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Case Study: Capturing PUBLIC Chicago's Personality Online

Nov 27, 2012

By Holly O'Dell

In a day where travelers can glean extensive information about a hotel before even stepping foot onto a property, hotel brands try to stay ahead of the curve by thoroughly crafting their image online. So after Ian Schrager founded PUBLIC hotels, he and his team sought partners who could do just that—create an interactive experience for flagship property PUBLIC Chicago that reflected the hotel’s clean, elegant, and minimalist aesthetic.

Enter Jay Schwartz, head of IdeaWork, PUBLIC Chicago’s in-house interactive marketing agency that has worked with the brand from its outset. “There’s no excess, nothing unnecessary,” says Schwartz, whose firm oversees the hotel’s website, e-marketing, and social media platforms. “Rather, we focused on the simplicity that sets PUBLIC Chicago apart.”

Although he’s been doing graphic design and marketing work for hotels since 1996, Schwartz felt a distinct difference when tasked with developing PUBLIC’s online presence. “Designing for Ian and his team is a completely different sensibility than designing for the Hard Rock in Vegas,” he notes. “The work we do has to reflect the motto of ‘Everything you need and nothing you don’t.’ Simplify, simplify, simplify was (and is still) the goal with PUBLIC. Simple does not come easy, and attention to detail is paramount.”

The hotel’s foray into the online world started with a splash page, followed by a teaser site—featuring black-and-white images of the original hotel’s famous guests—that accepted reservations and included the “Rename the Pump Room” contest. “The launch of the brand website coincided with the hotel’s opening in fall 2011 to heighten the drama of the look and feel of the property,” Schwartz says.
In fact, timing played an important role in the hotel’s big reveal online. Says Schwartz: “You don’t want to give away everything too soon. You have business objectives like booking hotel rooms and selling meeting space months in advance, but you want to time the release of things like photos to keep people interested. There’s also the chance that things change or evolve during the process so you want to make sure you publish accurate information.”

A visit to the PUBLIC Chicago website shows the brand in action, with a crisp white background, clean typography, and easy navigability complemented by various hotel photos rotating on each page.  The website’s design for mobile use is equally uncomplicated, while presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest allows IdeaWork to further expand on the PUBLIC brand.

IdeaWork also ensures that PUBLIC’s online platform is truly interactive by engaging guests in activities like the Pump Room renaming venture or cocktail-naming contests. “These campaigns are ways to keep PUBLIC top-of-mind and let guests (and future guests) participate in what goes on at the hotel,” Schwartz explains. “Everyone involved in the brand cares about the guest experience, and involving guests is a great sounding board.”

As appealing as the hotel’s online experience is, it still needs to “convey a feeling about the property and a sense of amenities and type of service a consumer will experience,” he notes. “And, of course, it needs to convey a reason to act.”

Despite the need to meet brand standards, Schwartz and his team of 15 employees make a strong effort to keep things from getting stale. “The message mostly stays the same because it’s intrinsic to the brand experience, but the delivery is always evolving. We’re always trying new visual strategies and playing with color and type to keep things fresh. Along with the aesthetic changes, we’re playing with messaging and promotions to give guests what they’re looking for.”

The hotel’s interactive marketing platform has performed exactly as planned: creating buzz and excitement, which translates to booked hotel rooms. “Someone traveling to Chicago can visit the website or see a display ad online and more or less know what they’re going to encounter when they arrive,” Schwartz says. “Our job as visual communicators is to try and remain true to the brand ethos.”

hdtalks: the interviews

During HD Expo 2014, Hospitality Design’s Michael Adams sat down with HBA’s Michael Bedner to talk about his half-century in the hospitality design industry. View the video.



Produced by: Emerald Expositions
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