Camper and the Art of Bold Brand Gestures

100% Barcelona
Recently I spent a week in Barcelona attending a learning university with a few hundred of the worlds most exciting entrepreneurs. The event was held at a spectacular, but typical business-style hotel in the Port District. The day the event finished, I switched hotels as I was keen to immerse myself in a richer vein of the Barcelona experience. And where better to stay in order to do that than Casa Camper.

I have to admit from the outset that I’m a brandaholic. I’m addicted to brands with soul, authenticity and rich, unique personality (sounds like it could be a description of Barcelona itself). I’ve been a Camper fan for some years. Camper make shoes, but they’re not just another shoe company. Camper fuses design, materials and marketing to create a brand story that is movingly summed up by two of their mantra-like positioning lines: ‘The Walking Society’ and ‘Imagination Walks.’

Welcome to Casa Camper
Over the years I’d come across their hotel in Barcelona; Casa Camper and loved the boldness of that as a brand gesture. Imagine a brand that launches a hotel as part of their brand building strategy. A couple of years ago, VW followed suit with their Hotel Fox in Copenhagen, launched to promote the release of Volkswagen Fox. Recently Camper opened a second Casa Camper in Berlin, underscoring the ROI benefits from what might seem like an outlandish branding activity.

CamperEntrance

I spent two nights in Casa Camper and thoroughly enjoyed the detail and vibe of the brand experience. Casa Camper may be run as a commercially successful, 30 room boutique hotel, but it is uniquely on-brand in many dimensions beyond what you would expect from hotel accommodation. Yes the hotel was every-bit as comfortable as I’d desire, but the experience was more akin to spending 48 hours in several wonder-filled chapters of brand story telling.

I stayed in a suite – which was huge, with walls painted in camper Red. The lounge area had a hammock which could be stretched-out in front of the french windows to the balcony. My afternoon siestas in the hammock as I snoozed to the sound of Barcelona life below my window were among my richest of my memories, and facilitated for me by my ever-warmer friends at Camper.

CamperLounge

The electronic key came tucked-into the front of a Camper pocket guide to Barcelona. Every single element of the experience reflected the Camper brand visual identity and spoke in the playful and adventurous Camper brand voice.

DSCN0739

At check-in I was offered iPod cables for the stereo in my room, the safe in the bedroom is large enough for a laptop and has a power point inside, and the in-room wireless broadband is free. The guests at the hotel spanned from mid-twenties to mid-sixties, but all with a similar sense of style and adventure. Camper seem to have a very clear picture of their target market and an understanding of the extras that are meaningful to them.

CamperBed

Instead of in-room bar fridges, Casa Camper has a cafe open all day and into the night. The cafe is stocked with hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, salads, fruit, yogurt, deserts, baguette, ham and cheese, nuts, chips et. al. which along with a cooked breakfast came included in the cost of the room.

CamperCafe
DSCN0757

The hotel itself was located dead centre of Barcelona. Everything in the city was in walking distance, as shown on the huge ‘walking map’ of the city on the wall near reception. In the surrounding neighborhood a growing flock of cool cafes, independent music and edgey fashion retailers are springing-up – testament the strength of the Camper brand, it casts a culture changing halo over the surrounding streets and laneways.

DSCN0763

Dream of Boldness
As brand gestures go, Casa Camper is a bold one. Few brand managers or brand owners think big enough to conceive of this type of statement for their brand. But just because a brand gesture is bold, doesn’t mean it needs to be a budget black hole. Few above the line brand campaigns could deliver the ROI of the two Camper hotels, nor could they be created for the same cost. And arguable no TVC could ever have the impact on a city that Casa Camper has on Barcelona and its visitors. We’re not talking about a remarkable moment, we’re talking about a memorable experience – and that is something far deeper and longer lasting.

Clearly not all brands can afford to think as big as opening a hotel, but the rewards are clearly there for those who dare to dream. I would implore all brand owners to think about how they might dream a little bigger, think a little bolder and conceive a gesture for their brand that could in it’s own way create a remarkable experience for their clients and customers.

If you think a bold brand gesture is just what your brand needs, we’d be only too happy to have a chat about where the opportunities may lie. Why not get in touch.

David Ansett, Brandamentalist.
If you’d like daily updates of our brand thinking, you can follow me on Twitter here.

10 Comments

  1. Nice Dave. One of my favorite overseas brand experiences is Singapore airport. There is simply no better airport to wait for a connecting flight. Here are some nature walks you can do in the airport while you wait.
    My favorite is the Cactus Garden.

  2. Camper is definitely an exciting brand. With the success of Casa Camper Barcelona, Camper is opening a new hotel in Berlin in autumn. Did you manage to get to their restaurant dos palillos? I have heard about it but never been.

  3. While enjoying the pictures of an experience we locals really only see the ‘shoebox’ of, this article is sometimes giving Camper a bit too much credit. Contrary to what the article states, the area where the hotel is located was already crowded with bars and cafes. Camper may have read the culture well, but I very much doubt the hotel in any way has been ‘culture changing’. The combination of the two big museums, MACBA and CCCB, plus the two more calm and beautiful streets of Raval (Doctor Dou and Pintor Fortuny) round the corner have created a small area visited also by ‘culture seekers’ and intellectuals as well as skaters and travelers. As opposed to the hoards of stag-night celebrating drunks on the Rambla, fucking African prostitutes in the Boqueria market hall (how’s that for authenticity?)

    When the Casa Camper launched, Barcelona was in desperate shortage of hotels, so such a big risk-taking it wasn’t.

    The Camper restaurant is right on the corner of the same block as the hotel. Now called ‘Dos palillos’ it was previously called ‘foodball’, also by Camper, which offered healthy fast food in a kind of football setting. Another ‘reading’ of the culture, taking two trends and making a mash-up.

    And while on the subject, what’s ‘authentic’ with Barcelona?
    And how does Camper contribute to that in any way that benefits the people living in the city? What’s the impact on the city you are referring to?

  4. Interesting reply Fredrik – as a tourist to Barcelona back in 1999 I have to disagree. Anyway, I wonder what other bold brand gestures Barcelona had back in ’99? Fair to say we weren’t as brand savvy then so no doubt we missed out on many. Have a look at this hotel friends of mine stayed in whilst in Berlin.

  5. Fredrik, thanks for your great comments. One of the things about brand – and life too, is that we all have our own perspectives. Often brands and brand experiences that seem authentic to outsiders, have a whole set of other meanings to locals – this is especially true with place branding. The trick for brands is to get the balance right. Often the brands that have authenticity with those closest to it, succeed with their other markets. It seems for you like Camper might have lost its shine as it has grown to be a global brand.

Post a comment

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,