Flowers as hotel brand reinforcement

Elizabeth Marsh Elizabeth Marsh Uploaded

As flowers are so versatile and far-reaching, they can be used in a wide variety of ways to reinforce a brand. From containers to fresh versus dried or silk flowers; from sculptures made from driftwood or other such materials; from the types of flowers used - be it wild, field type flowers or rich sultry orchids - the style of the floral décor makes a huge statement about an establishment, its values, and its place in the market. So it is important to make sure this is the right statement and that it is constantly reviewed. Companies that understand this can use it as a powerful weapon in the fiercely competitive market place for the attention of the customer pool. Larger companies can use it to make sure guests are always aware which hotel they are in and international companies can use it to create a brand experience that is consistent but also local.

Most hotels are well aware that fresh flowers help to make guests feel welcome and at home. However, how many really use flowers to their full potential? Flowers can be tailored to the marketing and sales strategy of the hotel to make sure the right customers are engaged and that they keep coming back. There are so many ways to do this - some more obvious than others. There are also many other materials available that can also be used to create an atmosphere of affluence during a customer's stay.

Larger hotel chains could use a clear floral design strategy to keep the brand consistent so guests always know exactly which hotel they are in at any time. Standardised arrangements give a clear and visible signal that the hotel is organised enough to have thought this through without having to increase budgets or invest heavily in new furnishings. Boutique hotels, on the other hand, that generally prefer a more individual profile, can use flowers in precisely the opposite way. Unusual designs or materials serve to create interest, not just at the first point of contact but at various stages during their journey through the hotel. In this sense, it is perhaps preferable not to have cut flowers everywhere, but to stage the experience of the floral décor like a piece of music with cadences and crescendos, which begin and end at the main 'Wow' moment in the entrance.

Floral arrangements also speak about the profile of the establishment and convey a sense of their style and values. A restaurant that only uses roses and hydrangeas in their displays is potentially making a statement about the flowers it fails to use and which ones it considers worthy of its investment. Many up-market establishments prefer to use only white flowers as the quintessential marker of good taste and breeding. Some hotel managers tell me that they don't care whether the customer loves or hates the flowers as long as they talk about them. The most notable case of this is, in fact, Le Caprice and the Ivy restaurants. Their strategy as a 'home from home' crossed with a private members club is dependent on the flowers to provide a constantly changing talking point. This helps to stimulate conversations amongst people who could expect to keep bumping into each other several times a month. Others want their customers to comment on the flowers but only in the positive; and others still prefer the flowers to change in content but always the same sort of shape and style - a rock of stability in an uncertain world.

It is important to be aware of the impact of the flowers, to direct the floral decor towards the customers you wish to attract rather than just the ones you already have and also constantly to review it. As with all design, styles quickly become outdated and need to be refreshed. Customers are spoilt as never before with a constantly changing array of stimuli to attract their attention and purchases, so it is essential never to allow designs to go stale. This is even more important if customers are to return on a regular basis. New designs, colours, shapes and sizes - even for a venue with a more traditional clientele - bring new life to a space and echo different aspects of the interior décor. This is key if (as is often the case) a considerable investment has been made in the interior design. Flowers focus the eye like no other medium on whichever aspect of the interior design they reflect. For example an arrangement using flowers that are the same colour as a nearby painting make that painting leap out of the wall. I remember visiting an office on several occasions and only noticing the painting by the reception desk after we had arranged the reception flowers to match one of the colours used within it. Suddenly the painting was the first thing I noticed as I walked in.

Rustic flowers used in a highly modern environment, by creating a sense of contrast, emphasise the sense of modernity whilst simultaneously softening the mood of the room. Tropical flowers, with their exotic overtones mostly derived from the fact that they are not native, enhance a sense of modernity in a different way - more flamboyant, exotic and unusual. For some reason modern design often has a masculine feel to it with muted colouring, strong, direct lines and squared off edges. Colourful flowers offset this, adding a touch of the feminine and a softening aspect, whilst other natural materials such as branches, bamboo, moss etc reinforce the masculinity of the environment. For a traditional English look, low wide bowls in silver or ceramic, overflowing with amorphous blooms and foliage in a tumbling and plentiful array, convey a sense of opulence and ease.

So flowers and natural materials are incredibly versatile and can be used to whatever end is desired. The trick, however, is to make sure they are being used to best effect. Establishments with no floral design strategy are missing an invaluable opportunity to engage with their customers on an emotional level - and it is well known that purchasing decisions are made purely on an emotional level.


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