Building A New Brand Is Child’s Play

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.

It’s summertime and the children are enjoying another day’s play in the sun. But on the horizon, storm clouds are gathering. For the Westport Woods and Yeats’ Country, two hotels in the west of Ireland who have offered family holidays for as long as they remember, the playground is growing a little too crowded for comfort.

The new affluence, the lure of the overseas holiday and the addition of a whole new range of players to the market in Ireland have made this a fiercely competitive market. On top of that, the rules of the game are changing as health and safety regulations and insurance demands begin to bite.


Clearly, something must be done, but what?

At the Westport Woods, Michael Lennon had some ideas. He knew that you needed to be different in order to stand out from the crowd. He had recently taken a call from Gerard Tannam at Creative Inputs who had talked about branding and he determined to explore this a little further.


There Is An Element Of Fun

People are often a little reluctant to talk about brand. When Gerard met with Michael and his colleagues at the two hotels and began to ask about the family holiday programme, he was surprised at how easily the talk turned to story.

Invited to describe what was best about their family holidays, the staff became engaged and animated as they talked about this picnic on the beach, that fancy dress party or the first successful length of the swimming pool. They spoke fondly of the families who came back year after year, and the children who returned as eighteen year olds to work as KO’s (Kiddie Organisers).

As Gerard listened, he was struck by how warmly they spoke of their guests and the real interest they had in the children and their holidays. This was borne out in the other stories he heard: those told in the comment cards, the news articles and the letters from the children themselves.


You Find The Fun

He was also struck by something else. What he heard described above all else was the transformational role that a holiday plays in the life of the family. This is a golden time of year, when the days seem endless, when Mum and Dad are more relaxed and ready to play, and the child makes new friends, tries out new activities and grows taller and more confident.

It is a time of delight, of magic and romance when the unexpected happens and the child catches glimpses of other worlds, hears new expressions and strange accents from other places, has that first crush and sees things a little differently.

He was struck too by the part that the KO’s play in all of this. For one or two weeks of the year, they are welcomed into the family circle where they transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, coax and cajole parents and children to play together again and generally turn things upside down.


And Snap!

In the telling of these family holiday stories in hotels in Mayo and Sligo, Gerard heard another story, one that describes how a family where the parents are too caugh up in their grown up world of business and politics to play with their two children, and where those children have grown wild and unruly as a result, have their lives turned upside down and transformed by the arrival of an extraordinary figure.

There is an even older story, of course, but Gerard heard the story of Mary Poppins, the nanny who arrives magically into the household of the Banks family in London, and takes children first, and then parents, on a series of magical adventures which changes the way they see their world and their family life. At the end, the family has learned to play together again and whilst they head off to the park to fly a kite, Mary quietly takes her leave, her job complete.

Michael and the team agreed that the Mary Poppins story would be a powerful one to use to inspire their own story and set about developing a framework for their new brand.


The Job’s A Game!

First stop was Monika Crowley at Creative Inputs, who was invited to develop an identity that would reflect the values of this personality: family, connection, participation, self-worth and play; and infuse them with her uniquely brisk, challenging and magical way of doing things. The result was go!kids! with its lively tagline ‘Everyone Can Play’.

Next up, the team turned to Denis Goodbody at ADept Advertising, who developed a tone of voice for the new brand with lines such as: ‘Give them a bit of space – they’ll be over the moon’.

They then turned to theatre company Barabbas to work with the teams at the two hotels to animate the brand and develop programmes of play that would reflect its values and priorities and to Douglas Thornton to deliver the training.

Meanwhile, website development company Adnet tackled the online presence of the brand and created www.gokids.ie where the brand found even further expression.

At the same time, the team considered all aspects of their traditional family holiday offer, including management, catering, facilities and recruitment, and determined how they might better deliver it in the spirit of the new brand.


And Every Task You Undertake

The choice of the new brand had an immediate effect on the business. The two hotels began to recognise their leadership position in the market and to tap into the transformational role of go!kids! in the life of the family. They saw themselves less as being in the business of beds and sleep (which is how many hotels see things) and more in the business of families and play.

They adopted a confident, commanding tone in their communications and gained a new confidence in their own offer. They adapted the format, extended it to other parts of the year and identified new routes to market.


Becomes A Piece Of Cake

Just as in the original story, the outcome was fairly dramatic. Michael and his team reported:

An increase of 12% on summer business in the first year (on a design & production budget of €45,000). An immediate return on investment of 5:1 within four months of launch. A reduction in advertising spend of €6,000. An increase of 10% on year-round family holiday business (on a design & production budget of €12,000) in the second year.

The team also described how the brand helped to hold room yields (whilst others in the market dropped theirs), retain key staff, encourage greater participation by parents and improve satisfaction levels.

“The go!kids! brand has rejuvenated our family holiday business, changed the way we see our offering and given us something fresh and distinctive to say to our market.” – Michael Lennon, The Westport Woods Hotel



Narrator: Michael Lennon of Westport Woods Hotel

Direction: Gerard Tannam of Islandbridge

Design: Monika Crowley of Creative Inputs

Language: Denis Goodbody of ADept Advertising

Training: Douglas Thornton of DTA Marketing Veronica Coburn & Raymond Keane of Barabbas – The Company

Website: Alan Bell of Adnet