Grupo Vidanta: Branding paradise through employee engagement

March 29, 2013

With its over 3,000 employees at the Grande Luxxe resort in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, the parent Grupo Vidanta brand is delivered with flawless consistency. How do they do it?

The Mexican sun was shining on the Pacific Ocean surrounding Puerto Vallarta. The architecturally designed pools around the landscaped grounds of the resort were beckoning. The waiter was offering another round of margaritas. Ah, another day in paradise. That’s what a vacation is at the Grande Luxxe, one of the premier luxury residence properties developed, owned and operated by Grupo Vidanta.

While not necessarily a well-known luxury hospitality brand like Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton, Grupo Vidanta currently operates 20 resort brands in several locations across Mexico with over 10,000 employees. At the four separate luxury residence complexes in Nuevo Vallarta, about 20 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, the interiors and architectural design is worthy of a spread in Architectural Digest magazine. The care and treatment of guests also demonstrates a very well managed brand of a very forward-thinking company.

Fractional ownership residences have historically had a poor branding reputation. The scams of the 1980s and 1990s have disappeared and the timeshare industry has matured into a highly profitable business. The more upscale properties now court a different audience that is used to a total experience in décor, restaurants, entertainment, service and unique adventures.

So when the Grande Luxxe offered an opportunity to experience a “Back of the House” tour to see just how this huge resort operated behind the scenes, I thought this would be interesting. How often do you get to see how luggage magically appears at your room? Or where 20,000 corn tortillas a day are made? Or what happens when you leave your wet towel on the bathroom floor for housekeeping to collect? Or where all the ingredients for your margarita come from?

There’s an old English expression, “a busman’s holiday.” The idea is that a bus driver goes on a vacation where he takes a bus tour; doing an activity he does every day. And that’s exactly what happened. While on vacation in Mexico, I found myself smack against one of the best employee brand campaigns I’ve ever seen or experienced.

With over 3,000 employees — from concierges to restaurant servers, housekeepers to security, and an army of gardeners, bartenders to maintenance, laundry workers and spa masseuses — the Grupo Vidanta brand is delivered with flawless consistency.

How do they do it? A stop on the Back of The House tour in the employee cafeteria revealed the answer. Along the walls in the dining room is a startlingly familiar site: a series of posters in Spanish with exactly the kind of brand personality words that are my stock in trade for employee communications. Their values include commitment, honesty, aesthetics, service attitude, honesty, hygiene, development, transportation, and punctuality.

HOLA campaign banners

Their current piece employee branding program was their HOLA campaign — prompting all employees at every level to greet every guest with eye contact at 20 feet and say “HOLA”, Spanish for hello.

In a series of follow-up emails with Manuel Becerra, Director of Human Resources for Grupo Vidanta, his answers to my questions revealed the best practices for employee brand engagment. “We incorporate our internal philosophy, culture and values and brand standards into every single training program at every level, from operations to line supervisors.” Señor Becerra told me that the HOLA program was done internally with their HR and Communications departments working with an external design and image company to develop them.

With an award for being the 8th best company to work for in Mexico, Grupo Vidanta takes great care and pride in training their employees — not only for their specific jobs,but how they do that job in tune with their brand.

No wonder paradise runs so smoothly. Now, where did I put my margarita?

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