A few thoughts on storytelling…

Storytelling is certainly a ‘buzz word’ that has been going around in marketing for a few years now. It is one of the main components of a content marketing approach, but I feel that it is so much more than digital marketing.  A strong story, can breathe life into a brand, it can support the brand’s values and bring a brand alive. It creates connections with customers without blatantly selling to them. Most importantly, it needs to be authentic, creative and inspirational.

I recently met Chris Humphrey, an expert consultant in customer culture, strategy and experiences. His company is called ‘Pelorus Jack’. I immediately asked myself who is Pelorus Jack? Well, he was a Risso dolphin that guided ships through the particularly dangerous of stretch of water in the Cook Straight between Wellington and Nelson, New Zeland from 1888 to 1912.  Many ships would wait for him to appear before they chose to sail this challenging sea. I immediately connected with this story, and it says so much about Chris and his approach to guiding brands.

Pelorus Jack

If you are travelling to Bangkok, check out KarmaKarmet Secret World.  It is not just a café, but also an artisan parfumeur. I often travel on my own and when discovering this little beauty, I was immediately captivated.  From the delicious fragrances that waft throughout the retail section (an ideal spot for gift-shopping) to the storytelling in their cafe,  every touch has been carefully thought through. Most of all, I loved their table mats and drinks coasters.  The latter, are folded handwritten airmail letters between two family members. I found myself running around trying to collect as many as possible to see where the story goes.

The KarmaKarmet Times as a place mat
Family letters as glass coasters

One of my favourite projects, when working at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill was researching Sir Winston Churchill for the newly designed Churchill Bar.  So much has been written on Britain’s greatest leader, we decided to focus on the love between Sir Winston and his wife Lady Clementine.  On spending some time at Chartwell (Winston and Clementine’s former residence and now part of the National Trust) we learnt so much about the love between Sir Winston and Lady Clementine. From how Clementine would place a fresh jar of roses on his desk every day, to their shared passion for animals to Sir Winston’s membership of the small but rather wonderful charity, The Winkle Club. One of my favourite stories, was when he removed a book from his library, he would insert one of his children’s stuffed toys in its place to remember where to return it.

Sir Winston & Clementine Churchill

During our tour we noticed that we were followed around the garden by a ginger Tom cat, then Jock V. On donating the house to the National Trust, Sir Winston said that there must always be a ginger Tom cat living at Chartwell. Now there is Jock VI. All of these stories came alive in the bar, from the handwritten love letters between Sir Winston and Lady Clementine, to the uniforms designed by Henry Poole, Churchill’s tailor, and to Jock, Rufus and Pig, three hand-knitted animals. Jock I have already described above, Rufus was the name of both Churchill’s poodles and Pig was one of the animals that Churchill would draw as he signed off his love letters to Clementine.  They are situated amongst the books within the bar, all with their own story to tell. Larry from The Arbuturian, shared all our stories in this video.

Yes, the content marketing side is important. However, if there is no authentic story, some campaigns can feel fabricated and artificial. My advice is research, research, research and listen, you never know what you can find. Story telling can come alive through the history of a building, through art and design and through the narrative of a particular person.  If it is an authentic story, it will bring guest facing experiences alive, a story that colleagues will want to share will be a key component to differentiating a brand from its competitors.  

Globalisation vs Localisation

The question I often ask myself is, “do global brand campaigns really work?” Yes, we live in a truly global world now. The digital revolution has driven this but with my experience and, in my humble opinion, campaigns need to be localised to meet the cultural requirements of different regions.  Why is this so important? Campaigns must make an impact, catch the current and future customers’ attention and most importantly, need to be embraced by local teams. 

I have been very lucky to travel through Europe, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and South America and work across Europe, Middle East, Africa, CIS, Russia and India during my life.  I am originally from London and have lived in Paris and am now based in Zurich but one thing that is certain, is that every single country offers an individual culture that recognises its past and embraces its future.

My passion is in understanding these cultures. What makes the locals tick, what is important to them, how they communicate and express themselves through conversation, culture, art, music and books. How can a brand connect in the best possible way.  Herewith my 5 key learnings:

  1. American English/British English

I have worked on a number of campaigns that have originated in the US.  As a native English speaker, the complexities of the English language need to be adjusted according to where the campaign will land.   We all understand the language but the variance of particular words must be carefully reviewed, whilst always taking into consideration American spelling vs British spelling. Local native English speaking teams across the world, need to feel that they have been considered through the use of the English language in a campaign. 

2. Keeping the regional teams in the loop right from the planning stages is essential.  

Will the campaign be a cultural fit?  Are there any political or economical crises happening in the countries where the campaign will be launched? Learning from experience, a campaign I worked on had the main headline “Its good not to be home”.  At that time, Europe was in the middle of the immigration crises and this message certainly did not fit well in Europe, let alone within the more traditional cultures of the Middle East, India and my colleagues’ region in China. Fortunately, we just had time to change it to “Make the most of being away”, highlighting the message of how it can be fun when travelling for business.

3. Translation/Transcreation

Transcreation into further languages adds further complications. English headlines can be short and direct. Transcreating them into Latin, Cyrillic or Arabic languages often brings much longer sentences. Check the transcreation with native speakers well in advance, to ensure the messaging sounds like it has been created in each mother-tongue. In addition, creative assets often only have space for short, punchy statements.  Think about where these creative assets will be used and how the messaging space needs to be adjusted.

4. Models

If you are using models in your campaign, take into consideration, where they come from, how they are dressed and is the look suitable for the brand that is being promoted. Keep in mind, the religion and culture of where the campaign will run. Scantily clad models are a big no-no in the Middle East, whilst showing the sole of a models’ foot in campaigns in Asia is seen as downright disrespectful. Ensuring your local teams have time to give feedback and additional thoughts is essential.

5. Timing

Planning, planning, planning.  A campaign will often launch in the main market and then the regional teams are requested to expedite it as quickly as possible after the original launch phase. Research in advance of the main launch, when are the best months for a campaign to launch around the world.  Different countries and regions, will have multiple festivals/holidays when brands are competing against each other and media costs are much higher. What kind of campaign will make the most impact, according to the country? Print media, Out of Home, digital, social or all of them? How can your local teams bring the campaign to life through the customer experience?  In hotels, retail outlets and the service industries there are so many opportunities to share the same message through events, unexpected gestures and genuine connections which your client facing colleagues can really embrace.  They must however, be given adequate notice of when the campaign will launch so that they can plan accordingly, without having additional stress to their day-to-day roles.

In my experience, keeping the above in mind, will encourage international teams to work closer together whilst ensuring that the campaign provides the best local fit.

#branding #marketing #communications #campaigns #global #local #customerexperience #hotels #strategy #serviceindustries #storytelling

Bringing Brand Values to Life

More often than not, when chatting about the importance of brand to non-brand folk, many people jump to the conclusion that I will talk about the logo, colour palette and brand standards.  I wish it was that simple!  Yes, these are important as they are one form of representation to the outside world, but there is so much more to brands.

Brands that have a strong brand value, think Disney or Nike, will also have a purpose. This is their intention as to how they represent themselves and how they will unite the culture of the company and their customers. It is these brands that are often successful. Many large companies, will also have a number of sub-brands. They will follow the ‘Mother Ship’s’ purpose but each brand will have its own set of values that differentiate it from its siblings.

One of my favourite brands in the hotel industry is Andaz. Their commitment is to ‘Create an inspiring experience through a kaleidoscope of local culture’.  For me this is a really strong value, as it not only captures the guest experience but it is also a strong message for a brand marketeer like myself that can bring a hotel alive.

My favourite project that I use to describe the importance of brand values was the launch of Andaz Delhi. It was the first Andaz hotel in India. Andaz is the Urdu word for ‘Personal Style’ so it was an extremely important launch for us. However, Andaz Delhi was not your typical Andaz hotel. As a boutique-inspired lifestyle brand, that is normally situated in an interesting part of town, that represents the culture of the city, we launched a 401-bedroomed airport hotel in between Delhi and Gurgaon.

401 Reasons to Fall in Love with Delhi

Working with my dear friend and mentor Fiona Caulfield (check out her beautifully created Love Travel Guides) and the then General Manager Heddo Siebs, we brainstormed how we were going to express the essence of the brand in the hotel.  Our final idea was ‘401 Reasons to Fall in Love with Delhi’.  This was a mammoth project, just imagine trying to come up with 50 really good reasons to fall in love with your own city, yet alone 401!!  Every room has its own reason, which is defined in a beautiful book designed by the dream team at Brewhouse.  In addition, as you enter each guestroom or suite, you will also find a unique piece of art, illustrating each reason.  The book covers a range of subjects from art and architecture to local delicacies, festivals, nature, shops and many more.

Reason No. 302 – Roshanara Gardens
Reason No. 258 – Delhi Blue Pottery

We could only have achieved this project with the additional passion and commitment from of Heddo and his opening team. They felt as strongly about the idea as we did and we all committed together to making this idea work. The brand values, brought the hotel alive, creating a focus on everything we touched from the hotel uniforms to the stories around the hotel to the beautifully restored Ambassador car that was driven around India to spread the Andaz word.

Andaz Delhi Uniforms
Andaz Ambassador

What makes me so proud, is that the current team, General Manager Madhav Sehgal and head of Marketing Communications Pratiti Rajpal maintain this value. Following them on Facebook, they continue to choose a series of different reasons to create unique events and guest experiences.  Most recently Reason No. 82, one of my favourite brands from India, the much loved, iconic Royal Enfield, with a unique event to celebrate Father’s Day.

If you are planning to visit Delhi, the book is a must-buy and is available at Andaz Delhi.

#brandvalues #bringingbrandstolife


Brands and the hospitality industry are my passion and I have learnt so much during my career that with persuasion from friends, it is now to time that I shared my experience and learnings.

I have been so lucky to look after some really fabulous brands, I’ve often said I have worked on brands that bring joy but I have also been fortunate enough to have worked with some brilliant, clever, funny yet genuine people, who I will always count as friends.

Each of my roles have given me the experience and knowledge to jump to the next role, just like Super Mario.  From the luxury drinks industry, to luxury food and beverage retail and Michelin-starred restaurants. Most recently working within and with hotels, from luxury to business and from select service to individual brands.

It was in my early career at Moët Hennessy that I recognised the power of a brand. If everyone in the company believes in it, including Marketing, Communications and the Sales team, then together we can make magic.  We had great fun in those days, it was back in the 90’s, when we worked hard and we partied hard too! What is most important though, was that the left hand worked together with the right. We hosted events together, our PR campaigns were driven by strong strategies from the Marketing teams, and the sales teams used everything that we created to sell our brands not only off-trade but on on-trade as well. Walking past an off-licence I would see the work that we had done in Marketing and PR illustrated in a shop window and I could not but feel a sense of pride.

In moving to the hotel industry, I quickly realised that it is important that not only the Sales and Marketing teams work together but the operations teams come on the journey with you, or you go on the journey with operations. Essentially, when everyone strives for the same result, an energy is triggered that you are all swept along with and it delivers the outcome you deserve.

In this blog, my aim is to cover a variety of subjects with a focus on brand that will help hotels bring that essence to life too: from partnerships and sponsorships that work, to bringing brands to life and from strategic planning to delivering results.  From understanding when you have a strong PR story, that the media really want to write about, to Global campaigns versus localisation.  This is a new journey for me and I hope you will join me in the discovery.