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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
David Ansett, Brandamentalist.
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