InterContinental Hotels: Combating the'culture of beige'

ESRO, Space Doctors and InterContinental Hotels


As a market leader in a hotels industry dominated by homogenous room design, IHG embarked on an ambitious innovation programme to develop a new kind of customer experience across its portfolio.

ESRO and Space Doctors were jointly commissioned to feed into the innovation process with a fusion of semiotic and ethnographic insight. The research took us into a host of culturally diverse territories, where we explored the communication of concepts that are key to the hotel experience, as well immersing ourselves in the minute interactions of space, guests and staff that define a hotel ecosystem.

Space Doctors decoded the different ways in which key notions such as 'sleep' and 'clean' are communicated in different markets (including the US and China) through a close reading of how these benefits were presented in brand communications, as well as focusing on how they are expressed in popular culture (in film, TV, online, editorial etc.). This led to a series of overall findings common across markets from which a semiotic framework was created. This drew together the range of disparate communication possibilities (such as the 'wild' possibilities of the dream world, and the functional calculations of a 'power nap') into coherent platforms for innovation.