W Hotels

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Hilary Billings established the W Hotels brand using concepts of style and comfort she honed as an exec with Pottery Barn.

As Starwood Hotels & Resorts VP-brand design, she wanted W Hotels to avoid looking like a Westin or a Sheraton. She was able to call on top Starwood restaurant operators and designers to build units.

"We saw at Pottery Barn an underserved market in home furnishings that lacked style and acceptable price points," says Ms. Billings, 36, who has since moved on to become chairman-CEO of Red Envelope, an online gift service. "That same gap existed in business hotels before W."

"We captured a need in the hotel market that big brands couldn't offer the consumer from the standpoint of business amenities or the style and comfort associated with boutique hotels," she says.

The first W opened in New York, and Ms. Billings rolled out six of the first 10 in high-style turn-of-the-century designs.

She launched a direct mail campaign via Emdash Design Group, San Francisco, that highlighted the individualized attention at W. DDB Worldwide, Chicago, handled print ads supporting the effort. Spending totaled $2.2 million.

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