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What if there was a way for your consumers to associate your business with over 60 nearby tourist attractions without the presence of a logo? What if there was a way for your consumers to associate your business every time they saw a simple flower, read a well known book, saw a popular movie, heard a familiar song, took part in a timeless dance, passed by local street signs, or even with the declaration of independence?

The design for the Vendue Inn in Charleston, South Carolina has been able to achieve this using strong effective visual branding through their atmosphere. Utilizing the history of their building, understanding their target market and capitalizing on their city’s role in shaping America, the

Inn will be able to successfully use their environment to convey their values and their southern hospitable personality, while simultaneously forming experiences that result in an emotional connection with their guests.

Since research has shown that most consumers perceive quality when they are able to fully understand and evaluate feelings, experiences and relationships, Interior Envy used strong visual language techniques in the design of the Vendue Inn. By using the environment to positively create those feelings, experiences and relationships, the hotel successfully employs an authentic and convincing brand strategy that can be applied in all forms of brand communications

The Vendue Inn, located in the well known historic district of Charleston, South Carolina; is as rich in history as the city it calls home. Once a warehouse used to import and export rice, indigo, and cotton; it is now enriched with over 200 years of history.

To understand the Inn’s target market, a quick study of Charleston’s historic district is done. It is discovered that over four million visitors come each year to experience Charleston’s world class shopping, dining, history, southern charm and beaches. The historic district is roughly 8 square miles in size and has over 30 guided tours which tell the story of the city’s past.

The Vendue Inn’s target audience includes a large amount of couples on romantic get-a-ways. Couples range from young honeymooners to retired anniversary celebrators. Their visitors are enhanced with historic intrigue and a desire to commemorate their experience. This is a vacation stay, for most who visit, a time to relax and take in one of the oldest cities in America.

Q: So, how do you make an old warehouse turned hotel relevant in a city with hundreds of historic buildings and only 66 guestrooms?  

A: By crafting an image with a visual brand language that uses design elements to communicate a personality that is unique and appeals to the traits of its market audience; visually identifying the Inn’s message, personality and value; consistently reinforcing the brand throughout its visual elements; connecting the brand emotionally with its consumers through its visual environment and displaying attributes that coincide with the appeal of the city.

The main entrance features an awning held by custom designed ironwork which incorporates the Inn’s Lion logo and the Vendue “V” surrounded by magnolias, indigenous to Charleston, and traditional French elements. The Vendue “V” and the Lion are displayed immediately upon entrance and are utilized throughout the hotel, subliminally reinforcing the imagery of the Inn’s logo to its guests throughout its atmosphere. It’s the first thing the guests see as they arrive and the last as they depart.

The graceful entryway that has been designed for the Inn welcome the guest into an open inviting lobby sprinkled with 18th century French pieces and artwork depicting the site of the Vendue Inn throughout history, silently showcasing its journey. The lobby’s visual presentation introduces the Inn to its guests in such a way that customers are able to understand the quality, characteristics, and value of this place they will call home for the next few nights.

The reception is to feature traditional furniture designed so guests can sit and check in, visiting one-on-one with the clerk thereby creating immediate rapport with its staff. Various seating areas and nooks reinforce the intimacy of the hotel and provide a place for guests to gather and socialize creating the southern hospitality experience intended at the Vendue Inn.

The Whaley Room, set for guests to indulge in the Inn’s complementary southern breakfast; will serve a dual purpose as both a breakfast room and a historic garden room in honor of Emily Whaley, a famous Charlestonian writer who turned her backyard into one of the nation’s most acclaimed private gardens which is now open to the public and can be visited by the Inn’s guests.

The restaurant and adjoining parlor room reflects the history of the original building owner, Samuel Prioleau, and usage of the building during the days it functioned as a warehouse; importing and exporting goods such as rice, tea and indigo. The atmosphere tirelessly tells of the Inns relevance in the history of Charleston, communicating a persona in which guests are able to relate, understand, partake in, remember and associate. Artwork portrays images of exported botanicals and replications of original ledgers used to record the traded goods, as well as, currency and maps from 1888.  Portraits of the family hung on the walls give meaning to nearby street names which are immediately identified and connected back to the Inn when guests venture outside the property. The historic fireplace, now revitalized, and the restaurants entrance both feature custom ironwork similar to the ironwork at the entry awning; providing another opportunity to tastefully reinforce the Inn’s logo through its visual elements.

The Rooftop Bar at The Vendue Inn is one of the most well know bars in Charleston, offering panoramic views of the harbor and the French Quarter. The guests arrive at custom signage incorporating the French design of the hotel as well as the vintage beach feel of the bar. At the elevator which leads to The Rooftop Bar, a large custom French inspired vintage postcard style painting of the Inn is displayed. The hotel now replicates this piece which is aptly named “Velo de Vendue” as a souvenir and sells it to their guests in multiple size options.  This provides unique marketing opportunities for the Inn as the imagery of the hotel and its brand now hangs on walls in the homes of many satisfied guests; serving as not only a constant reminder of the hotel but also as an introduction of the Inn to anyone else who happens upon the artwork.

Of the many historic tours guests may partake in through the city, one of the most valuable is found within the hotel. The Inn stands apart from their competitors by offering individually designed guestrooms that each tells a story.  These stories are told through compelling imagery and design style that provoke an emotional connection through a museum like experience.

One of the most powerful assets to Vendue Inn’s branding is that the guestrooms tell stories of the city’s most influential people. Each room is dedicated to a Charlestonian who made history and feature artwork inspired by or representative of its namesake. To be displayed outside each guestroom is the Charlestonian’s name as well as a synopsis of their contribution to our Country and an image representative of them will carry the story of Charleston’s history throughout the hotel.

The style of each room is reflective of the traditional French style yet unique in era and color from one room to the next. Furnishings indicative of southern hospitality offer to make each visitor feel as comfortable as possible. The rooms feature custom area rugs subtly bringing in the Lion from their logo. The custom toile fabric, utilized throughout the rooms, was created using actual images of the Inn, historic views of Charleston and features places the guests are likely to visit during their trip.  A bedscarf program with the toile fabric has been set-up for the Inn to sell as memorabilia to their guests, allowing them to take home a piece of their trip and continue to promote the Vendue Inn after their departure. The artwork featured in the guest bathrooms displays a watercoloring of the hotels view of the harbor, urging them to visit the Inn’s Rooftop Bar.

Guests will be able to walk down the corridors of the Inn and learn of people who paved the way to their future. They will learn of Joel Poinsett, who brought the poinsettia flower to America, they will learn of Edward White who designed the buildings right outside their windows, they will learn of Thomas Sumter, the Solider who’s life’s story was used to develop the fictional character of Benjamin Martin in the movie “The Patriot”, they will learn of the men who influenced the bill of rights for the United States, they will learn of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and fought for our freedom, they will learn of Eliza Lucas who first grew indigo in the US, and of Daniel Jenkins who led orphans in the band which developed the song and dance we all know as “The Charleston”. These are memories guests will take with them, and the Vendue Inn will forever be a part of their lives.

The sitting rooms off the corridors will feature a replication of an old newspaper stand, urging guests to interact with their environment by taking the day’s paper or reading articles published from the year 1808, creating experiences and memories they will not soon forget.

Just like the city itself and all the tours it sees; The Vendue Inn is designed to tell a story. A story of its past and the history of the city around it; stories that its’ guests can indulge in; stories which are relevant in each of our lives; stories which will be remembered and shared with others.

All of what the guests discover at the Inn will be reinforced by the surrounding area of the historic district. Any local tour they participate in will spark a memory of someone from the Inn. Once home again, the cotton in their bathrooms, the poinsettia flower seen during the holidays, and the celebration of the 4th of July will all serve as reminders of their trip to Charleston and their stay at The Vendue Inn. No other source of branding is as strong, versatile and transitional as what was created for the Vendue Inn.

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