Creating the Privium Experience

Why authenticity & consistency always come first

When is a building or an area inspiring? When does it contribute to brand awareness? And when does it lead to a memorable experience, a lasting impression? 

Enlightening experiences

A good brand reaches both instrumental and emotional values and shows itself to be consistent in all its different manifestations; the product, the service rendered, the corresponding room, the building. It is important that everything tallies. A room that clashes with the service rendered or the product, somehow devalues the entire experience. It is all about authenticity, the connection between what the brand stands for and how it is expressed. In short, the different shapes in which a brand manifests itself, need to be consistent and need to reinforce each other.

The introduction of the Privium ClubLounge, designed by M+R, is a milestone in the development of Privium, the service program with the revolutionary iris scan, which offers a range of privileges for frequent flyers at Schiphol Airport. The lounge touches the deeper needs of customers and is an interpretation of the Privium brand values.

Prior to the ClubLounge design briefing, a large number of lounges, clubs and hotels were visited. As inspiring as the best experiences were, the disappointments were just as enlightening. As such it was apparent that in the ‘Felix de Peninsula’ restaurant in Hong Kong, an absolutely beautifully designed room, the food was prepared without love. As a result, the product presented actually takes away from the total experience of the concept. The same goes for the flight in the highly-praised ‘Upper Class section of Virgin Atlantic. ‘Traveling is boring’ according to Virgin’s motto and so Upper Class has been given a high ‘fun’ factor. Although some amazing products and services were on offer, such as pajamas, a manicure or massage, seats that can be converted into comfortable beds, a real bar on board, the actual service was disappointing. The Bellini in no way resembled the heavenly cocktail at Harry’s Bar in Venice, some passengers were already fast asleep under their duvet while others were still waiting for their dinner But the most annoying part was the way the cabin crew acted funny all the time while they were not. Nothing is more irritating for customers than insincere treatment.

That probably was the most important lesson. Products and services must be authentic and sincere and in line with the brand values. Only then will the customer actually appreciate them. If there is no affinity with the brand and no passion or love for the work, then the service just becomes a trick. This doesn’t make anyone happy: not the employee who is forced to ‘act’ all day and certainly not the customer who has to put up with a permanent ‘plastic smile’. 

“Nothing is more irritating for customers than insincere treatment.”

An unusual dream

In the briefing that accompanied the assignment for the design of the ClubLounge, not only the background, aims of the project and a description of the functional and qualitative requirements were included, but also a lot of attention was paid to the emotional state of the frequent flyer – their personal characteristics – and the Privium brand values. 

According to Paul Andreu, architect of the Charles De Gaulle airport; “Even for frequent flyers, flying is something unusual. It is just not the same as getting on a bus and driving away. Flying is an unusual dream, something that has its own laws. it is the myth of Icarus, the knowledge that you are crossing a line”. Traveling by plane is a form of expansion: a broadening of your experiences, broadening your horizon. Within the travel process, the airport is the springboard to another world, culture, climate, time zone. It’s no final destination, only a halfway station, a ‘pit stop’, a ‘nowhere town’.

In the course of their travel process the frequent flyer experiences tension between positive feelings of excitement, of exploring the world and negative feelings of loss of control, insecurity, tiredness and restriction of their freedom. Frequent flyers are people who are used to being in control. Often they are focused on status.

The central theme is that in the ‘Theatre’ of the Privium ClubLounge the `Privium members play the leading part. They are the centre of attention. They are ‘on stage’. Then there were also the following points listed in the briefing:

  • Because of the stressed state travellers are in when they travel the Privium ClubLounge must be spatial, light and uncluttered. Privium members are part of a select group. The Privium ClubLounge offers privileges that are only accessible for Privium members. It will make them feel special and they will be given the recognition they deserve. 
  • Travelling is often a lonely phenomenon accompanied by a faint feeling of being uprooted. Privium offers an international platform where different nationalities and cultures can meet. In the ClubLounge a frequent flyer feels connected, and is prepared to open up to others. 
  • The Privium ClubLounge must have sufficient stimuli to compensate for the missing view on the planes and natural light. So it must be special, spectacular, and varied in shape and light. This will allow a frequent flyer to feel ‘alive’ and ‘part of the global world’.

“Privium members are ‘on stage’ . They play the leading part.”

The feeling of recognition – the VIP value – was translated into the differences in floor level, with the different sitting areas. This literally gives members the feeling of being ‘on stage’, they are the focal point of the lounge. And the passageway forms the natural flow, a sort of ‘catwalk’. This feeling of exclusivity is emphasised by using top design furniture with design of the famous Egg Chair, Swan Chair, Bubble Chair, Solitaire and Le Corbusier’s chaise longue, each one a design classic from the twenties, fifties and sixties. 

Even when it is busy the lounge emanates tranquility. This is achieved by creating space and orderliness and by using thick carpets and pale shades. Members call it the ‘white lounge’. This gives it an almost serene atmosphere. The configuration of the seating areas allow you to withdraw should you want to. At the same time, it offers even the most solitary traveller the opportunity to meet others. From any sitting area you can oversee the other areas. From any position you have a view of other Privium members. This gives a sense of contact with other travellers, without the need to interact. It makes the act of travelling less lonely, less uprooted. And naturally, as a metaphor for the ‘connecting statement’, there is the long centrally positioned bar. This is a location that is especially ideal for making contact with or feeling you are connected to others also sitting at the bar. 

Variety is achieved through the different sitting areas, each with its own function atmosphere and design. There is an area with a reading table, a tick-carpeted relaxing sitting area with a fire and the ‘hanging bubble chair’ section. An extra dimension contributed by the architect M+R is the organic character of the lounge. Nothing, absolutely nothing in this room is straight. Outdoor elements have been brought inside, such as the enormous bamboo stalks that seem even longer because of the mirror positioned above them, the fire in the fireplace and a stone wall that simulates outside light shining in. All this makes up the water, fire, air and earth elements that are an important part of the design. Unfortunately, due to high costs, the idea of a water wall could not be realized. 

As mentioned earlier, everything must fit together correctly. Other decisive elements for the lounge experience are the smell, the food & beverages concept, the lighting, the staff and the service. A subtle aroma was chosen for the lounge. A combination of wood and lime with both a stress-reducing and a dynamic effect. In the Light Energy Cabin there is a wellness scent. 

Even the Food & Beverage concept links up with the brand values. For example the ever-popular Chardonnay wine is not served, only more special wines such as a Gruner Veltliner and a Sotoverde, which are greatly appreciated by connaisseurs. There are authentic French specialities such as Lenotre croissants and macarons. Then there is also Dammann tea, and of course Illy coffee and beer in the i-cone bottle by Heineken. Apart from high-quality and fresh products, there is also plenty of attention for elements such as organic, authentic and healthy. 

The indirect LED lighting, fitted in the rounded top and bottom skirting boards of the walls, presents a variation in intensity and light colour. During the day, depending on what time of day it is, different mood settings can be created. In the early morning light, cool, and morning blue shades are used, which change to soft bluish lilac and then to a warm orange colour by late afternoon and evening. This daylight simulation, with clear morning light, becoming warmer as the day goes by, has an advantageous effect on our feeling of well-being. 

In such an originally designed lounge it is essential that the staff are wearing appropriate clothing. The clothing designed by Jan Taminiau has an aura of ‘Barberella meets The Thunderbirds’. A daring transparent light blue, almost silver, shiny colour was picked for the uniform, which matches the concept. 

“The clothing has an aura of ‘Barberella meets The Thunderbirds’.”

In short, everything is right. This is the power of the Privium ClubLounge. It requires the ability to be able to zoom in and out. You need to get all the details right. The service offered, the products and services, the areas: they all need to reinforce each other and seamlessly synchronise with the brand values. 

Authenticity the connection between what the brand stands for and how it is expressed, starts with knowing who you are, and what you stand for as a brand. It goes further than looking for suitable staff, a suitable architect, a suitable interior designer, and suitable products. As a client you should never make any concessions. Also the architect and interior finishers must not make any concessions that could harm the concept. It is all about respecting each other and reinforcement. Each person contributes an added value to the project, through their particular speciality. You can then speak of collaboration and synergy. Passion and love for the final result you want to achieve is another important requirement for a successful concept. And this can only be achieved if there is a connection between all parties, a link with the concept. 

And finally, a concept is only genuinely appealing – essentially – if it touches the deeper motives. Otherwise it just becomes a superficial ‘lifestyle’ trick. A concept that touches something, that has a meaning that reaches the deeper needs. With that you will touch the essence. In my experience the ClubLounge design has ingeniously succeeded in doing just that. With gratitude to the architect, M+R.

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