With the news that Eva Ziegler is leaving her position as the brand and marketing leader for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide’s W (and Le Meridien) brand, the future of the trendy, lifestyle boutique-styled hotel is buzzing in the communications sphere as many are wondering, what’s next?
Having been with Starwood for six years, Ziegler had become known for helping Starwood launch the trend of boutique-styled hotels amongst big chains and also easily juxtaposing it with fashion, music and entertainment.
But as discussed at the 2011 Reuters Global Luxury and Fashion Summit, in a
“post-recession world, high-end hoteliers’ investments are shifting away from fancy freebies like lotion and soap and toward expert service that reflects a real understanding of the guest’s preferences.”
Laurence Geller, Chief Executive Officer of Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc (Four Seasons, Intercontinental etc.), pointed out that these days amenities don’t impress.
In fact, he stressed,
“What comes down to it every time is service.”
Which might or might not be an issue with brands such as the W, where everything is representative of the brand.
For example, the floor mats in the ‘lifts’ (aka elevators) are changed three times a day with messaging reading “Good Morning,” “Good Afternoon” and “Good Evening,” respectively.
The minibar is stocked with everything one could possibly imagine from an “Ouch” kit (first aid) to a “Pleasure” kit (*ahem*).
While, those are fantastic amenities, an interesting reflection of guests preferences, can be found in none other than Lady GaGa.
When the illustrious Miss Gaga was promoting her “Born this Way” album release in New York City throughout the month of May, she chose to stay at Starwood’s St. Regis Hotel countless times; the St. Regis, of which in respect to the W, is more known for their service as opposed to what type of lifestyle oozes from their walls.
As Starwood’s CEO, Frits van Paasschen, pointed out,
“Given her age and profile, you’d think she’d be a W customer.”
A very telling statement, reflective of a changing and constantly evolving market.
Does mean something is wrong with the W?
After all, the brand is credited as being one of the few to put the ‘W’ back in Wall Street, post 9-11, with their New York-Downtown Hotel & Residences.
Also, earlier this month, the W Hotels Worldwide launched their music iPhone application under the direction of Michaelangelo Lâ€™Aqua, whose current task is to act as the brand’s ambassador for what is next and what is new on the global music scene.
With Ziegler’s departure in mind, the brand will need to continue to step up its game and align itself more strategically (and psychologically) in order to entice and woo itself to its target market and those on the outskirts of them.
In terms of service, this is something that The Plaza hotel honed in on by offering customers an Apple iPad in their rooms as added value to their concierge service, a tidbit van Paasschen was not quite sure the W would undertake.
In fact, in an interview with USA Today, van Paasschen, said he does not think much will change as Ziegler leaves for the brand is doing quite well, exceeding expectations in a post-recession global economy:
“Short answer: No big change. The brand’s doing really well right now. We still see a great amount of growth. London Leicester Square, for instance, opened with a bang in a market that you could argue was already well penetrated by design-driven brands.”
He went on to point out that luxury is evolving.
Thereby, the W’s success and global growth (50 hotels and counting) is evidence of that:
“It used to be that luxury was a way of showing that you’d arrived. It was all about pomp and circumstance,” van Paasschen said.
“Now, people have different definitions of a luxury brand, like W can fit alongside brands that are more traditional. I don’t think there is a backlash. (Consumers) will have more choice. They don’t want to go back to a single definition of what luxury is.”
The evidence is there.
As Little Pink Blog mentioned, in “LUXURY MARKETS: Why They Thrive Like Samba in Brasil,” many luxury brands are leaning their focus and attention towards the BRICs specifically for this reason.
Therefore, it is no surprise that Starwood is bringing the W to India as it is expecting the country to boom for their brand, overtaking Canada (1 United States, 2 China, 3 Canada):
“It is just a matter of time before India becomes the third largest country for us globally.”
The 55-story W Mumbai will launch in 2015 with 350 rooms, two contemporary restaurants, one Destination Bar, a signature W lounge, WET pool deck and SWEAT fitness center all on three acres of land.
- What do you think the future holds for the brand?
- Should they or shouldn’t they continue with their path of trendy amenities, or should the focus be realigned with service?
- Does it even matter?
As W designer, Jonathan Adler said,
“The W brand is about telling a stylish story, an expression of fun influenced by the new and old, local and global.”
Sasha H. Muradali runs the Little Pink Blog (formerly Little Pink Book PR). She holds a B.S. Public Relations from the University of Florida with a minor in Dance (â€™07) and an M.A. International Administration with a concentration in Communication from the University of Miami (â€™08). She loves Twitter (@SashaHalima), Harry Potter and the colour pink. Get a copy of the Little Pink Blog delivered to your Kindle and find us on Facebook.
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