10 December 2018
Helen Westgate, Director & Founder

How much do you share to build your brand?


The dangers of letting in the media spotlight

It was been fascinating to watch the current series of Channel 4’s A Very British Country House about the luxury hotel Cliveden however, after watching the first episode, I really started to wonder how much benefit the iconic brand of Cliveden would derive from the forensic gaze of the documentary’s cameras.

The highlight of the first episode was the arrival of Meghan Markle and her Mother to spend her last night as a single woman at Cliveden before she became the Duchess of Sussex at Windsor Abbey.

But we also have seen the reality of looking after the super rich – from their arrival in Bentleys and Ferraris to listening in to their outrageous demands and complaints – “why would you only just serve olives with champagne?” “The inside of the kettle isn’t spotless” etc. 

We have seen the struggle of the beleaguered house keeping staff to get the rooms ready in time for the next batch of demanding guests (particularly fraught when some go AWOL!) and we have also heard some very honest views from the staff. The sommelier confessed to being envious of the wealth of the guests, the butler said that nowadays it was all about the money and making sure that guests paid their bills.

You really wonder whether the Cliveden Management team understood what they were getting into? Did they have a defined brand vision? Were they happy to dispel the glamour and myths about Cliveden? Did they think that guests would want to see this “warts and all” reality? Did they understand the potential impact this media exercise could have on their reputation? Did anyone brief the staff before they confessed all to the cameras?

We are told that The Queen, head of one of the world’s most established luxury brands, is suspicious of letting the public (and its media) access too much reality for fear that royalty could be deemed too accessible, pedestrian and therefore ultimately dispensable. I think that this is a lesson that Cliveden would do well to listen to.

Why would seeing the outrageous demands of overly indulged guests make you choose to stay at Cliveden? And wouldn’t the scramble to get the rooms ready make you feel that standards might be slipping? Not helped by the cameras filming the manager rallying the staff to improve service standards after some recent negative Trip Advisor reviews.

But one of the most mystifying aspects was why the young man in charge of the hotel’s social media accounts was profiled? Again, images on Instagram should appear to effortlessly convey the glamour and mystique of the Cliveden experience. Viewers don’t need to see the effort involved – from him checking his typos to hosting Instagram Influencers, hoping that they will post nice reviews.

When you are building an experiential and luxury brand such as Cliveden, a strategic lens must be applied so that none of the glamour and magic staying in one of the England’s most renowned historic houses is dispelled and in-fact you are only adding even more layers of mystique and exclusivity.

In a digital marketing age, all about selling “the experience”, it is important for businesses to remember that there can be dangers in allowing in too much media daylight.


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