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What this iconic five-star hotel taught me about intangible business branding

For branding expert Gabrielle Dolan, all it took was a short stay at the five-star Fullerton Hotel Sydney to learn a few tricks of the trade being used by one of the world's most recognised hotel names.

Business Branding

In early 2020, I had the pleasure of staying at the newly opened Fullerton Hotel in Sydney. Little did I know it would be the last time I stayed in a hotel for close to 12 months due to COVID-19. In hindsight, I really should have made the most of room service and the minibar.

It was on this trip that I first became aware of The Fullerton’s commitment to brand storytelling. During my stay, I noticed a beautiful coffee table book on display titled Fullerton Stories: Rediscovering Singapore’s Heritage, which contained some brilliant examples of brand storytelling.

If you don’t know about The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts, its signature five-star hotels are located in Singapore (where there are two), Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel Hong Kong (soon to be opened) and Sydney, with two of these buildings being former General Post Offices.

The Fullerton, specifically the iconic The Fullerton Singapore Hotel, was one of the many companies I researched for my latest book Magnetic Stories. What I found interesting was that the type of stories it decided to find and share were quite unique and provide some valuable lessons for other companies.

A focus on heritage, not history

While the Fullerton Stories book was a great initiative, the General Manager of The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts, told me that The Fullerton “didn’t want history confined to only pictures in a book, and that it wanted to bring the stories alive”.

It went on to create a series of videos that feature people who used to work in the historic buildings. So instead of focusing on the history and representing a standard timeline, it used these stories to bring the heritage to life.

To find these stories, the company initially wrote to the respective government departments and asked for the archive records. It also put publicity posts on social media asking for people who used to work in the buildings to get in touch. It was inundated with people wanting to be a part of this campaign to share their memories.

Viterale and the team at The Fullerton started referring to the people they chose to feature as ‘personalities’, which is a great description because some real personalities were showcased.

For example, there is a story of a couple who have been married for 53 years. They met in the General Post Office in the 1960s when they both worked as postal clerks. Robert Lim shares how he was attracted to this girl so he “tried to be nice to her”. Tan Lat Neo, now his wife, recalled she was initially annoyed because she was distracted by his advances. But eventually she realised he “had good intentions”.

Sharing stories externally in a variety of ways

These videos can be found on The Fullerton’s website, YouTube channel and other social media sites. They form part of an interactive feature that also includes photographs and stories in a prominent position in the lobby of The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, called the The Fullerton Heritage Gallery. The videos are also accessible on TVs in all the guest rooms.

As part of keeping these stories alive, The Fullerton also runs complimentary heritage tours at the hotels for guests as well as visitors. It’s a bit of a tourist attraction.

Sharing stories internally

The Fullerton also uses the stories in other ways. The videos are used as part of the employee induction program. Not only do all new employees watch the videos, they also go on the heritage tours and learn other key insights about the hotel.

For example, any server can explain to a guest the history behind the chicken rice they ordered and why this is an important dish to a specific region.

These stories are then shared by customer-facing employees at appropriate times to enhance the customer experience.

Some final questions to consider

There are so many lessons we can learn about brand storytelling from The Fullerton. Below are four questions to help you consider whether you could do something similar.

  • Are there any stories worth sharing about who used to work in the building your company now operates from?
  • Can you share these stories in a variety of ways, both internally and externally?
  • Are stories part of your induction program to ensure all employees know the history and heritage?
  • Do your customer-facing employees know what stories to share that could enhance the customer experience?

Gabrielle Dolan is a global expert on business storytelling and real communication. She is also the author of Magnetic Stories: Connect with Customers and Engage Employees with Brand Storytelling.

Read next: How to leverage a boring business brand story for growth

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