ANALYSIS: How personality can shape a hotel - Gillian Drummond reports from San Francisco on an entrepreneur building an empire of hotels which take their creative lead from the brand profiles of lifestyle magazines

When hotelier Chip Conley is looking for a new business idea, he goes shopping - for magazines. The 39-year-old is making a name for himself in the US hospitality industry with a string of trendy boutique hotels in San Francisco, each inspired by a title on the newsstand.

When hotelier Chip Conley is looking for a new business idea, he

goes shopping - for magazines. The 39-year-old is making a name for

himself in the US hospitality industry with a string of trendy boutique

hotels in San Francisco, each inspired by a title on the newsstand.



There’s the Phoenix, based on Rolling Stone magazine, with its young,

music-minded staff, late night parties and a clientele of mostly rock

bands. There’s the New Yorker-inspired Hotel Rex, with its book-lined

lobby and poetry readings. And there’s the Nob Hill Lambourne, which

lays on free vitamins and yoga videos for guests, serves algae shakes

for breakfast, and models itself on Men’s Health.



Lately, Conley and his team at Joie de Vivre Hospitality have had their

heads buried in the pages of Wired, the inspiration for two new hotels

in Silicon Valley, due to open this summer. To attract the region’s

techie clientele, there will be executive toys in every room, midnight

snacks for late-night workers, relaxation lounges and laptop connections

by the pool.



Once they have found a property on which to build their hotel, Conley

and his staff come up with a set of words to define their hotel and its

projected clientele. Conley believes the days of defining customers by

demographics are over. Instead, he talks about ’psychographics’.



’Magazines are a window into the soul of our customers,’ he says.

’Demographics is about what’s happening on the outside. Psychographics

is what’s happening inside - your values, your beliefs. People want to

be spoken to on an emotional level. At Phoenix, the demographics are of

a 28-year-old tattooed musician from LA. But the psychographics are

related to the five words which define the Phoenix: adventurous,

irreverent, funky, cool and fun.’





Memorable experiences



Customers could be 70, he says, but if they fit the psychographics,

they’ll like the hotel. Conley believes consumers are driven more by

memorable experiences than material things. ’Ten years ago you might

have gone back to the office on a Monday and said ’I bought a Jaguar

this weekend’. Today, what is status-providing is saying that you had an

experience, be it a pampering or working on a volunteer programme.’



Formerly in commercial real estate, Conley launched his company 13 years

ago with some borrowed money and a run-down building that became the

Phoenix.



The group now runs 15 boutique hotels, five restaurants and bars and a

day spa in San Francisco, and an upmarket camping resort further down

the coast.



At the company’s modest head offices in San Francisco, next to a

reception area strewn with more than the usual number of glossy

magazines, is Joie de Vivre’s creative services department.





Holistic creativity



This houses five members of staff, who are responsible for everything

from hotel concept to web site development, PR, marketing and graphic

design. ’What makes us different is that the group which takes the lead

in creating the hotel is ultimately going to have to go out and do the

PR. It’s a logical link, but nobody else does it,’ says Conley.



Nor, you imagine, do many other firms offer the sort of in-house

training of Joie de Vivre. There are the requisite classes in

management, computer skills and profit and loss analysis. And then there

are the life-balancing seminars, acting classes and reading clubs.



All very Californian, you might think, but it seems to work - Joie de

Vivre’s sales quadrupled in four years to dollars 40m (pounds 24m) in

1999.



Future plans include a bay-front hotel in San Francisco with loft

suites, modelled around Metropolitan Home magazine, as well as a

nationwide chain of boutique motels inspired by Martha Stewart

Living.



Conley admits there are only so many magazines he would use as a

springboard - ’we wouldn’t do a Playboy mansion and Family Circle

wouldn’t do’ - but adds that there is no chance of running out of ideas

yet: ’At some point, we will exhaust our options, but we aren’t there

yet. Go look at the magazine rack.’



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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).