by Kim Campbell
When consumers interact with your hotel, whether through an online advertisement or visiting your website, they form an impression of your business. Is your marketing clean and professional? Does your website look dependable and trustworthy? A potential guest may find the color tones in your site design peaceful and relaxing. They could find the adventurous hero image on your landing page invigorating and enticing. Bottom line: Customers constantly make mental and emotional connections with your hotel branding. But are they making the right connections?
In this post, we break down hotel branding and the part it plays in your hotel’s reputation. From building your brand image to marketing your brand philosophy, we go through the ins and outs of what having a brand identity means, as well as the impact it has on an audience’s perception of your hotel.
What is hotel branding? A hotel’s brand is a representation of what the hotel is — its identity. It's what brings a group of properties together under one umbrella of shared characteristics and values. Branding is how we identify one product from another, and hotel branding focuses on establishing what makes a hotel unique.
“A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another,” said author, marketer, and entrepreneur Seth Godin.
Hotel branding, in essence, is the image that the hotel would like to portray to its audience. It includes everything from the font type used in online advertisements to the types of unique experiences your hotel markets to potential guests.
Building a hotel brand:
Establishes a reputation for your business. When travelers hear your hotel brand name, they know what to expect — from the type of amenities available to the rewards programs offered.
Creates a personal and emotional connection between customers and the business. Through the use of personal stories and shared experiences, hotel branding appeals to travelers through experiential marketing.
Helps connect multiple properties under one brand umbrella by establishing the brand traits and values they share.
Expresses your values and ethics. Many hotels use branding to highlight their philosophy on social topics, such as sustainability and diversity.
Sets an expectation for hotel service level. Does the hotel cater to budget travelers, or does it offer guests a high-end luxury experience? When a traveler hears your brand name, they should know the answer to that question.
Establishes your brand promise by confirming what your hotel’s mission is, and how it intends to accomplish that mission.
What is brand identity, and how is it created? The components that comprise hotel branding are referred to as brand identity. A brand’s identity is the amalgamation of the words, images, style, and tone a brand uses to share its message.
Hotel branding is the overall design made up of each individual piece of the brand’s identity. According to the Mehrabian rule, 93% of our perceived communication comes from non-verbal cues, with only 7% of our perceived communication coming from actual words. Hotels should create a brand identity that clearly communicates what the hotel is all about. A clear brand identity tells future customers what to expect without actually verbalizing it.
The following elements are building blocks of a brand’s identity:
1. Brand name. The name of your brand is often the very first part of your hotel that prospective customers will encounter, and choosing the right name is a critical part of determining the brand’s reputation. Not only should your name be authentic, and distinctive, and clearly set your brand apart from competing hotel brands, but it should also resonate with your target audience and leave a lasting impression.
2. Design style. What colors, images, or font is your brand using? The style a hotel uses can say a lot about the type of property it is. Are you running an eco-friendly hotel? If so, you may choose a brand design that includes natural color tones and organic shapes. A hotel located near the beach may choose to use a palate reflective of the hotel’s location, with soft beige colors reminiscent of sand.
3. Logo. Think of your logo as a quick identifier for your brand. A sustainable hotel may choose to use a leaf, tree, or another symbol of sustainability to promote its brand. A seaside resort may include an ocean wave in its logo.
4. Typography. While it may seem like a simple choice, the font you use actually says quite a bit about your business. Just as with colors, shapes, or patterns, individuals link font types to specific feelings, and memories, or make other psychological associations. Part of building a brand identity is choosing a font type that portrays a certain image or helps your audience make a specific connection to your hotel. Technology companies often use modern fonts to portray a futuristic image, whereas accounting or management companies frequently choose a more traditional serif font. Luxury and boutique hotels may choose script fonts to portray elegance and sophistication.
Hotel branding is about so much more than choosing color palettes or designing a logo; it's all-encompassing. Hotel branding encapsulates a property’s identity, personality, perception of its customers, and the values the hotel promotes.
Creating a powerful brand image and successfully promoting that image gives hotel brand managers and hospitality professionals the opportunity to:
1. Better manage your hotel’s reputation. Your hotel brand image impacts how customers view your business prior to arrival. From accommodations to service level, your hotel’s branding tells guests what to expect before they ever set foot in the hotel lobby. Managing guest expectations can help reduce the number of guest complaints a hotel receives, leading to increased in-house guest satisfaction as well as online satisfaction scores.
2. Build trust with your customer base. A big part of building customer trust is consistency. Hotel branding should deliver a consistent guest experience all the way from the pre-booking stage through post-stay marketing and follow-up. Hotels create guest expectations through brand marketing. Meeting the expectations that your brand sets strengthen hotel customer loyalty and build trust with your customers.
3. Reduce your hotel marketing costs.
Spend your marketing dollars where they matter most. Invest in the marketing channels that are best for reaching your target audience and reduce spending on lower-performing channels. Eliminating marketing waste and investing in channels with higher conversion rates can help hotels capture more revenue, leading to increased profits and higher performance scores.
4. Get an edge on the competition. Hotel branding is especially important in areas of high competition. Many hoteliers find themselves in price wars with the comp set, consistently working to undercut one another for a competitive edge. While this strategy may work short term, it could lead to revenue losses for competing hotels that fail to recoup reduced rate revenue elsewhere. If your property is located in an area saturated with comparable hotels offering similar services, hotel branding provides an opportunity to set your hotel apart from the competition.
5 keys to successful hotel branding Cultivating a brand image that simultaneously appeals to audiences while honestly representing your hotel’s mission may seem like a big undertaking for new hotel brand managers. Whether you're launching your first hotel brand or preparing to undergo a brand refresh, develop your brand management strategy around five of the core components of successful hotel branding.
1. Create a comprehensive marketing strategy. Successful hotel branding starts internally with the creation of a strong team-wide brand marketing strategy. Successful brand managers nurture the marketing team throughout the entire branding process to ensure that everyone is on the same page, providing consistent content and working toward the same goal.
2. Develop a brand philosophy. Does your hotel provide a one-of-a-kind relaxation experience for guests, a high-tech work environment, an opportunity to connect with other travelers, or something else? Is your goal to help travelers discover the world, unwind from all the chaos, or work efficiently in a home away from home?
Define your hotel's value proposition and explain what your hotel alone offers that uniquely benefits your target audience. Determine what your hotel does best and what makes your philosophy shine.
3. Establish an emotional connection with your audience. Connect with your audience through the power of personalization. Share personal stories and individual experiences to make your philosophy tangible to guests.
4. Celebrate what sets you apart. Highlight what makes your hotel unique. Does your hotel offer interesting in-room amenities, boasting a rooftop bar designed for dance parties, or follow a specific design theme? Does your property have historical significance or cater to a niche market? In the story, your hotel branding tells and showcases what sets you apart from other hotels in the area and what unique experiences your hotel can provide.
5. Target a specific market. Who was your brand built to appeal to? Is your target audience independent and informed —interested in spending more time out in the world than in their room — or is your target audience looking for an immersive hotel experience with high-end services that meet their every need?
Knowing the types of hotel guests and how to appeal to them is crucial when it comes to branding.
Your ideal market segment may be corporate business travelers, leisure travelers, vacationers, tech-savvy bleisure travelers, sophisticated luxury clients, or everyday passersby. Developing a successful brand relies on knowing what guests want from your hotel and meeting their expectations.
10 ideas to boost your hotel’s brand image and brand recognition All hotels, no matter how large of a portfolio they belong to, can benefit from branding or re-branding. Building your audience and creating a recognizable brand helps widen your hotel’s marketing reach and increases the potential for growth. If your current branding isn’t yielding the results you want, consider overhauling your image.
1. Establish a unique selling proposition. Determine the unique selling proposition, or USP, that you will promote in your hotel branding. What is the single feature, benefit, or service that your hotel provides that makes it better than the competition? What is the one thing that causes your customers to keep coming back, even if staying at your property is more expensive than booking with the comp set? Determine what sets you apart and write your hotel USP around it.
2. Develop your brand guidelines. Establish a set of guidelines for your brand logo, colors used in brand marketing, and your font style. Ensure that the guidelines are followed brand-wide for a consistent image.
3. Create a mobile-friendly web experience. Research completed by Facebook and KPMG International concluded that nine in 10 hotel bookings will take place on a mobile device by 2022. With 90% of travelers in the U.S. looking to make mobile reservations, hotels must prepare to meet the growing demand for mobile content. Double-check all elements of your hotel branding for unity. Design the hotel’s social media content, OTA channels, ad creative, and website landing pages for mobile-friendly viewing.
4. Take advantage of tools to help build your online identity. There are numerous tools available for hoteliers and marketing managers who need assistance with online brand management.
Cvent Supplier Network gets your hotel in front of planners to help maximize exposure and generate high-quality leads.
Unbounce is a software used to build landing pages focused on driving more business by boosting conversions.
Use BrowserStack to check how well your pages are being displayed on mobile devices.
BlueSky ETO is a comprehensive hospitality brand management software that allows brand managers to create collateral, communicate with team members, and analyze brand marketing data in one place.
5. Agree on a voice for media communications. Keep the voice of your hotel brand consistent across all platforms and make it match the rest of your branding.
6. Tell brand stories. Create an image and a story that resonates with your customer base. Share tales that connect your brand identity to what your guests care about most. Chronicle ways that the brand has evolved based on the needs of customers and guests. Work to keep your story consistent across the hotel brand.
“At its very core, marketing is storytelling," said digital marketing director Melinda Partin. "The best advertising campaigns take us on an emotional journey – appealing to our wants, needs, and desires – while at the same time telling us about a product or service."
7. Optimize OTA listings. Depending on the size, location, and market for your hotel, you may get a sizable portion of your bookings through OTAs. While partnering with third-party sites is a great way to boost your brand recognition, it's one area of brand management that managers have little control over. Most OTA sites allow hoteliers to only make minor adjustments to a hotel profile, such as updating room type information, or swapping highlighted hotel images. Take advantage of the changes you can make.
Choose the right images for your OTA channels and use them to tell a story. Select 4-5 photos that capture the spirit of your brand for use on hotel distribution channels. Determine the order in which the images will appear and how they capture the spirit of adventure, the promise of relaxation, or whatever your distinct brand philosophy is.
8. Employ experiential elements and technology. Promote your brand image through experiential marketing campaigns that give customers a unique opportunity to connect with your hotel prior to arrival. Promote 3D virtual site tours or interactive event space layouts in your hotel brand marketing. These experiential elements allow prospective customers to immerse themselves in your hotel. Future guests can take a virtual stroll through the property and interact with your brand in a whole new way. 9. Set up a strong loyalty program. The type of brand you build is related to the type of guests you target. Hotel customer loyalty programs can help promote more repeat guests to return as well as improve guest satisfaction scores, driving more business from your target market. Make your rewards program a key part of your brand image to attract more members of your target audience and keep them coming back.
10. Provide excellent service. Your hotel branding makes a promise to customers regarding the level of service the hotel provides. Deliver on that promise. If your guests arrive expecting luxury five-star service, failing to meet those expectations could negatively impact guest satisfaction scores, cost the hotel valuable revenue, or deem your brand untrustworthy in the eyes of consumers.
Put your new knowledge of hotel branding to use! After creating a branding strategy for your hotel, it's time to put the strategy into action. Start by exploring our guide to hotel digital marketing.
Kim Campbell Kim is a full-time copy and content writer with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. She entered the hotel world in 2013 as a housekeeping team member and worked her way through various departments before being appointed to Director of Sales. Kim has championed numerous successful sales efforts, revenue strategies, and marketing campaigns — all of which landed her a spot on Hotel Management Magazine’s “Thirty Under 30” list. Don’t be fooled though; she’s not all business! An avid forest forager, post-apocalyptic fiction fan, and free-sample-fiend, Kim prides herself on being well-rounded.