Do signature elements stay crunchy over time?

Many brands have introduced signature elements into their customer journeys to differentiate themselves from the competition. Some of these elements are built around the core service proposition but many are located at the outskirts of the original product or service offering. I ran into such an outskirtish element while staying at the Double Tree in Amsterdam last week. Double Tree is a brand of the Hilton Group and targeted at younger (business) travellers that are looking for a cool style with all the usual 4* amenities.

When checking in sometime after 10 p.m. the lady at the counter handed my a chocolate cookie after all the paperwork had been done. I was amazed. Then I realized that the cookie was warm like coming straight from the bakery and when I ate it in my room, the chocolate chips on the inside were still melted. That blew me away. At first.

The Double Tree Cookie, a signature element
The Double Tree Cookie
© Ralf Hetzer, 2013

Where did the cookie come from? The reception desk has several heated drawers built into the desk that keep a stock of cookies at the right temperature. This signature element is intended to provide arriving guest (that mostly drop-in late in the afternoon) a sweet and welcoming treat and give their stomachs a rest after having been on the road or in meetings all day with no time to grab a decent dinner. The lady at the reception could immediately give me the story behind the cookie after I asked her.

A second look at this signature element

As the days in Amsterdam were filled with customer experience talk, I asked my colleagues how they had experienced the cookie. The observation was twofold. Everybody who was visiting the Double Tree for the first time was impressed and appreciated the cookie as something very unique and special. Everybody had eaten it immediately when they had settled in their rooms. For the returning guests to the Double Tree, the story was different. They reported a wear-our effect and started expecting the cookie as something that is part of the service package. Up to the point to intentionally skip dinner as the cookie will cover up for it. Some even got annoyed by it, especially when they were trying to stay away from sweets to keep their weight.

Can the Double Tree cookie stay crunchy?

In my opinion it can’t as the idea of giving a little treat to a customer needs to have variety in order to stay interesting. I was amazed as I did not expect the cookie. To keep the momentum on the concept, it would have to change every once in a while, cycling through a set of pre-defined elements. By this the guest can not guess what he will get this time, which keeps the element of surprise. And let’s face it, the thing that made me happy last week at the check-in was the surprise itself and not so much the cookie.