Opinion

Stay special—does Hedonic Adaptation have a place in defining the future of the hospitality brand?

The ever-more desirable lifestyle package is driving phenomenal growth in the hotel and hospitality sector—from boutique, to one-night only to the new and increasingly popular trend for multi-brand hotels.

For years, the hotel industry has tried to create not just fresh environments but experiences for its guests—constantly reimaging the offer to maintain excitement, anticipation and aspiration. But, in an increasingly competitive market where the notion and definition of hospitality is continuously being stretched, we believe that the new opportunity for the brands in this sector is to refocus on and maximise what they’ve already got that makes them special. Hedonic Adaptation could be the new future of the hotel and hospitality brand.

Let’s think about customer motivation. Do we go to hotels because we’re looking for something new or because we’re simply looking for (or appreciating) difference? Maybe even the same difference? Let me explain. If we look at some of our established and favoured classic hotels: the Savoy, Hotel Du Lac, the Park Hyatt group…These are the type of hotels people look forward to returning to year on year. What’s interesting about these hotels is that in the grand scheme of things they remain pretty much unchanged. Unashamedly luxurious but undoubtedly untouched. What is special about these hotels is that they never decline in popularity because they understand that people aren’t necessarily looking for new hotel experiences, they’re looking for the experiences of a hotel they love. An experience that is unchanging yet eternally reinvigorating.

And this is where the notion of Hedonic Adaptation could come into play and influence and help define a new future for the hospitality brand.

Made popular in the 70’s, Hedonic Adaptation is a term applied to the psychology of happiness and, more precisely, the notion that people quickly become used to change, good or bad, in order to maintain a stable level of happiness. Over time, this means that the high felt from a new purchase or new experience is pushed towards the emotional norm. We stop getting pleasure from it and look to buy or experience yet more new things.

By being aware of the Hedonic Adaptation concept, we feel that hospitality brands could consider how—and to what extent—this concept could be correctly applied to their individual offer: maintaining key experiences, aesthetics and expressions whilst introducing, reinventing or maximizing new ones. And, in practice, by better focusing on and defining memorable touch-points within the hotel and its communications that seek not to tell us how they’ve changed or what’s happening in the surroundings, but instead remind us of what a great time we’re having, have had or will have in the future.

It’s about tightly focusing in on every aspect of the on-premise or in-room collateral and the overall hotel experience, and using design and creativity to take the offer from transactional to transformative, to move from the perfunctory to an ever more personal touch.

As part of its Shop Services, and the always highly anticipated, limited edition Shop Collections, The Savoy’s introduction of its Find, Fetch & Fabulous personal concierge service is a perfect example of the thinking in practice: with a team of ‘finders and fetchers’ to source, shop and collect whatever guests would like from in and around London. Every element of the service, from the identity to its online presence and function, is considered and it is a seamless, but bespoke, addition to both the Shop Services and the overall experience that is incomparably The Savoy at its very best.

Essentially, it’s about taking a fresh look at what you have and what it means to your customer. Taking the time to investigate your overall brand journey and in addition to reimagining existing touchpoints in unexpected ways, identifying new and untapped opportunities to surprise and delight. (Often times these opportunities are hidden in plain sight.)

The growing digital world is not just accelerating the pace of change but is also forcing us to become more intimate, immediate and connected. The physical world—and particularly the role of hospitality—needs to up its game and reassert its leadership and ownership in this area. It’s about finding unique ways to make the intangible more tangible, creating and evoking memories in a new way for a new audience, telling a seamless story, and creating small touches to surprise and delight and which leave a lasting, timeless and enduring impression to enjoy time and again.

About the Author

Rory Fegan is the Senior Strategist at Pearlfisher, London.