Hospitality company Hakkasan Group is aiming to build a stronger corporate brand, amid ambitious expansion plans across the US, EMEA and Asia-Pacific.
The group, which owns the Hakkasan, HKK, Sake no Hana and Omnia brands, is focusing particular effort on building its creative and content resources, after hiring Ogilvy PR to support the assignment earlier this year.
Claire Ashman, executive director of global brand marketing at Hakkasan Group, told the Holmes Report that the company’s "corporate brand is a huge priority”, as it targets growth from 53 establishments this year, to 89 by 2022.
"We’re very skilled at consumer communications," said Ashman. "As we grow, understanding what our corporate brand stands for is very important."
In particular, Ashman believes a stronger group brand will help attract talent and improve the company’s corporate reputation and investor profile. "I don’t think people understand the depth or breadth, so there’s a lot of education required."
Founded in the UK, and headquartered in both London and Las Vegas, Hakkasan Group is now owned by Abu Dhabi's Abu Dhabi-based Tasameem Real Estate. But its global corporate communications strategy remains a relatively recent development — while it has grown its international footprint aggresively in recent years, there have been slip-ups, notably when a New York restaurant launch in 2012 attracted negative headlines.
Ashman came on board in 2013, and has since worked to build out creative, content and digital capabilities. She also hired Communispace to develop a new corporate brand strategy and has tasked North and Dare, respectively, for creative and digital.
“We don’t have a corporate communications department internally,” she said of the decision to hire Ogilvy PR. “We needed real consultancy and preparedness for crises and issues."
Ashman also wants to align the group’s local messaging, which has hitherto been led by local brands. That, she said, is a particular priority as Hakkasan Group’s growth includes new launches in the US and Indonesia this year.
“I want people to think we are a new-generation hospitality company — what we’re doing is a little bit more maverick,” she said. “And we want to re-energise the sector."
Most restaurant marketing, Ashman admits, is “tactical”. “When I came into this role it was very much driven by operations — how do we fill the restaurant?” she said. “Coming in with a strategic viewpoint and long-term aims was new."
That approach has so far involved a greater focus on content-generation, first targeting employees, before rolling out to the public. With the group’s 15th anniversary approaching, Ashman wants Hakkasan to take on a thought leadership role around such topics as hospitality and luxury.
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