Seeing such a visibly public name such as KesselsKramer at a conference, there is the worry that the work is already over-exposed, and you’ve seen everything. Thankfully, with this talk there was the right balance of plenty of context added to the familiar, and showing some of their more obscure projects.
Erik talked about how a strong idea could carry across both a high and low budget, allowing that freedom to ‘blur’ at the top. And starting with the lowest of the low was the Hans Brinker Hotel in Amsterdam. This was one of KK’s first clients and Erik described it as “the biggest shithole … I’ve ever seen in my life”. The owner of the hotel was not interesting in improving the conditions for the guest, he just wanted less complaints. So, with that cue they began their campaign of bold, unflinching honesty – promoting all the downsides as if they were desirable features: “Now More Rooms Without a Window!” and “Now Even More Dog Shit in the Entrance!”. All were illustrated by fellow Typo speaker Anthony Burrill with his recognisably stark and witty style. The dog shit, apparently a common sight in Amsterdam, allowed another marketing idea – carefully planting small flags in each pile, to entice new guests. This not only worked, but was quickly copied by other budget hotels in the area. Over each year, the campaign developed along different themes, still with that strong concept at it’s heart: from Eco design to boutique design to pathetic improvements and my favourite – ‘everything not included’. Perhaps, what is most startling about this whole story is, not that complaints stopped (the assumption is that visitor’s expectations were lowered so much), but visitor numbers rocketed and continue to rise. It is now something of a tourist attraction amongst the younger visitors to Amsterdam.