Catering to the ‘curious class’

About 36 million people come to Las Vegas a year. They come to town to do a variety of things—shop, eat, gamble, hedonize. From all corners of the globe and from all walks of life, the city welcomes them all.

And yet the soon-to-open Cosmopolitan has a mission: to find a class of people who haven’t been served in Las Vegas, and deliver an experience that will get them talking, and coming back.

Flanked by AAA Five Diamond winners to the north (Bellagio) and south (Aria), it’s not going to be luxury alone that sets the Cosmopolitan apart. It’s a fantastic building in a city of fantastic buildings. So under CEO John Unwin, the Cosmopolitan has hinged its success on reaching out to what it calls “the curious class.”

This is a concept which may owe something to urban theorist Richard Florida’s “creative class,” the advance guard that Florida believes is vital to urban growth. He devotes scrupulous attention to social and economic data (he handicaps cities for creative-class friendliness by a “gay index” and “Bohemian index”), while the curious class can’t be quantified.

“It’s not a demographic,” Cosmopolitan chief strategy officer Sherry Harris says. “It’s a mindset.” Yet Harris has a strong image of who is in the curious class.

“She defines herself in terms of wanting something new and different, but it has to be meaningful and relevant. The new luxury is less about status and more about purpose. It’s defined as seeking experience over services, and it requires emotional connection that is worth returning to.”

Lisa Marchese, senior vice president of brand marketing, offers an explanation of the brand that will draw this adventure-seeking guest.

“Basically, it’s ‘polish without pretense.’ That’s our guardrail for every decision we make, from what amenities we have in the rooms to the artists on our marquee. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is about creating stories that are worth telling.”

Marchese says it’s critical for the resort not to take itself too seriously, and to make unexpected choices that guests will enjoy. That might mean the Fornasetti wallpaper in the guest closets, or uncommon amenities like soaking tubs for two with a Strip view. It’s a resort that’s designed to keep you guessing and coming back to make more discoveries.

Getting employees ready to greet the curious class is a task itself. First of all, there are no employees at the Cosmopolitan, only “co-stars.” Although some might take that as more title aggrandizement (“worker” giving way to “team member”), Harris says there’s a difference.

“It’s not just a clever name. We really think of the resort as the star of the show, and every day we’re all putting on a performance, regardless of title or rank. It’s very different from the more traditional ways of defining who we are.”

It’s difficult to get a sense of how co-stars will demonstrate that difference to the guests whose rooms they are cleaning or cards they’re dealing. According to Harris, it’s more of a nuance. On a blackjack table, for example, “It’ll be the same game, but delivered differently. Apple versus Dell.”

Co-stars don’t have interviews—they go through an audition process and they learn to play by their own rules.

“We’ll offer our co-stars techniques, but we won’t give them a rule book,” Harris says. And they won’t be wearing name tags. “It lets guest have more intimate opportunity.” This is in line with the idea of giving the Cosmopolitan a flatter organization—less hierarchy, more conversation—and promoting a general vibe of anything goes.

Harris says that some prospective co-stars found that the Cosmopolitan wasn’t for everyone.

“Some people just wanted a job; you won’t find them here,” she says. “It wasn’t so much about the skills that people brought with them, but their attitude. We can teach you the systems, if you come with the right spirit, the values that will activate an experience for the curious class.

“There are no scripts, no robotic responses: everything has to be in the moment, authentic. We’re investing an incredible amount in training, to be sure that our co-stars have the confidence to be the brand.”

So the curious class should find a building full of discoveries, and co-stars willing to share the limelight.

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