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The risk of undervaluing your hotel brand

January 23, 2024 4 min read
hotel brand

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The risk of undervaluing your hotel brand

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We have to admit that the hotel world is complex, absorbing and very fast-paced. There is a fierce debate about the best solutions and complex tools that will allow a residual improvement in revenue to be achieved – what we sometimes call “fairy dust”.

Personally, I find myself thinking more and more about a fundamental aspect of the business – which has the potential to define the commercial success of a hotel and which is often neglected: branding.

I think it’s worth starting by defining branding – to understand why you should really spend your time thinking about it. Perhaps it is easier to say what branding is not: it is not a logo, although it is part of branding; and it is not a product, a service or a promise. A company’s branding is a result: it is the feeling and perception generated in each person, by the brand story that is told, demonstrated and/or experienced.

A few years ago, Canon did a fantastic experiment: they hired 5 photographers to photograph the same subject. There was only one difference in the process: it told a different story, about who the subject was, to each photographer. The result was spectacularly different. When they combined the photographers and their results, it didn’t even look like they had photographed the same person.

That’s what branding is: a unique story told to people who receive it – and react to it – differently. And that is why companies materialize and document their brand – whether in visual terms, language, textures or music – in a document called, even today, “Brand Book”.

Part of my job is overseeing the development of new websites for Guestcentric clients and the numbers never cease to amaze me. Only 1 in 150 hotels has a comprehensive brand book. And only 1 in 50 hotels even has a manual for using the logo. This data – which reflects the reality in more than 50 countries – reveals the urgent need for a renewed focus on the importance of branding.

When a hotelier dreams of a new project, he instinctively starts with branding – he knows how to explain why he wants to lead that project; how you will make it unique and differentiating from the competition; and how it will dazzle and delight your guests…at this stage, the branding is present and very much alive. And that’s good!

Paradoxically, as the project grows and the opening of the hotel approaches, branding becomes one of the most undervalued aspects. The essence of the hotel — its brand — is forgotten and set aside, in the frantic race that involves paying attention to everything at the same time: contractors, works, mattresses, minibar, breakfast buffet, team building, and forecast of occupancy rates and revenues. You only think about branding again when you need to create a website, a profile on social media and produce promotional materials for the hotel.

And yet, branding is the heart of the hotel: a comprehensive representation that must tell an engaging story to the guest the hotel aims to attract.

The logo plays a crucial role as a visual ambassador, which helps customers in contact with the brand to more easily identify your business. As a unique graphic symbol, which must reflect your hotel, it also becomes a storyteller: about the type of hotel, the environment, the personality and the unique atmosphere that lives there.

Have questions? Try a simple experiment: give your business card to someone who doesn’t know your hotel and ask them what type of hotel it seems to be. If this person can’t describe the key features of your hotel, seriously consider changing – and take the opportunity to review your branding.

Branding becomes the narrative that guests experience, influencing every touchpoint of your guest journey: before, during and after your stay. Each customer will react to the hotel brand in their own way, with their sensitivity and life story. Every interaction with guests becomes an opportunity to reinforce the brand, making it an integral part of the overall guest experience.

In addition to aesthetics, the brand concept becomes a pillar in team formation, incorporating the values, purpose and personality that define the hotel’s identity. It also influences the hotel’s relationship with its suppliers, owners or investors, in addition to the local community. And, of course, commercial relationships with operators and online travel agencies (OTAs).

In an industry dominated by online travel agencies (OTAs) and search engines, where guests typically search for hotels, it is essential to ensure that the customer easily associates your brand with your hotel.

The critical moment is when a potential guest arrives at your hotel’s website. The initial visual impact; the emotional connection of the first few seconds; and that moment when we look and really want to go to that hotel – even though we know very little or nothing about the unit.

This emotional connection, generated by the brand and branding, is responsible for two thirds of the customer’s likelihood of booking a stay. The remaining third involves rational and objective considerations — room availability, price, location and accessibility.

Several studies show that, even if the customer ends up booking their stay with an OTA, the hotel’s website is the decisive factor in choosing the unit. It is there that you can understand the true “personality” of the hotel – what makes it unique.

With all these universes of people impacted by branding, consistency in the brand experience is fundamental to the success of a hotel brand. It’s the secret ingredient that transforms a hotel into a memorable and distinctive destination – one to visit and to return to.

Even so, knowing its crucial role in the customer’s decision-making moment, branding, along with photography and design, is one of the most neglected aspects of hotel operations.

Hotels that invest thousands of euros (and well) in operational aspects, but are mostly unable to invest in the fundamental pieces of presentation of their brand. And with that, they completely underestimate one of the main drivers of their customers’ decisions.

Even in the complex reality of hotel operations, it is essential to accept that branding transcends the domain of revenue management. It is a potent force that shapes perceptions, influences decisions and creates lasting impressions.

More than recognizing the transformative power of branding, hotels must embrace it – as a compass that guides them towards differentiation. Elevate your hotel experience, not just with revenue management strategies, but through the art of storytelling — your brand’s stories.

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