Brand Anatomy: The Mercer Hotel, NYC

Mercer Lobby

Certain brands thrill me–instilling the kind of rabid devotion to products or service that we aim to create among our clients’ consumers. So in the interest of understanding what makes a brand freak tick, here’s a self-dissection of one of my favorite hotel brands in the world, Andre Balazs’ Mercer Hotel in New York City.

Designed to Death

I’ve written before my belief that “beauty is a killer app”, and while your mileage may vary, for my taste, Christian Liagre’s modern, soulful minimalism captures the essence of SOHO chic in a way that simply makes my freak flag flap. The aesthetic is consistently applied throughout the property with hundreds of thoughtful, well-designed details that you just know someone sweated. Love that. Love the density of experience it creates. Love that someone wanted to thrill someone like me with their own rabid devotion to their brand.
Lesson:
Don’t hire people who like your brand to work on it. Hire people who are passionate, bordering on obsessive, about your brand–their enthusiasm will translate into deeper brand experiences for your consumers.

Unexpected

A couple of examples:

My wife and I were celebrating an anniversary, and upon entering our (upgraded) room found a basket containing a bottle of Champaigne and fresh fruit, accompanied by a hand written note from the aptly named Philip Truelove, the hotel’s General Manager.

In early January I received a beautifully designed, letter pressed, card on 150 lb. stock wishing me well for 2008. Marketers can often get mired in the quantitative measure of impressions. This unexpected, and thoughtful gesture spoke to the depth of an impression, and the fact that this card is still in my briefcase is testament to the effectiveness of their tactic. Lesson: Well executed surprises delight. They also lead to deep bonds with brands.

Culture

Russell Crowe might disagree, but I’ve never received anything less than superior service at the Mercer, and in terms of brand perception, this is a huge differentiator re: their competition. When ordering breakfast, service is so fast you might think they already knew your order, and were cooking it to order outside your door two minutes before knocking. Fast. Efficient.

Ditto the concierge, bellmen, and building maintenance. The Mercer has a high performance culture that respects my needs–understanding that their business clientele are stressed enough in the rush-of-the-morning before heading out to slay dragons, and don’t need the additional frustration of waiting 45 minutes for a coffee and bagel. Lesson: Hire people who can manifest your brand’s experiential ideals, and then deliver them to your clientele consistently.

Exclusive

The first time I arrived at the hotel, the driver passed it three times before stopping. There was no sign announcing the name. That’s like having a Coke bottle without a logo! (hmmmm . . .) It created for me, a certain cache’ that suggested if you didn’t know how to find it you probably shouldn’t stay there; that staying at the Mercer was more like crashing at your friend’s fabulous loft than a commercial transaction (though your AMEX will quickly dispel that illusion) . It’s private, more personal, Secret Agent Branding™ that holds an allure for me in the mass-marketed, over-promoted, everybody-knows-our-name sphere of travel marketing. Lesson: Whispering is seductive.

There are a hundred other brand molecules that inform the gestalt of this wonderful place, but this will have to do for now. Honestly, a bit more research is in order.

The Mercer Hotel: http://www.mercerhotel.com/

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Rick Julian

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