The mid-scale hotel market is booming, driven in large part by growing demand from leisure and business travelers seeking both value and high-quality experiences. As chains rush to capitalize on the market growth, it is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to stand out. Which is why the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) partnered with Lippincott to help uncover growth opportunities in the saturated North American market.
The exploration of a new hotel concept came with well-defined objectives: It had to resonate equally well with key consumers, owners, managers and franchisees — and it had to achieve viability without cannibalizing existing offerings. In other words, the new offering needed a highly differentiated value proposition that dovetailed strategically within the broader IHG portfolio.
Insight, intuition and innovation
Consumer insights, including research from field intercepts, social anthropology and digital ethnographies, revealed an opportunity in the wellness space that appealed to both business and leisure travelers alike. The concept was modeled to predict the impact to the business and then further defined to ensure it built on IHG’s unique brand strengths and provided the competitive differentiation.
A core insight drove our innovation effort. It was a recurring theme crystallized in a striking consumer verbatim: “Traveling breaks my routine so I often don’t or can’t stay active or eat right. I fall off the wagon when I travel.” This opened our eyes to the reality that mid-scale offerings were either missing the consumer need or treating it as an afterthought.
We learned that business and leisure travelers alike are time deprived and looking for more control in their lives. Given this reality, neither group is ardent about exercise or diet. In fact, they view “wellness” or “fitness” through a different, much more holistic lens, one that involves eating well, staying active, resting easy and accomplishing more. More often than not, they were most concerned with balance — the idea of making healthy trade-offs that feel good, and choosing what works best for them, in varying combinations of productivity, nutrition, fitness or relaxation. The underlying need for balance informed the guiding principles for our innovation efforts.
Wellness isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s not just about building a super gym or a small spa. Wellness is about balance.
— Adam Glickman, head of EVEN Hotels
Designing the EVEN experience for new market growth
We developed the value proposition, experience design, name, logo and visual system for our wellness concept, and we tested the offering with the target audience. Results confirmed that it captured their holistic view of wellness and the balance that EVEN Hotels makes possible.
An EVEN stay is designed to feel bright, not loud; spirited, not trendy; motivating, not preachy; healthy minded, not healthy obsessed. Every experience, from check-in to check-out, is designed to put the guest in control and maintain balance throughout their stay.
To create a sense of community, a central gathering place functions as both a lobby and space for guests to work from and enjoy while away from home. At check-in, guests are directed to the Well-ness Island for cool or heated hand towels, depending on the season.
Eating well is core to maintaining balance while on the road. Our recommendations for a food and beverage experience aligned to the EVEN brand led to the creation of Cork & Kale — an innovative restaurant chain that serves up fresh, organic meals, healthy desserts and specialty cocktails for guests who need to relax and unwind. For travelers on the go, The Market sells healthy to-go food that fits a range of diets, from Paleo to vegetarian.
After a long day of traveling or meetings, it can be easy to abandon your exercise routine. At EVEN, exercise comes to you with dedicated in-room “training zones” stocked with foam rollers, yoga mats, exercise balls, resistance bands and a library of YouTube video workouts. EVEN guests have the option of working out in private or at the hotel’s state-of-the-art fitness studio.
Everybody works differently, which is why it is so important for room designs to support multiple working styles. EVEN rooms offer convertible standing desks, and for those who prefer the comfort of working from bed, padded headboards, convenient electrical outlets and functional lighting help guests stay productive.