This blog originally ran in my restaurantbrandingroadmap.com. It’s got a good universal message that can apply to any industry.

My new husband earned an all-expense paid trip for two to the Mexican Riviera from his employer. When I first heard the news I was not excited. My perception of traveling to Mexico was negative. Visions of drug cartels and crime, water that made me sick and less than stellar service experiences from past trips danced through my mind. I was not jazzed about this destination brand.

On top of that, it was an all-inclusive resort another hard wired image in my head of lame food buffets, B-class beverages and mediocre service. I suspect I was not the only guest that arrived with more than their just checked baggage.

After only five days at the Grand Velas Resort, my opinion is completely different and now positive. This organization understands brand management and they, along with the help of a handful of other great experiences, turned me around.

This was no accident. It was the result of thoughtful details on every touch point and the brand consistency throughout the experience. From trained staff, good communications, excellent service and incredible food, the Mexican travel brand was repainted into a memorable masterpiece worth sharing.

Here are just a few things they did really well.

1) The first impressions start the brand.
We flew into the Cancun airport. It was welcoming, modern and stress free. Sights of familiar brands like Air Margaritaville provided added comfort. We were greeted by brightly uniformed, English speaking staff. As soon as we boarded the ground transportation, we were reminded of all the signatures beauties of the region and its safety.

CancunAirport Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

2) Delight your guests with the unexpected.
35 minutes from the airport and 5 minutes from the town of Playa Del Carmen, we entered the property.  A jungle setting, lush with mangroves, and tropical flowers, The Grand Velas Riviera Maya is one of the few Five Diamond rated by AAA in the area. The lobby was huge, ultra modern, appointed with contemporary art; massive stone textures and all gorgeously sophisticated. The guest rooms were equally as grand all 1000-2,500 square feet. Not what I expected.

The Grand Velas Riviera Maya1 Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

3) Break the mold.
Like I mentioned earlier, this resort was an all-inclusive. The idea that the food and dining experience would be amazing was a distant possibility.  The Grand Velas Riviera Maya broke the mold of this perception by making their food and dining experience unlike any other all-inclusive place. There were 11 dining options, 5 fine dining and all featuring the artistry of acclaimed chefs from around the world, including Spain, Italy, France and Mexico. From molecular cuisine to modern French fare to Asian fusion, they delivered seriously great food and memorable dining experiences were at the core of their brand. One of the highlights was our night at Cocina de Autor. The food is Basque-inspired Cuisine and delivered in a pre-set, 4-course tasting menu concept. Each course carefully designed by the chef provided guests with up to four different tastes per course, making it a plethora of flavors and culinary joy.

Here are a couple items that stood out.

Cocina de Autor faux sushi Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

Served as an early course the waiter introduced this item pictured above as their unique faux sushi. Not until you savor the bite, do they tell you it is actually watermelon with a balsamic drizzle. WOW, who would have thought?! As guests we were extremely engaged, the act of eating was transformed to an adventure.

4) Make your own rules.
In an effort to deliver the on-brand promise of fine dining at its best, the resort imposed strict rules. No one under 12 is allowed in any of the fine dining restaurants and formal dress code–no shorts, open shoes–is required, all adding the sophisticated experience and further defining the luxury brand.

Cocina de Autor Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

5) Presentation is worth a 1000 more flavors.
Delicious food is one thing, elegantly presented makes an even stronger impact on the overall dining experience. Use of color, painted sauces, flavor foams, carved food shapes, serving containers to delicate details like the dusted margaritas with sweet sugar, salt and hot pepper that added an even higher degree of taste and visual enjoyment.

Cocina de Autor dessert Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

Cocina de Autor dessert 2 Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

6) Random art is cool.
Throughout the property guests were treated to unexpected artful touches that reflected a creative and fun brand personality.  Here are a just few.

photo3 300x209 Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

At the hostess stand in one of the casual restaurants these framed pictures actually opened into hidden storage for room paper supplies. This was a nice way to keep the front of the room clutter free and add local art.

Cocina de Autor Art2 Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

At the entrance of the ladies room, guests were greeted by a gigantic wall mural.

Cocina de Autor mural Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

Even the door hardware expressed the artisan spirit of the brand.

Mayan Indian Repaint the story – Your brand is your canvas

Art was brought to life too, as we were met by traditionally dressed Mayan Indians at an outdoor reception. This touch not only reinforced the ancient charm from the area, but served as photo background and keepsake for guests.

In summary, the array of small on brand details and focus on customer experience turned a would be nice vacation into an extraordinary one and transformed my perception of this destination brand.

If your brand, category or even location has experienced some brand dents from things getting out of your control, take charge with things you do control. Do them exceptionally well and repaint a new picture in the minds of the consumer.

Brand on!