Managing the Brand Message During Change
By John Ely Senior Vice President of Marketing, Signature Worldwide | May 19, 2010
Mergers. Acquisitions. Employee attrition. These terms are becoming more and more commonplace in the hospitality industry, and they all translate to big changes. As change sets in, management shifts hands, renovations begin and new marketing efforts take seed, hotel leaders have an important role. Amidst change, they must ensure one constant - a consistent brand message.
The brand message your customers receive sets the tone for your property's ongoing success, and dictates not only whether or not they will come back, but what they'll say about your property to others. One bad experience or one encounter that fails to deliver what was promised or expected means they'll potentially attach a negative perception to your property and, most likely, share that perception. Unfortunately, you can't blame the hiccup on your period of change. Once that impression is made, there is little you can do to change the customer's opinion.
So how do you prepare when it comes to managing your brand during times of change?
First, realize the importance of your brand message. It's far more than a logo or a tagline. A brand encompasses all your company stands for in the mind of your customers. That idea is formed by the succession of their experiences, not by a flashy logo or thought-provoking tagline. After all, do you really buy Nike clothes because of their wing-like Swoosh, or is it because the clothes are stylish and hold up over time? Is it the golden arches or the flavor of the fries that gets you to McDonald's?
Second, understand that creating brand messages isn't a quick process. Your properties weren't built or joined in a day, a week or even a month, and your brand won't be either. Branding efforts should not only follow research and planning, but should involve all employees through a training program that teaches new brand-focused behaviors, builds employee buy-in for the change, and reinforces those new behaviors over time.
With these guidelines in mind, I'd like to walk you through a birds-eye view of how to best build and convey the brand message during a few specific periods of change.