words Danny Lamb
It has often been lamented that the modern world is becoming more and more homogenised. Corporate franchises have begun to steadily replace independent businesses. Every pub is a Wetherspoons, or may as well be. In some areas, restaurants and bars with a unique character and idiosyncratic charm can seem like a dying breed. Brands rule the land.
But what about a brand which is designed to retain the charm and sense of place specific to its location. What about a brand where no two branches are the same, a brand where the only thing you can expect is the quality of service?
With the launch of their ‘Clues to the Neighbourhood’ campaign, Hotel indigo are exploring this very concept. The idea behind the Hotel Indigo brand and the ‘Clues to the Neighbourhood’ campaign is to encourage this kind of individuality and embrace the unique traits of the cities in which they are located.
The campaign launched with an event at the Berlin branch opposite the famed East Side Gallery and was curated by Berlin based fashion icon, Cloudy Zakrocki. Cloudy, who is the Vice President for International Content and Brand Strategy at Refinery29, moved to Berlin when she was just ten years old and has felt a powerful connection to the city ever since. It was for this reason that she was moved to pick a total of 16 ‘clues’ for tourists to seek out in order to get an authentic sense of Berlin and the wonders it has to offer. These ‘clues’ range from a visit to Teufelsberg Radar Station (once used by American spies in the 1950s), to a shot of Borgmann’s Schnapps, to the uncanny experience of getting your portrait drawn by Paul the Robotic Arm at the Dixit Algorizmi Gallery.
So what is it about Berlin that has inspired Cloudy so much? Musing on this, she decided that there was something distinct about the culture surrounding Berlin which makes it such a hotbed of creative activity.
“I think Berlin has a very honest culture. People here will tell you to your face if your work is shit or if it needs way more work. So I think the communication is more direct than maybe in other countries and other cities. People from other cultures and countries are often taken aback by it – like, it’s not a polite way of saying things, but it is a very honest one. I think creativity comes from fighting, or from that tension, and challenging yourself. That’s when sometimes something great can explode and I think that’s why this city is so attractive to creators from around the world, because it is rough and it is unapologetic.”
And indeed, so much of what surrounds this particular branch of Hotel Indigo is absolutely unique to Berlin, born out of the history and circumstances of the city. It is impossible to imagine that such a thing as The East Side Gallery, that works of such industrial beauty, could have been created anywhere else in the world. They are a product of Berlin, a product of the tensions and challenges the city itself has faced.
It’s for this reason that the neighbourhood stands out as such a perfect location for Hotel Indigo’s Berlin branch.
As Carol Hoeller, Head of Global Design and Guest Experience for Hotel Indigo explains: “When we look for destinations for our hotels, we look for neighbourhoods that are full of culture. And this location is such an iconic neighbourhood and such a great location, because we want to be in a walkable space that you can go out into and discover. We’re always looking to get under the skin of the place – which is what Cloudy has done – and asking how we give our guests the inside scoop on what to do and where to go. We know our guests are looking for an authentic location true to the neighbourhood – the music, the culture, the fashion, so it’s about how we bring that to the design of the hotel. Everything we do – the rug in the guest room, the colours – every detail is based around the history and the spirit of the neighbourhood we’re in and geared towards telling that story.”
The ‘clues to the neighbourhood’ certainly help to tell that story and are something Cloudy thought long and hard about before picking, wanting them to reflect the Berlin she knows and loves.
“I wanted to have a mix of stuff that I had experienced myself, because I wanted to vouch for them. It was a hard project for me and I was very picky about it. But also, obviously I realise that a lot of people come here from abroad, and I really wanted to give them something that – even if you only had limited time here – you could go and get the sense of Berlin. I wanted things I’d experienced myself, things I wanted other people to experience, and two or three things that I did not even know about. Like the white marshmallow mice. Because I eat them so much and I didn’t know they were made here!”
The campaign is not just aimed at tourists, but is also designed to encourage and inspire people to explore their own neighbourhoods, as we can often take for granted the rich range of art, culture and history on our very own doorsteps.
So, what are you waiting for?
Venture forth and start exploring the clues to your own neighbourhood. You never know what you might find. There are stories out there waiting to be discovered.
Pricing information for the Hotel Indigo Berlin – East Side Gallery: