The Sound Hotel

Defining the vibe in hospitality

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Architectural plans were underway for The Sound Hotel, sited in Seattle’s fashionably-quirky Belltown neighborhood. But there was no identity, no story, and no ethos to guide the team in creating a unique guest experience. Enter Northbound, who created a brand that aligned a diverse ownership group and turned a building into a memorable travel experience.

Opportunity:

The Sound Hotel, which is part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, needed an identity, a unique story, and experience that would appeal to guests travelling for business and leisure.

Services:

  • Research and market assessment
  • Big Idea - brand story, visual, and verbal concepting
  • Visual identity and expression
  • Hotel logo
  • Restaurant naming, logo design, and signage
  • Web design and content
  • Design of in-room amenities, collateral, and hotel signage
  • Brand guidelines

Building a hotel brand that's uniquely Seattle

Having a distinctive brand personality is essential in the highly-competitive hospitality industry. The Hotel Group established The Sound Hotel, part of the Hilton Tapestry Collection, with the need to achieve just that. Tapestry hotels offer the reliability of the renowned Hilton brand while having an entirely original character that reflects the history, culture, and flavor of each property’s location.

For Carol Lobaito, corporate director of sales and marketing at The Hotel Group, creating a brand from scratch was a nerve-wracking prospect. “We’re comfortable working with creative requirements from hotel chains like the Hilton. They give you a little gray area to play around with. But this particular project—it was a world of gray.”

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Creating differentiation in the grey space

In the absence of a brand, Carol sought outside expertise. She was concerned about starting the effort after the building and interior designs were in development. But that wasn’t a problem for Northbound.

“We thrive in the gray space,” says Michelle McRae, Northbound managing partner. “We’re comfortable stepping in at any inflection point—a launch, ownership transition, or just a pivot ahead. We help clients find their true magnetic north wherever they’re starting from.”

This flexibility and management savvy was essential to the success of project as there were lots of players involved—developers, the management team, investors, and the architect. But the fundamental task was nothing short of mythmaking. “What we really needed was help discovering the voice of The Sound Hotel,” Carol said. “We also needed a visual identity, logos, signage, and other design expressions, but the main thing was finding a vibe that could set us apart. Northbound did an amazing job.”

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Sound Hotel Logo

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Strategy first - and then the big idea

Northbound views brand development and design through a strategic lens. Before beginning to develop a voice and visual identity, they researched the sights, sounds, tastes, and history unique to Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. It’s a combination of the bohemian and the modern, the poet and the entrepreneur, music and tech and, of course, the glorious Puget Sound. With all these insights, Northbound wrote a narrative story that captured The Sound’s identity in way that captivated Carol and her stakeholders and guided the next steps.

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Extending the value of the big idea

The project started with the voice, the story, but as Carol puts it, “We needed hardcore deliverables, too.” So Northbound adapted the story into some beautiful designs—hotel logo, color scheme, restaurant name and logo, website, signage, keycards, business papers, even embroidery on hotel bathrobes. All of which ensured that the brand story would play out consistently at every touchpoint.

Carol: “I am seriously in love with the logo for Currant Bistro. It’s fun and yet still sophisticated. It’s perfect.”

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Making the clients better marketers

Carol expressed that while “we normally do branding work in-house, the stakes were so much higher for this project that we wanted help from experts.” She greatly appreciates that Northbound not only created the perfect identity for them but also helped educate her team. “Northbound taught us about the whole flow of the creative process, taking us from point A to point B. Working with Northbound was a real learning opportunity for us. Like taking a university class! The next time we need to come up with a name, it will be fun applying everything we learned from them!”

Michelle says that everyone at Northbound takes special pride in being able to bring clients along and help them learn and grow. “That’s the best kind of work. It’s magical, and it’s exactly what we experienced working with The Hotel Group.”

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Making an impact in the marketplace

For Carol, she also sees a direct correlation between the branding work and the business success that the hotel has begun to achieve. “Because of Northbound’s branding work, we had a very solid understanding of who we were months before the hotel opened. We were able to apply that branding to all our sales and marketing, and it’s already having an impact in the marketplace.”

Results:

  • Recently ranked as one of the top hotels in Seattle
  • Exceeding occupancy only 4 months after opening
“We needed help discovering the voice and personality of The Sound Hotel. We also needed logos and design expressions, but the main thing was finding a vibe that could set us apart. Northbound did an amazing job.”
Carol Lobaito
Corporate Director of Sales and Marketing
The Hotel Group

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