How an emotional communication concept made a new hotel shine on the shores of lake Como
It all starts with authenticity
Family De Santis, a third-generation Como-based business entrepreneurs family, acquired a private villa in 2018 with the intention of turning it into a once-in-a-century five-star hotel on Lake Como: Passalacqua. As the independent owner of the hotel-to-be, the family believed that luxury is not about the "extravagant or the utterly elaborate but rather the return to simplicity and authenticity". This perspective of prioritising the authentic experience of "Italianity" for guests along with the families ambitions resonated with us at Positioner – these were ingredients for success.
Passalacqua contacted Positioner in August 2021 to create an authentic and unique communication concept for a launch in June 2022. Knowing that Lake Como was highly competitive, we were aware of the ambitious nature of the brief. We set about analysing the market in order to gain data-based insights. We then scheduled a series of workshops where we defined the vision, mission, values, brand promise and brand personality to get to the heart of what makes Passalacqua, Passalaqua. Among other discoveries, we came to the conclusion that what was most important was bringing "Meraviglia" back – that sense of awe or "wonder" that makes a journey unforgettable...and to do so in an authentic way.
A communication concept to remember
It was our research and workshops that ultimately led us to think: if we want to aim for the unforgettable and the authentic, can we not use "memories" as a creative device in an innovative way? How could we bring this to life tangibly? Particularly when the entire building was under construction, which would mean that we would not have any visual stimulus? We believed it would not have been true to the brand to use stock images and videos - that would have been inconsistent with their values of "authenticity" and "beauty". Instead, we decided, why not focus on written communication, which ties very well to the storytelling of memories.
Time to get personal
As a result, we decided to focus the communication concept around the telling of personal memories narrated by the people who live and animate the Passalacqua spirit. We would use stories from employees from the past, that were true to them, and that they would bring to Passalacqua, anchoring authenticity into the brand and bringing the brand to life through all the sensory experiences associated with memory. Such memories, after all, would speak of the simplest, most unique and humble joys of our lives that remain indelible in our minds and hearts. By relying on storytelling, we could use a picture language as a support, showing the people, details of the building-in-the-making and surrounds, as well as the sensory experiences.
Taking the storytelling to new frontiers
Valentina De Santis had great ambitions for the hotel, but she also had great ambitions for our storytelling. She specifically mentioned that she had always dreamed of working with a writer from a renowned travel magazine…so we reached out to our talent pool and made her wish a reality. It was the first step to realising "meraviglia"! We also engaged an exceptional offline designer from our extended talent pool of freelancers who assisted us with print collaterals, among other executions. This is a service that all our partners have access to, thanks to our ability to orchestrate the work between some of the best talent in the industry and our partners, for projects that require their specific expertise.
Bringing the stories to life
As the new website design was also within our scope, we also wanted to elevate the storytelling from a design perspective. We used an editorial approach to touch on storytelling themes around the hotel, the people and the region. However, we wanted to link the digital experience to a physical one - the hotel's guests want the real experience after all. This led us to the idea of publishing only the start of our stories on the website. After the reader had completed, they would be invited to fill in their details...after which they receive a postcard with a sensory experience that literally brings the story to life. For example, a story about Chef Mauro would end just as he is discussing the ragú his mother used to cook and the reader would receive a postcard smelling of ragú, which would be linked to an experience at the hotel, in this case a cooking class. This concept, while is still a concept, was very much appreciated by the hotel, demonstrating Positioner's ability to truly take brands places!
The website design has received an Honorable Mention by Awwwards.
Authentic physical connections
To further bridge memories from the past with sensory experiences, we considered the concept of a Bullet Journal, which was to be sent to travel agents, journalists and guests before their stay, with 5-6 pre-filled experiences and sensory anchors, such as the scent of local flowers. Guests would then bring the journal on their stay and fill it with new stories and experiences. While this concept is yet to be implemented, we did also work with the hotel to send homemade marmalade and a handwritten letter to travel agents and journalists, which demonstrated the hotel’s authenticity and connection to "slow living". This initiative alone generated significant awareness for the hotel.