Unordinary Thinking No.7 – Citizen M

The great thing about unordinary thinking is that it rarely is predictable or consistent. So you don’t know when you will encounter genius. However, when you do, you know it.

I stay in a number of hotels each month so am happy to stay in the less conventional business hotels. I find the conventional hotels too automated in their strive for service excellence. I like variety and spontaneity.

So when I was booked in to Citizen M in Glasgow I had no preconceptions.

Although the low £69 a night, including breakfast price tag, did signal a very small alarm bell in my head.

The décor looked modern and attractive. And then I started to observe a few oddities from the normal arrival and settling in experience I go through:

  • There’s no reception,
  • Staff wear black,
  • The building is full of bright Perspex and plastic on the inside but is a black box on the outside.

And when I got to my room it was compact. But when I asked if I could upgrade I was told every room in every hotel is the same. So I returned and hung my clothes in the same space as my bed, my sink, my shower, my TV and my desk. All of which was approximately 2m x 4m x 3m.

But within about 30 minutes of being there I started to get it…

The ‘minimalistic’ approach I had witnessed in the room was reversed in the public space; there were copious numbers of break out lounge areas with Ligne Rosset style furniture, there were shelves of pop art and nude impressionist works, there were eight Macs for business use, blossom trees in the TV area, Earl Grey tea served in silk purses, Café del Mar music and many Alessi practical sculptures scattered across the hotel.

And on taking a closer look at the detail in my room the walk in shower (which was in the room, not off it) had lighting which changed colour, my TV movies were free and there were inspirational messages on all my complimentary toiletries.

And at breakfast not only were Innocent drinks on the menu, but the staff (who also fixed my colleague’s safe, checked us in and helped us set up on the macs earlier) was now the chef and asked us what we thought of her new muffin recipe and should she keep it? We found out everyone is empowered to do everything.

And as I was finding out, their attention to detail was in the areas that really mattered, whilst the places they had compromised (such as big rooms and reception) were actually not important. The only reason I’d decided they were important was because market convention had led me there. Citizen M has decided to change the rules and by doing so has potentially changed the hotel selection criteria.

What they had done here is take a step back from the whole hotel experience and asked ‘what is it that guests really want from a hotel when they are city exploring?’

And they had focussed on making the aspects more important to their clientele the best they can be. Which as the price tag shows, can be more distinctive and more of an experience than the expensive alternative of designing a conventional hotel. Inspirational.

I ended up taking more photographs of this set up than I have of any other hotel I’ve stayed in.

I was so intrigued that I asked a member of staff about the thinking behind it. He explained that empowerment is a key value of the brand.

A brand which they spend a number of days understanding before they are allowed to start in the hotel.

The smart people of Citizen M have applied unordinary thinking too. They’ve achieved so much more by taking a step back and understanding what is really important for a great stay, rather than listening to conventional criteria or attempting to improve on the competition.

By doing so they have designed a hotel which has more of what customers want and less of what they don’t need.

Citizen M contacted me when I first posted this and I am reassured to say my observations and interpretation of their strategy was correct. I did promise them a batch of pics I took (more than I took of the Wynn in Vegas, or the Elms in Worcestershire – personal fav’s), so I will do this.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.


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