A brand journey at the 5hotel in Calgary
Last month we stayed in Calgary for a few days to attend the Calgary International Film Festival. We stayed at the 5, a newly remodeled hotel that used to be the Hawthorn. Most info about hotels in downtown Calgary referenced the Hawthorn, and we found the website through a redirect. The website seemed pretty nice.
Kinda cool design, palette, nifty logo. Seemed like they were doing the JetBlue/IKEA thing of taking a commodity and adding design and more thoughtfulness to the overall experience, and finding a way to charge less for it. There were photos of the rooms (not currently available on the updated website), descriptions of all the amenities (free WiFi, breakfast), and the price was good. We decided to stay there.
When we booked our shuttle from the Calgary airport, the woman behind the counter growled in an intense Scottish brogue “Yeah, that used to the Hawthorn, and before that the Prince Rupert. I was finally getting used to calling it the Hawthorn and they changed the name. What a stupid name!”
The shuttle drops us off around the corner from the front door (which is not exactly door-to-door service that we paid for, but that’s a complaint for elsewhere). It doesn’t look like it’s the Five.
It looks like the Hawthorn.
The front door, at least, is a little more clear what hotel we’re at.
Unless you happen to look up. Serious naming/branding confusion!
A few days later I find a card in the lobby. The card has the new brand scheme and reads, in part “Over the coming months, Hawthorn Hotel & Suites will transform into 5 Calgary Downtown Suites.” Okay, so this is an ongoing project. But the entire experience is confusing; it doesn’t suggest transition, it is just a mishmash of radically different brands. This card was sorta hidden; one had to be poking around to stumble across it. It’s the only place they acknowledge the transition; the rest of the time the hotel presents all this as if it’s normal. But really, it was just odd.
The room number says we’re at the Hawthorn.
But the apples say we’re at the five. Apples? They took the trouble to order brand stickers for apples, but they couldn’t change the door numbers? I was really surprised.
Finally, I was a total sucker for the website branding, like I said, expecting JetBlue. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was like when we’d visit a distant great aunt in an apartment building in Winnipeg in the 70s. It was seriously dated, and not well-kept.
The kitchen featured a stove from the Mesozoic era.
And really cheesy cupboards.
An access panel in the bathroom was old, dirty, and loose.
Not to mention this disgusting vent in the bathroom.
The living room was typical of the “suite” – outdated, poorly maintained. I think we found some remnants of painter’s tape from whatever remodeling they had done. Who knows how long it had been there.
Anyway, it worked out fine (although their free breakfast was disgusting and they never had enough staff or food to handle the traffic flow even on a weekday), but I was struck by how different the hotel experience was from what the branding had led me to believe – or what I had let myself believe based on that.