Using your brand effectively in hotel marketing
Branding isn't just a pretty logo. Building the right brand for your accommodation business is the single most important thing you can do to stand out, attract the right guests and increase your bookings potential.
So what does a brand even mean? Simply, everything you do, say, have said, and will say is a reflection of your brand. When it’s done right, it will attract the right guests over and over again and fill every one of your vacant rooms. When it’s done wrong, at best you’ll go unnoticed, and at worst it will leave people disappointed and turn them against your business.
Alex Booker is creative director at one of the world’s leading advertising agencies, Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) in New York. He told us: “In today’s world, having a brand is everything. It’s the thing that outlives products and offers, it sits above changes in management and staff, and provides focus and direction for where things are headed both internally and externally.
“Good branding is the one thing separating you from the competition. For the most part, you’re offering a similar product to your competitors – a place to lay your head at the end of the day. Branding and authentic storytelling is the promise of the experience you’re offering. Done correctly, a brand allows customers to trust and expect a certain quality just from a name alone.”
It’s incredibly important to think about your guests, first and foremost. Your sole purpose is to appeal to them. Now think about what the biggest selling point is to them. Avoid any hype, exaggeration or over promising and, if possible, find something that is unique to you. For example, you might be the closest to the beach, have the best rooftop bar in the city, or offer the most authentic cultural experience blended with Western comforts.
We asked Al Crawford, a chief strategist with experience at large advertising agencies in Australia and the UK, what it means and why it’s important for an accommodation business to have a clear direction for its brand strategy. Al told us: "Having a clear brand helps you stand out in the marketplace. Look at any market. The brands that have a distinctive positioning and, just as importantly, stick to that positioning, tend to be the ones that succeed. That’s because they’re not just different to other players, but they’ve taken the time to build and reinforce that difference over time, rather than chopping and changing from year to year. The same goes for the small accommodation business.
"Finding out what your point of difference is and then building it year after year will help you stand out and encourage repeat bookings.
You can see from the simple diagram above how your brand strategy informs the remainder of your business.
A well-executed brand isn’t just about making things look great. There’s no point in having an accommodation business that looks nice if guests don’t enjoy the experience. You need to resonate with your audience on every level to truly connect with them.
Simon Gibson, a New York-based senior writer at advertising agency R/GA, shared this great advice: “Think like a person. Act like a person. There is too much blandness in the sector. So many places treat accommodation as functional, only separated by varying degrees of luxury.
“Places like the Standard Hotel are great at it. Their app, One Night Standard, shows a great understanding of their audience and everything about their branding shows they know who they are appealing to. They act like they think like a person staying. They make it fun.
“Then there’s Airbnb. It wasn’t just revolutionary because of the business model, it also made people feel like they were getting personalised experiences. The places guests stayed had stories and charm and weird rugs.”
London-based design creative director, Andrew Murabito, adds: “Hotel branding should be inviting and set the visual language for what to expect. Clever hotel branding should be a seamless integration to the aesthetic of the hotel interior and experience on offer. The right design and branding should speak to prospective clients with a narrative that’s akin to their lifestyles and tap into their consumer desires.”
We asked Andrew if he felt any particular brands stand out when it comes to delivering on a brand experience. “Ace Hotel seem to have got it right,” he answered. “They tick all the boxes when it comes to delivering a brand that’s totally in tune with their business model and customers of the establishments.”
Look at how successful businesses around the world have used their brand to inform the story they wish to tell to their customers. Red Bull, for example, awakens the feeling of being a ‘daredevil’ within us all. They extend their brand story through ambassadors, events, film, photography, advertising, social media and so on, so that we’re able to witness often life-threatening experiences and stunts, essentially extending their value proposition of “Red Bull gives you wings” into our daily lives.
Unlike marketing or social media strategies, which could change regularly, your brand strategy should be consistent and recognisable. Your logo, tagline, brand colours, tone of voice, typography, photography and so on should remain the same no matter where people are experiencing them.
Establishing a brand should be a collaboration between you and a branding consultant or agency. Unless you have a level of understanding, experience and training in branding, it’s really important to work with professionals to deliver the most effective results.
Creative director Alex Booker adds: “Think of branding as the overall experience you’re selling, not just your visual identity and advertising. The way your business interacts with customers, handles a negative experience, and celebrates a positive one will get people to talk about and recommend your brand to others.”
Once you get all of this right, developing your hotel marketing strategies will be that much easier and help you tell a consistent story with your guests.
Kuma Lodge - a boutique ski lodge in Japan - have effectively used their brand in their hotel marketing strategy and achieved remarkable results. Over the past 12 months they have seen a 200% increase in revenue, they are currently ranked #1 on TripAdvisor for the area, a 300% increase in audience engagement on social media (shares, likes and comments) and the guest experience continuously delivers 5 star reviews.
Finally, building your brand successfully will build loyalty with your guests. If you already have people that love you, and your business, don’t just sit there, reward them for that love. Building the love of your brand with guests will encourage return visits, word-of-mouth recommendations and increase profitability.
For further reading on how the right approach to your brand can help with effective hotel marketing, simply grab a copy of No Vacancy today.