail I mentioned above: on the bag is written "Free Hox Nosh from the Breakfast Pixies". You wouldn't get that in a Hilton, would you?

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In conclusion, to bottle and bring the magic of your brand to life like The Hoxton, get out of the office to distill what makes your brand tick in the real word, capturing and codifying examples.