Your View On 2021: Maurice Ajanaku
The new year is just around the corner and what a reality shattering 2020 it’s been. As we set our sights on 2021, we’ve taken a slightly different approach to the usual “Trends for the new year” or “The top things to consider” type of articles. In this Q&A series – Your View On 2021 – we spoke with a few engaging and bright professionals who share their views on 2021. And no, it’s not necessarily about defining trends. The focus is more on sharing positive views, (new) habits, suggestions and what they’re looking forward to in the new year. Cheers to a positive and healthy 2021!
Our third guest is family man Maurice who is the Marketing Director at citizenM hotels. He’s a well-rounded professional with over 15 years of experience in growing brands within the FMCG, luxury, textile, drinks and hospitality industries. Maurice has a true passion for building brands that connect emotionally with their audiences. In a previous life, he was the driving force behind an English language and well-respected lifestyle blog in the Netherlands. And, whenever he finds time, he very much enjoys traversing the Dutch landscape on his race bike.
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
The basis for me is family. Family first. I’m always keen on seeing what my wife and children are up to and to see them grow. From how my children continue to develop and how they handle school to seeing how my wife will excel at her new job.
From a business perspective, I’m looking forward to the world getting back to some level of normalcy. citizenM has a strong family-centric approach and it’s a major reason why we’ve managed to get through 2020. The company understands and advocates the importance of family so there’s huge support there. Hopefully, citizenM can continue to grow, become stronger as a brand and focus on really executing our plans to achieve growth beyond 2021. Obviously also really looking forward to seeing guests stay at our hotels again.
How will the hospitality landscape look to adapt in 2021 compared to 2020?
Hospitality will definitely need to innovate and focus on developing the right technology to offer guests. When citizenM launched twelve years ago, we focused on innovation and that’s what we’re known for. Yes, we’re a hotel but first and foremost we’re an innovation company operating in the hospitality industry. Our innovation has always been guest-centric from day one. Just consider how we operate our hotels. Our ambassadors – the colleagues that run our hotels – are at the heart of the company and they have a multifunctional role. From helping you check-in to shaking up a perfect cocktail. This approach ignores the typical roles most hotels incorporate.
From a technology perspective within the industry, it’s not just about providing an app for guests, it’s the entire customer experience. At citizenM, we’ve organized the rest of the company to support our ambassadors and technology is obviously key in providing that support. The development of the kiosk was designed to free up time for our ambassadors to interact with our guests. When the pandemic hit, hotels had to provide a more contactless stay for guests to minimize contact with other people. One of the things we fast-tracked as a result of the pandemic was the development of our new app to enable a fully contactless experience for guests. You can literally do everything from your phone, from check-in to controlling your room to payment. What we offer our guests is a truly contactless stay to the extent of how they want it. Additionally, the way our rooms are designed enabled us to provide a safe environment. The rooms are not too large, we have no carpets, surface materials are easy to clean and we maintain a very strict cleaning regimen. Thanks to our set-up and underlying technology we were able to adapt quickly to the current situation.
Can you tell us a bit more about a citizenM project we should be on the lookout for in the new year?
What you can look forward to is a kind of subscription model. When and how is not entirely defined yet but it’s definitely something we’re developing. You could say we’re aiming to innovate the traditional loyalty program. Innovating loyalty is not about the points. It’s more about a sense of belonging and a sense of community. How do we take the loyalty program – which has been more or less the same for the past few decades – innovate it and make it recognizably citizenM? That’s our aim and we want to launch a product that’s different from the standard loyalty points scheme.
We recently launched Global Passport which is a step in that direction. Global Passport is something entirely different in our industry and definitely provides us with learnings we can use moving forward. We’ve never had a loyalty program simply because we’ve created something unique with raving fans. We have guests who really love our brand and who feel connected to us because we’re more than just a hotel. So, when we launch something new, it has to have that undeniable citizenM DNA.
Being a design and communications professional, what changes do you foresee for the art of communications in 2021?
Being a professional – in whatever field – you see what’s happening around you and then (try to) adapt. What I see happening is even more focus on differentiation and personalization in communicating and interacting with customers. Though not necessarily new, I’m convinced omnichannel is going to be increasingly crucial for brands simply because people are becoming more accustomed to various digital platforms and tools. The relentless pace of development in digital communication tools means more touchpoints to consider during the customer journey. It’s essential to understand where your brand can interact with your audience and how you’re going to interact with your audience across all those different touchpoints. Moreover, more touchpoints mean a risk of diluting a brand’s voice, as well as overcommunicating. Finding the right balance is key, while consistency in the tone of voice is crucial across all messaging to ensure people always recognize the brand.
Any recommendations for 2021?
Travel and stay at citizenM! Jokes aside, I truly believe in the experience of traveling and meeting new people to have conversations and learn from those conversations. Clearly, travel has been challenging and we need to be patient in the coming year. However, I strongly recommend going out and talking to people (obviously within COVID regulations). Not only in real life, but also try to connect to people via for example LinkedIn to gain insights and ideas. Just talk to each other, listen and learn.
Finally, on a personal level, what type of changes in your habits or approach to work/life balance are you looking to continue into 2021?
My work-life balance has always been very good. Before the pandemic and the whole working from home situation, my priorities were set properly. citizenM was hugely supportive which meant adapting to the new situation went smoothly.
What I mentioned earlier was to go out and have conversations. Through a podcast series (titled By Association) I co-produced, I realized how much I enjoyed conversations with interesting individuals. Those conversations don’t necessarily always have to be from a professional perspective. It can be about anything. I just really enjoy hearing someone’s perspective on life and learning from that. Hopefully, I’ll have more of those conversations in the new year!