BY Joe Pine

The Next Genre of Marketing Experiences: Boutique Hotels


Jim and I have often said that the easiest way to get into the experience business is to open a cafe, for it engages all five senses and stages a place where customers can spend time with you.

Marketing a Better Experience

This strategy was followed by Barnes & Noble, ING Direct (now Capital One with its 360 Cafes in the US and Tangerine in Canada), Umpqua Bank, and countless others – including one hospital I know that, inspired by the original ING Direct Cafes that actually got consumes to want to spend time with a bank, asked itself “What part of our organization do our employees not want to spend time with?” And thus was born its HR Cafe!

Realizing the Next Experience Economy Marketplace

Well, there’s a new option on the strategic horizon: open a hotel! It may not be as easy, but many brands are doing just that as marketing experiences, including Restoration Hardware, Equinox, Shinola, Bulgari, Giorgio Armani, Ferragamo, Versace – it does seem to be a specialty of high-end Italian fashion brands. The latest? The furniture store West Elm, a unit of Williams-Sonoma, which just announced it would start a chain of boutique hotels, beginning with Detroit and Savannah in 2018. (See “West Elm to Launch Its Own Boutique Hotels“; subscription may be required.)

Is there a boutique hotel in your company’s future?

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