REPOSITIONING A LUXURY/UPSCALE BRAND AGAIN. WHEN WILL THEY GET IT RIGHT?
Shooting oneself in the same foot twice causes what the French describe as a 'Blessure' or a wound. In this case it is being named 'Bleisure' which I must assume is a leisurely shot in the foot.
In November 2007, Pullman was re-launched from some of their less-inspiring Sofitel properties ......... Quote " Accor also plans to hive off 35 of the brand's less inspiring hotels into a new chain aimed mainly at business travellers, where they will trade under the Pullman name".
At that time I somewhat cynically blogged,
Now while everyone else is courting the Business Traveller, Accor has a different plan. They will focus on hiving off their business travellers into less-inspiring properties. That sounds like a really unusual strategy! It sure could grab the attention of the corporate travel planners because the last thing they need for their travelling workers is to be inspired while travelling.
And Pullman has a nice 1930s ring to it. These were the noisy wooden creaky carriages that squeaked between train stations before being sent to the scrapyard.......or were they? Maybe they have been saved for rejuvenation as tomorrow's answer to today's 'less inspired'.
Fast forward now to May 2013,
At about the same time that everyone else is realising that a hotel lobby is a magnificent space to create comfortable people-watching areas, the great French hotel group have decided to furnish their Pullman Hotels with armchairs designed after train carriage seats.
Train carriage seats are not exactly what most people would decribe as the epitome of comfort and one can only assume that they are hoping to make an historic connection to their past, Pullman. Or perhaps they got a good deal from the railway as the French Railway system seeks to turn their magnificent TGV train services into even greater luxury on wheels. Either way, furniture itself will not do it even if designed by
Christophe Pillet. People watching and social interaction in public spaces is a science, as once painstakingly explained to me by the great architect, John Portman, creator of the original hotel atrium.
And while I generously say that the French group have decided, it should not be forgotten that the capital cost of all changes to FF&E are born by the Owner. I stress all changes. However their Interim CEO, Yann Cailliere announced “Since Pullman is mainly operated in management contracts, most of the capex, if you talk about renovations, will be borne by the owners”.
"....most of the capex...will be borne by the owners' suggests that some of the capex will be borne by the operator. Cailliere went on to say, "Pullman hotel owners will primarily cover the renovation costs of the brand refresh'.
And while I do appreciate that a brand will underwrite the research & development costs of concept design and the design of such items as armchairs, tables and reception desks, this is relatively trivial compared to the capital costs that will be necessary by the owners.......100%.
All of this goes to show that the management of a brand's image is a delicate or should I say a scientific evolution of messages that must be carefully crafted and communicated.
One brand, five very poor public relations gaffes, as I see them,
- Launched originally on the basis of being 'less inspiring'.
- Launched as Business focused hotels & now expanding to include Leisure, albeit nothing that I could discern for leisure other than meeting room tables designed like poker tables .
- New furniture designs without the benefit of (perhaps) designer striking visuals.
- Coining a phrase of Bleisure......which can be misconstrued by anyone who speaks French.
- Lack of clarity on who actually pays for the improvement.
If not gaffes, perhaps they are slips that need not happen. Messages that must be carefully crafted and delivered through selected media by PR specialists working with a designated brand leader.
And as a missed opportunity, nothing on the pullman website.