Making Connections in Austin

In July, downtown Austin got a unique new music-themed Westin Hotel, but one aspect of the chain's brand experience has not changed: staffers' 'passion' name tags.

Westin_nametags_horizWhen I was in Austin, Texas, this July for the DMAI Annual Convention, I noticed an assembly of 10 or so people in gray uniforms standing outside a hotel, looking expectantly down Fifth Street. Maybe they’re waiting on the arrival of a dignitary, I thought. 

As it turned out, it was the day before the official opening of the Westin Austin Downtown, the chain’s first property within Austin city limits. After months of buildup, the staff seemed excited to finally be up and running, and it showed in their warm, genuine welcomes. In the 20 or so steps from front door to front desk, I was greeted at least five times. The staff had a lot to be proud of: The guitar-themed hotel seems very of-the-moment, with a funky, sun-splashed lobby, elegant rooms, and a sleek rooftop pool with arresting views.

The lobby of the Westin Austin Downtown.
The lobby of the Westin Austin Downtown.

I also noticed, for the first time, that Westin name tags are a little bit different. Just below each staffer’s name are the words “my passion:,” followed by that person’s favorite free-time pursuit — singing, kayaking, etc. Was this an Austin thing, a small touch to reflect the city’s quirk?

Nope — the tags have been around since 2008. “We’re focused on ensuring that [guests] leave feeling better than when they arrived,” Bob Jacobs, Westin (and Sheraton’s) vice president for brand management, told Convene via email. He also outlined the six pillars of Westin’s focus on well-being. “[The tags] inspire conversation between our associates and our guests, and allow us to find out more about what our guests are passionate about.”

It’s also meant to “put even more value on the people we hire, including what excites them personally.” 

In a time when companies are constantly reimagining their brands, the seven-year-old “passion tags” have ample staying power. If a guest is into guitars, dancing, or even mixology — like the Austin staffers whose names are shown above — the tags bring about connection and become part of their Westin memories. I’ll certainly never overlook them again.

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is a writer who specializes in food and drink.