Defining the True Meaning of Luxury
With Carson Glover, Vice President of Brand Marketing & Communications, The Peninsula
Welcome to Eat Takeaway! In this series we hear from brand and marketing leaders across the world on their ambitions and challenges in the year ahead and beyond. We explore their day-to-day and what lessons they have for brand teams and marketers in the fast-changing and sometimes overwhelming worlds of brand experience and delivering for customers. Check-out our three take-aways at the end.
In our first episode, Robert Costelloe, Eat Creative’s Head of Growth, sat down with Carson Glover, Vice President of Brand Marketing & Communications of The Peninsula to hear what’s in store for this esteemed heritage brand.
Please note this interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Robert Costelloe: What does your day-to-day look like?
Carson Glover: For anyone in marketing or branding communications, your day is never what you think it’s going to be. The day can consist of a lot of communication. I think that’s something I’ve learned over the years - you can’t have enough time even informally, with your teams. We manage a large network of agencies around the world. So usually top and tail of the day, we'll be on calls with them. And of course, supporting anything that our network of hotels will need. So, my day is always different, but that’s why I like my job.
RC: How do you deliver greater levels of expectation for guests in the Peninsula experience?
CG: The idea of luxury is about choice. We want to be a place where people can come and if they want to indulge in food, if they want to indulge in spa, in wellness, in health, in culture, we can offer that to them in any way, shape, or form. So, our wellness programme, Life Lived Best, was designed for whether you want five minutes of meditation or if you want a whole day of activities.
Digitally, I go to the communications. Emails can be quite laborious and people don’t talk on the phone anymore. Our PenChat allows us to communicate with whatever preferred method our guest wants – that could be Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, whatever.
The reason why people come back and stay with us is because of the teams at our hotels that deliver that service. They know our guests, they know what they like, what they don’t like. Our guests feel at home and really start to become part of our community and family. And that’s really who we are.
"We can talk about, digitalisation, we can talk about the metaverse, but at the end of the day our guests are coming to us knowing they’re going to get an incredible experience."
We can talk about, digitalisation, we can talk about the metaverse, but at the end of the day our guests are coming to us knowing they’re going to get an incredible experience. They’re coming to us because they know we will take care of them. The people who work at our hotels are such a dynamic group of individuals who have so many experiences, insights and perspectives that really inform how they then deliver that guest experience. And to us that’s critical.
RC: What do you see as your and the hospitality industry’s biggest priorities this year?
CG: Priority number one is getting the business back after recent years of being brought to our knees as an industry. Priority number two is to ensure brand integrity is maintained while we do that. At the same time, from a macro business perspective, a priority is finding the right talent who are trained, understand and can deliver that level of service that’s expected at a hotel like The Peninsula.
We have had two hotel projects in the works for quite some time that are going to market this year. So how do we reignite consumers interest and desire in the brand after being absent for a couple years? We are rolling out our new brand campaign. What I hope you'll see is something that is not like any hotel ad out there. We really needed to distinguish ourselves and set ourselves apart. Because there’s an authenticity about this brand. People are travelling in a meaningful way and staying with brands that mean something.
This brand is the oldest continuous hotel company in the world who in essence developed Asian hospitality almost 100 years ago. How do we share that with people and highlight our people who deliver that incredible service? I think it’s a little bit about punching above our weight class.
RC: What are you most excited about in the year ahead?
CG: For an owner operator, to have two properties opening at the same time is a momentous occasion. For us to be able to offer The Peninsula experience in London and Istanbul is extremely exciting. These are two remarkable cities. Istanbul - an incredible crossroads of culture. Such a dynamic city and we have a stunning location right on the Bosporus. And then London – we’ve been looking for a hotel there for upwards of 30 years and it’s finally coming to fruition. That will be phenomenal.
Our brand campaign Peninsula Perspectives is our first new campaign in a decade, so this means a great deal for us. We have an opportunity now to build the brand and bring people back into the fold after quite some time.
Personally, I have a much stronger desire to go to places than I probably did a couple of years ago. I’m hopeful, after this world was so shut, siloed, and divided again, that as travel resumes, we can move back in a direction where cultures were being honoured and respected, not walls put up. And I think for that to happen, travel needs to happen. For travel to happen, you need hotels to stay at and we have those hotels.
RC: And is there anything that you would call a ‘watch-out’ for the year?
My watch out is it’s very hard to measure brand work. And in this current business climate, many people are being tasked with measuring and proving justification for business results in a very short timeframe. I heard CMOs have the shortest shelf life of any C-suite position which never used to be the case. You used to have CMOs who would get in there and build and nurture these brands. And that’s really when you start to reap the reward. So, my biggest red flag is to remind my colleagues that building a brand takes time. Without the brand, you don’t have the business. And I think a lot of people forget that.
"Building a brand takes time. Without the brand, you don’t have the business."
I’d also say it’s increasingly important for marketers to stop thinking about channel-led marketing and think about content-led marketing. So really work this year, as hospitality and travel gets back on their feet more, on having conversations around what story you want to tell and to whom, and then determine what content you need to do that. For me, I have always been less concerned about where we place content, I am confident the teams know how to reach our audience, but what I really care about is what it is we are saying and ensuring that the brand message is meaningful and relevant.
"What I really care about is what it is we are saying and ensuring that the brand message is meaningful and relevant."
RC: What does success look like this year?
CG: Success looks like growing the business. Having more guests enjoying our incredible hotels and experiencing the brand, all while getting a better understanding of our brand and brand perception in the new markets we are about to enter.
The Eat Take-Away
Experience drives engagement: As customer expectations continue to rise, brand and marketing leaders need to constantly question and challenge how and whether they are delivering unique experiences and true value to customers. Assessing the effectiveness of touchpoints across the entire ecosystem of your brand, be they physical, digital or otherwise, whether they are driving engagement or loyalty, and whether they support the integrity of the brand, is critical.
Talent is everything: While recent cuts across the technology industry tell us one thing, more broadly the war for talent continues to rage on. A wide range of industries continue to compete for the talent that is needed to innovate, to remain competitive and ultimately deliver long-term success for organisations. Brand-first thinking that is purpose-led, that defines clear values and drives engagement with employees sets your organisation up for success to win the talent you need.
Stay the course: Engaging with and educating stakeholders on the value that brand delivers to the organisation is critical to building a brand long-term and ensuring support for brand-first decision-making at every level of the business. A clearly defined brand strategy, of purpose, story, values and experience principles, provides a north star for decision-making. This allows every interaction with your brand to be developed and delivered with authenticity, with consistency and with confidence.