Inventing a past for a brand of the future

There’s an excellent interview in the FT Weekend [requires registration, but worth it] with restaurateur Jeremy King. He’s about to open his first hotel, and during the interview he displays an excellent approach to brand and experience building.

The Beaumont Hotel is a new name and a totally new build, but by imagining a convincing backstory, he’s got a tool he can use to explain to everyone else in the project what the vision is. It’s a great technique and I’m sure will lead to an appealing and coherent customer experience.

He tells me the story he imagined for his new hotel, complete with fictitious founder James “Jimmy” Beaumont. Jimmy, an American mid-westerner from farming stock, was working as the general manager of the Carlyle in New York.

“One day he is chatting to some guests, bemoaning that there he is in New York and it’s 1926, prohibition’s really taken hold and the only people having fun are at the speakeasies. New York’s getting violent, the hotel is quiet and incredibly boring because you can’t serve a drink and he says to these ladies, ‘I’ve had enough. I want to get out of the business’ and they persuade him not to. They say, “Go abroad, everybody’s getting excited about the Caribbean or Cuba, go somewhere else – Paris? No, the language. Well, how about London?”

King imagines the “original” hotel was peopled by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, legendary CBS reporter Ed Murrow . . .

“Of course,” says King, “you’d never know this but the photographs, the art in the hotel . . . they all tell this story.”

 

 

Why work doesn’t happen at work

I’m not the biggest fan of Ted talks, but this one struck a chord. It reminded me of this classic John Cleese talk on creativity as it is discusses how to get in the right frame of mind to be productive. People can’t be truly creative on demand, and the distractions inherent in a busy office are actively destructive to being in a flow state.

That said, the traditional, bustling workplace has a vital place (as Yahoo knows). Working relationships have to be build on physical proximity and serendipity. Nothing beats sorting out a tricky issue over coffee or finding out accidentally that you and a colleague share a common interest.

But businesses would do well to acknowledge that presenteeism is not a virtue. Hours in do not equal work out. Let’s give trusted employees clear tasks and objectives, and let them deliver them in the way that works best for them. Because that will also mean it’s the best way for the business.

 

Launching the Guardian’s websites 1998

I was brand manager at the Guardian when the “Guardian Unlimited” websites were launched in the 90s. As part of the launch, I was tasked with creating a CD-ROM called Get The Net which had starter ISP software and this video of the editor, Alan Rusbridger, giving his thoughts on the internet revolution. I think his thoughts stand up pretty well.

 

Ever noticed how hard it is to be unpleasant on Facebook?

There’s no Dislike button, it’s tricky to block people and there’s no option to Reject event invites (you can only Ignore them). It’s all terribly inoffensive.

And that’s a key reason for Facebook’s incredible success.

The internet can be a horrible place. People shoot off unfair blog posts, thumb down your comments on YouTube and have you ever read the article comments on the Daily Mail website. Or even worse, the Guardian!?!

Facebook offers a Disnified version of the internet for people. Everything is OK and you won’t get bruised. It’s like going back to the playground, but this time there are no bullies. Everyone has to wear a name tag and play nice.

We’re all vulnerable and we all have egos. Zuckerberg is either a genius or he’s stumbled on a genius idea.

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