“I think we’re all animals,” said Keen. “The first thing we do when we walk into a hotel room is ask ourselves, ‘is this safe?’ and at that moment we say ‘yes or no’.”
Keen founded Keen Media in the early 2000s, which was rebranded as Quo Global five years ago. Quo has five offices globally including Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Delhi, Singapore, and Amsterdam. While the hospitality agency focuses on brand strategy, its services span creative, digital and media planning.
Quo’s clients range from destinations to airlines to hotel and resort groups. Clients have included Baros, Maldives; Accor, Conrad, Holiday Inn, Grand Mercure, Shangri-la, Pullman, Sofitel, St. Regis, Intercontinental hotels and resorts, and Bangkok Airways just to name a few.
Keen, who is from a publishing and journalism background, believes his agency is different to advertising agencies.
“Because I come from an editorial background, I always thought advertising was getting in the way,” said Keen. “Traditional advertising is a reaction to a problem. I think we’re [Quo] always trying to form soul. And to build a brand you need to dive in and look at every dimension of the brand.”
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However, much like the process of other creative agencies, Quo’s work begins at the strategic level. Catherine Monthienvichienchai, strategy director at Quo, said that core to the agency’s work is to establish a ‘brand culture’ for their client, whether it’s a hotel, airline or travel company.
“We often begin with a workshop, picking out words and sticking images on a wall to understand who our client is, what their vision is for the brand and who their customer is,” said Monthienvichienchai.
While clients tend to think in terms of demographics, Quo's aim for the workshop exercise is to help clients discover their target group’s behavioural types to form “guest typologies and personas”.
Through workshops, research, site visits, internal and external stakeholder interviews, Quo forms the brand culture for the client. From there, four brand traits, a brand essence and a positioning statement are established. This is also where the creative process begins.
For Pierre Vermeir, creative director, at Quo the strategic process goes hand-in-hand with the creative process, a notion familiar to any creative agency.
However, Vermeir believes the difference is in Quo’s speciality and focus. “Hospitality is a conservative sector and the market is saturated with the same kind of product,” he said. “If you want to be creative, you have to find that niche and then be innovative within it. At the same time you have to really understand the hospitality industry and work with the people.”
Even for a visual design, such as a logo, Pierre sees the need to think about the implementation of an idea throughout the guest experience.
“It’s senseless to slap a logo everywhere," said Vermeir. "If there’s no idea, there’s no point crafting anything and the computer is not going to give you any ideas. There are a lot of designers that go straight to a cosmetic job or are concerned about the aesthetics. But the design and creative work we do is focused on 'amplifcation': how the idea behind everything we create impacts the guest experience."