Pimentel & Partners is a creative consultancy specialising in the design of brand experiences, museums, and visitor attractions. While it is a new company on the scene having started in 2021, it was founded by Paulo Pimentel, who brings over two decades of experience in brand experience and visitor design to this new venture.
The company uses engaging design and compelling content to bring stories to life, working with a range of clients in the attractions sector, from museums to brand homes. Most recently, Pimentel has transformed the visitor experience at Cálem Cellars in Porto. He has worked on a variety of successful projects throughout his career, including the iconic Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
A passion for storytelling
Paulo Pimentel, creative director at Pimentel & Partners, graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture and for part of his early career worked at brand experience agency Imagination. During this time, he was part of the team that worked on the development of the Guinness Storehouse visitor experience. Many view this as a game-changer in the field of brand experiences.
“That was my first foray into brand experience and visitor attraction design,” he says. “And that’s probably why I find myself where I am now. Along the way, I’ve worked for a variety of leading companies, such as Imagination and Event Communications, and other firms working in brand experience and experiential placemaking. That has become my passion.”
In addition, Pimentel has also worked in architect roles at companies like Arup and BDP where he gained experience working on big construction projects.
Talking to blooloop about the ethos behind his new venture, Pimentel explains:
“Pimentel & Partners has, essentially, come out of my passion for creating places and spaces that tell stories. I talk about passion and performance; for me, it’s all about the passion of the place, the people, and the stories, but also the problem solving and the challenge of making something that works well commercially.”
Introducing Pimentel & Partners
One of the things that makes Pimentel and Partners unique is its partnership model. This allows it to be agile:
“A lot of the bigger players have everything in-house, whereas our model is that we partner with the right creatives and experts for each project,” says Pimentel. “Essentially, I’m the glue and what we do is create an agile team for each project; it’s a flexible, bespoke approach. It’s a networked approach of tried, trusted, and tested partners.”
These experts include names such as graphic design agency Lombaert Studio, DOODLE Architecture, GEMA Digital and Weekend Film Production. The variety of creative disciplines with the ability to respond to a range of briefs is key.
Having started his career working on the Guinness Storehouse project, Pimentel says he has a passion for projects like that, working with drinks brands in particular:
“The last one I completed was for Cálem Cellars. These projects have the perfect sweet spot for me, between place, heritage, and story, and the business problem of creating an asset, something that increases profit, draws fame and builds a brand. I think it’s an interesting proposition. Right now, Pimentel and Partners are very much focused around that brand experience and brand home sector.”
This ethos of passion and performance is exemplified by his recent project for Cálem Cellars in Porto, Portugal:
“We’re passionate about telling compelling stories of brands, in order to drive fame and increase engagement. Then we also optimise the performance of built assets to maximise revenue opportunities,” says Pimentel.
“The Cálem Cellars is a 300-year-old building, still a working cellar where they mature port; you can smell it in the air, it’s very evocative. There was an existing tour there, where you would get taken around, chat about the process, and then have a tasting in a slightly apologetic shop, with three glasses of port. But in this part of Porto, Vila Nova De Gaia, there are probably two dozen port experiences or cellars.”
To distinguish themselves from the competition, Cálem Cellars had a clear brief with certain key goals.
“Firstly, they wanted to increase ticket sales and throughput. Secondly, they wanted to increase revenue through other streams like retail. For instance by creating a better shop with more products, and potentially other offers, like extensions to tickets. And finally, they wanted to differentiate themselves with the story they told, showing why Cálem is different to all the other brands.”
A compelling brand story
To meet these goals, Pimentel decided to focus on an engaging new story that would run through the whole visitor experience, giving it a USP and tying the various elements together:
“Essentially, what we did was to create a story about the Douro Valley. So, the Douro Valley is where all the grapes are grown, three hours upriver. It is an extraordinary manmade landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in fact, with all these drystone terraces. And that’s a unique story because no one in the area telling it, no one else is exploring that connection with the Douro Valley.
“We also wove that into the design with these curving elements that draw you through to tell the story. We have a projection mapping element too, with a map of the Douro Valley which tells you all that story.”
Another thing that Pimentel and the team did was open up more space within the venue. Using a previous storage area, they created a huge new tasting room. This also enabled them to free up more space in the retail area.
“In addition, we introduced a new space place for people to wait. It’s a museum, essentially, with interactives about aromas and videos about barrel making, but it is also a holding place to hold coach loads of people, so then you can feed language-specific tours through the cellar and into the tasting room.”
Upgrading the visitor experience
When it came to the tasting room, the team knew that the existing offer needed a serious upgrade, both in terms of the visitor experience and the upselling potential:
“The tasting room now has flexible partitions, so you can have different group sizes. That means they can cater to coach tours and large groups too. I commissioned local street artists to decorate these screens in graffiti expressing Porto life; it’s a real cultural moment and it’s beautiful.”
“The space is fully kitted out with a PA, which means they can hold Fado [Portuguese folk music] evenings, which again boosts the revenue. We also created a mezzanine space with fine dining and food pairing, and the retail offer is much extended as well. We introduced high-quality artisanal products from Portugal like olive oil and chocolate, carefully curated to be cool and to complement what they sell already.”
An eye on the trends
Having worked within the industry for over 20 years, Pimentel is well-placed to comment on some of the trends to watch, particularly as the sector finds its feet again in the wake of COVID-19.
“My sense is that the museum sector has been lagging behind the brand and commercial sector, in terms of applying technology and using digital platforms for commercial intent,” he says. “But now, people are much more aware of the possibilities of digital and virtual stories. People will always want to go to destinations, but the pre and post-journey are going to become much more prevalent.
“Coming out of COVID, there’s a culture of booking ahead, and there’s a commercial opportunity in that pre-visit space to upsell or to gain loyalty. And then, the actual journey, when you’re there at the venue, these forms of more enhanced storytelling using digital are much more prevalent – people are using it much more and enjoying it much more. We’re working in this space all the time.
“The interesting thing is that you can use that for commercial purposes. I went to the International Museum Construction Congress, and there are some people doing really interesting stuff with AR. For instance, you can use AR to look at a dinosaur skeleton and the skeleton comes to life and the flesh appears. Actually, what I’d want to be able to do is then click on my dinosaur and see that there’s a 3D dinosaur jigsaw or dinosaur t-shirt in the museum shop, and I can put it in my virtual basket right there.
“We have lots of ideas around using tech for both storytelling and commercial value. In addition, the idea of engendering loyalty and repeat visits is a critical one. That will be much more enabled by digital platforms.”
More projects to come for Pimentel & Partners
Pimentel & Partners has hit the ground running, despite the upheaval caused by COVID within the sector, with several projects on the go:
“So as an example, I’m currently doing an art gallery exhibition in the Middle East,” says Pimentel. “That is all about sustainability, and curating artwork around the topic of global warming. We are using sustainable and low-energy, recycled materials, right down to the ink and paper in the catalogue. That is an interesting project that is just kicking off now.
“What I think is interesting about Saudi Arabia is their thinking around sustainability. And whilst it’s paradoxical – it is, of course, a hugely energy-hungry country that produces a huge amount of fossil fuels – it also has a real eye on the future and is creating these very sustainable destinations.”
Sustainability is key
Sustainability is a core value for Pimentel & Partners, he adds:
“I do quite a lot of work in the event space as well, for instance, temporary exhibitions. We recently did the BBC Green Planet augmented reality experience, which was in Piccadilly Circus for about six weeks over Christmas. For that project, we used the isla model.
“This is becoming well known in the events industry. It’s essentially an organisation that champions sustainability in events and temporary exhibitions. In addition, they also have tools to measure your impact. That includes materials, where they come from, where they go to, logistics and energy consumption, and so on.”
“When you’re designing a temporary exhibition, the big question is always what happens to it afterwards. Where does it go? For the project we’re working on in Saudi Arabia, we are looking at a kit that they can take apart. They can just wheel it in and wheel it out. So, it’s got longevity and reusability built in.
“It’s interesting because I’m an architect by profession. Sustainability and energy efficiency are written into statute, they are part of the building regulations. I feel that needs to happen in the exhibition world too.”
The company has also recently done a brand workshop with a farming business in the UK:
“We were approached by a Buckinghamshire farmer with a passion for schnapps,” says Pimentel. “He wanted to create a schnapps brand with a visitor experience as a community asset. So, we looked at things like their values and their mission.”
This resulted in the creation of a brand bible, which will enable more meaningful engagement with a number of different parties as the project progresses.
“I’m quite interested in that ground-up thinking around a concept, and how that then helps to shape a brand experience or a place,” he adds. “We’re also going to Ireland to work on the early concepting for a potential visitor attraction for a well-known animation studio.
“What’s important to me is getting the right kind of projects and working with the right kind of people.”
Passion and performance at Pimentel & Partners
Having worked across Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, Pimentel has his eye on several markets:
“Right now, there’s an interesting ambition in the Middle East, especially in the destination and museum sector,” he says.
“In terms of drinks brands, I’ve been targeting beer in Belgium, and Scotch whisky in Scotland. There’s a lot of groundswell from Diageo right now, they just spent almost 200 million on whiskey experiences in Scotland. The competition will start to catch up and I’d really love to help people in that area.”
“For instance, I recently did a study with a very traditional whiskey brand, to help reimagine their distillery experience there. We looked at practical things like a renewed tour, retail, and food and beverage, as well as new car parks and facilities for tourists. But we also proposed making a story about the spring that they use to create their whiskey and bringing that story to life in a multi-sensory way.
“It’s about looking at it in terms of existing buildings and assets to create a destination that’s worth visiting, that is not just another glen. It is a destination and a story in its own right, and we can bring that out.
“We have the passion and the performance to help brands see how they can excel in situations. We find the compelling, memorable reasons why someone would go to a place. And then we help them to achieve their objectives with the assets that they have. That’s what I get excited about.”