With competition continuing to increase almost everywhere, the importance of distinguishing our hotel properties from their competitors is more important than ever. We can accomplish this through a variety of means; flag/affiliation, loyalty programs, advertising, marketing, special promotions, price, etc., etc. While all of these represent legitimate branding tactics, they do not address what can be the most obvious benefit from a true branding strategy.
In our industry, there exists a common belief that the concept of “branding” refers only to the name on our building. This is a glaringly insufficient definition of the concept because it fails to address the variety of opportunities associated with a true branding strategy. The real ‘brand’ of a product resides in that which makes your product unique or special; in this case, what it is that makes your hotel unique in the eyes of the marketplace. Whether affiliated with an international flag such as Marriott, Hilton, etc. or operating as an independent property, your asset has its own unique ‘brand,’ and that singular identity must be carried throughout the physical building. Your ‘brand’ should be evident in your product, in your interior design, in your commitment to service, and in all of the various ways in which your asset comes in contact with your customer. This means both on-property and off including email marketing, advertising, SEO, social media presence and otherwise.
If you are wondering how you can influence the ‘branding’ of your hotel when it carries the flag of an international hotel company (and is potentially managed by that same entity), the answer lies in your commitment to the product and services that are made available to your customers. What’s most important to understand is that a brand is a mark of something unique. Generally speaking, global hotel companies do a fine job of managing your assets; however, it is important to understand that their priority is their own brand. As an owner or someone representing ownership, it is up to you make certain that your ‘brand’ is carried through your building, even if there happens to be someone else’s name on the building. A few thoughts to consider here:
1. Do I know what is most important to my customer?
2. Do I know what is most important to the customers of my competition?
3. How am I using this knowledge to ensure that guests’ experiences in my hotel are reflective of my customers’ priorities?
If you experience even the slightest hesitation in how you answer any of these questions, you have already answered the larger question; is there an opportunity to more clearly and effectively define, market and merchandise my hotel’s ‘brand’?
It is a difficult reality that the majority of hotels underachieve when it comes to the notion of maximizing their branding. While properties strive for consistency and predictability in what they offer to their guests, they spend far less time strategizing on what can be done with their existing assets to make the guest experience more memorable, more unique, and therefore more satisfying. As we have all learned, “overall satisfaction” is the key driver in a guest’s decision to return to your hotel.
Branding is the responsibility of ownership just as it is of management. Your ability to consistently address the wants & needs of customers in your marketplace by offering unique experiences and products, regardless of the name on your building, will result in the difference between ordinary and extraordinary performance.