What Does Brand Hospitality Mean?

By October 23, 2017 No Comments

What Does Brand Hospitality Mean?

Hospitality is human. Hospitality isn’t an industry. It isn’t a brand. It isn’t a marketing campaign. It isn’t even a “best practice.” Human experience lies at the heart of every interaction, and hospitality is about creating and facilitating interactions that lead to “heart-felt” (compelling, memorable, visceral) experiences.

Business at the cutting-edge

Brand hospitality is a way of doing business that is being forged at the cutting-edge crossroads of architecture, interior design, digital analytics and advertising. Brand hospitality brings the principles and practices of hospitality to any and all customer experiences, especially in places that have traditionally been less than “hospitable”. Brand hospitality is an approach that understands that no matter the industry or enterprise, marketing and “customer relations” are built into every step of a customer-informed, collaborative design process.   

Beyond brand engagement.

Beyond “brand engagement” is brand activation. Brands aren’t passive “things” that customers “engage” but rather active experiences that they live. Even the blandest brands are experiential presences in the customer’s world, so the real question is: what kind of experience does your brand activate, both for and with the customer?

If you build it, they will come.  

Brand hospitality is a co-created phenomenon between brands and customers, but brands hold the responsibility for planning and hosting the “party” to which customers are invited. Brands “activate” themselves to customers by building hospitality into the brand. To put a finer point on it, brands activate themselves when they bring the experience of hospitality to the customer.

A place to be.

People don’t go to spaces, they go to places. A “space” can be anywhere, but a place is a “special somewhere”, a place where people feel comfortably “hosted”, a place where they can be. (Where they can be interested, be curious, be confident, be amused, be intrigued, be at ease, be empowered – however they look to the brand to help them be.)  Brand hospitality is about creating a built environment or physical hub of brand attraction that recruits interest, inspires wonder, and facilitates well-being. (Herein lies the secret sauce at the crossroads of architecture, interior design, digital analytics, and advertising.)

Don’t just sit there: do something.

Brands only fully activate with customer interaction. When a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound if there’s no one there to hear it? The answer to this question may be elusive, but what we do know is this: when a brand falls in the forest, it only makes a “sound” (fully activates) when there’s a customer to “hear” (interact) with it. The best hosts are interactive and anticipate and facilitate their guests wants and needs. So do the best brands.

Two illustrative examples:


  1. In 2009, Volkswagen asked how they could do the impossible: make it fun for people to take the stairs. Enter the Fun Theory approach, a masterful example of pioneering brand hospitality where customer interaction was literally “key”. Through multi-channel engagement, Volkswagen actively solicited ideas about how to achieve this feat, making it fully customer-informed and co-creative. The winning idea? Stairs in a public transit station were overlaid with a pressure sensitive, step-responsive, digital “keyboard,” turning the stairs into an audible musical scale. People “played” the scale by ascending or descending the keyboard stairs for an end-to-end, interactive experience in Volkswagen’s brand hospitality.
  1. Ironically, hospitals are hardly known as beacons of hospitality, but Memorial Sloan Kettering’s new Josie Robertson facility on York Street is changing that. MSK discovered that while clinical care was excellent, cancer patients experienced the more human dimensions as sorely lacking, spurring MSK to adopt a hospitality-centric approach. Their new mission statement? We care. We understand. We inspire. Through a creative mix of interior redesign, digitally interactive access to medical records, the implementation of more personalized intake procedures and many other patient-informed, collaborative changes, MSK is leading the way in humanizing healthcare through brand hospitality.

Brand hospitality means creating places where the brand and the customer play an active role in co-creating a compelling, memorable experience. Now that’s what we call a party.