The story of Uplifting Lives

by brand analyst Sarah Robb   

Corinthia asked brand analyst Sarah Robb to come up with a phrase which best describes ‘Corinthia’. Her answer is “Uplifting Lives”.  Why did she choose these two words? Here she explains how she went about it and why it makes sense.

Great organisations at key stages in their development ask themselves some fundamental questions. Why are we here? What are we today, and what do we want to become? What values guide us and what do we look for in others?  How do we want to portray ourselves – to the people we want to attract, and on the media we use to attract them?

Fifty years on from the foundation of Corinthia as a brand, the leadership team were asking the same questions, to ensure that Corinthia is built on the successful foundations of the past whilst positioning the brand in the right way for the future.  Answering these questions is what I have been working on with Corinthia for the past few months.  The outcome is a brand platform for Corinthia; part of which is this phrase ‘Uplifting Lives’ that has been adopted as the brand purpose for Corinthia.

When you are defining a brand platform – the answers to these fundamental questions – you approach it with three principles in mind.  The first one is relevance. What do guests and colleagues care about, and how does our brand tap into these needs?  To understand this we conducted over 150 hours of one-on-one conversations with Corinthia colleagues, guests, event bookers and travel agents, across London, Lisbon, Budapest, Malta, and St Petersburg.

The second is differentiation.  How is our brand different  – and better  – than the other luxury hospitality brands our guests could choose to stay in, and our colleagues could choose to work for?  We audited twenty global luxury hospitality brands; and supplemented these with local audits of the major competitors in London, Lisbon, Budapest, Malta, and St Petersburg, to ensure we created a brand platform that helps us stand apart.

The third principle is authenticity. What has our brand always stood for, what are the foundations of our spirit and identity that have helped to make us who we are, and will sustain our success in the future?

One of the wonderful things about Corinthia is that the brand has very strong roots. It was critical to use these distinctive foundations as the starting point to answer these questions.  Naturally, the first person to talk to about what underpins the Corinthia brand is Chairman Mr Pisani.

It has been a true privilege being involved with the Corinthia group to help them capture in words what is already in so many people’s hearts.

As you will have seen in the September edition of this newsletter, he talks about the purpose of Corinthia as always having been to improve each other’s lives and the lives of our guests.  This sentiment reverberated throughout all Corinthia properties, and was mirrored in conversations with guests, who typically answered the question, ‘Why do you choose to stay at Corinthia?’ with the phrase, ‘Because Corinthia is where I feel good.”   These two insights came together to answer the first question, “Why are we here?”, with the phrase ‘Uplifting Lives’.  Corinthia’s purpose is to uplift the lives of our colleagues and our guests.   “ It has been a true privilege being involved with the Corinthia group to help them capture in words what is already in so many people’s hearts.”

Fundamental questions

When we talked about ‘What is Corinthia?’ – identifying the brand positioning for the group – we wanted to carry through this idea of ‘uplifting’.  It is such a distinctive word in the industry and reflected so much of the insight around why guests and colleagues choose to stay and work at Corinthia.   So we are describing the Corinthia group as a ‘Family of uplifting destinations’.

Family is a word that naturally comes to mind for colleagues all over the globe when they talk about Corinthia.  And part of the future success of Corinthia will stem from retaining the essence of the family-inspired values: thoughtfulness and care for one another, being supportive and connected across teams and across the global family, and openly sharing knowledge between our members.

Corinthia hotels are ‘uplifting destinations’ for guests due to the outstanding service and uplifting moments they experience when they are with us, and the uplifting environments we create that surround them.  From the atriums in Budapest; to the Crystal Moon Lounge in London, to the new suites in St Petersburg, to the Soul Garden in Lisbon  – these uplifting environments are all enhanced by exquisite attention to detail that uplifts our mood and our senses: whether it’s the scent in the corridors, or the texture of the cushions in the rooms; the plating, creativity and flavours in our restaurants and bars, or the spa treatments that uplift body and soul.

Colleagues everywhere talked about Corinthia as an uplifting destination due to the opportunities the brand presents for growth and development, the recognition they receive and the unique spirit of Corinthia.  Finally, Corinthia has played a significant role in uplifting the destinations where they have chosen to develop and manage properties – contributing to the rejuvenation of Whitehall in London and Nevsky Prospekt in St Petersburg, playing a part in the resurrection of Grand Budapest – and will continue to do so in places like Brussels and Bucharest.  And of course, Corinthia started as an uplifting destination – Malta’s first fine-dining restaurant.

Unique spirit

The Spirit of Corinthia is something very special that you feel when you experience the different hotels and meet Corinthia colleagues within the group, and understand more deeply when you talk to Mr Pisani and many of the other people who have been involved in the development of the group over the past fifty years.  But for some of the newer colleagues across the different hotels it wasn’t always clear what was meant by this phrase, and what they are supposed to do to uphold it.  Part of the work on the brand was to try and encapsulate what sits under the Spirit of Corinthia in a way that colleagues in every destination, regardless of nationality, could immediate grasp.

It is clear that the Spirit of Corinthia is partly about family values  – themes like openness, being genuine, thoughtfulness and caring for others – and partly about some of the other founding values that have driven the success of the company for the past fifty years – things like entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, positivity and finesse.   All of this comes together in three simple concepts: Heart, Head and Hands.  The Spirit of Corinthia is about the interplay of these three things; starting with the Heart – being open, genuine and positive; working alongside Head – thoughtfulness, entrepreneurship, and creativity; and Hands – reaching out to one another to be supportive and connected, and always acting and executing with finesse.

“Corinthia, since its earliest days, has always had the courage and determination to go for better standards, to strive for targets that sceptics would say were beyond reach, to punch above our weight. These characteristics, this Spirit, remains our driving force and gives us our competitive edge,” Mr Pisani told me.

Is this new campaign line?

The brand purpose of Uplifting Lives is not a campaign line or advertising tag line, or a piece of marketing copy.  The most valuable brands in the world have all identified an overarching purpose – an idea that helps everyone who works for the brand understand why they are doing their job every day; what it is that they contribute to, above and beyond their individual role.  It helps to attract, engage and retain guests and employees (with studies citing employees are 1.7 times more satisfied, 1.4 times more engaged, and 3x more likely to stay), and is linked to improved financial performance (return on assets) and forward-looking measures of performance (Tobin’s Q and stock returns), according to reports by Ernst and Young and Harvard Business Review.

The brand platform as a whole – the purpose, positioning, and spirit – impacts all aspects of the business: not just how we present ourselves in our marketing to guests and prospective new recruits; but also how we help to grow and develop our colleagues, and how we guide the development of new products and initiatives.  A project team is already in place spearheading alignment and changes in all of these areas – led by Franco Valletta (Group Chief Officer – Organisation Development & HR), Rebecca Barrie (Senior Director of Marketing) and Stephan Killinger (COO).  By mid-February the brand platform will have launched to all colleagues in every Corinthia hotel.  In London, Lisbon and Budapest the teams are already generating ideas for colleagues and guests that will help to further substantiate why Corinthia is a brand that is all about Uplifting Lives.   In 2019 we will also begin to see the brand platform reflected across all aspects of the verbal and visual identity for Corinthia – on the website, in photography, etc.

A company of visions realised

In January of this year Mr Pisani wrote, “Corinthia is a company of visions realised. It always has been and it always will be.” Uplifting Lives helps to set a vision for all colleagues, and is something that you already see being realised every day, across every uplifting destination in the portfolio.  It has been a true privilege being involved with the Corinthia group to help them capture in words what is already in so many people’s hearts.