Five Top Secrets for Successful Hotel Branding

By Jim Holthouser Senior Vice President Brand Management, Embassy Suites Hotels | January 08, 2012

Co-authored by John Lee, Vice President, Brand Marketing, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hilton Worldwide

Creating and sustaining a brand is integral to successful marketing for all companies. Branding allows companies to establish a unique, differentiated identity for their products, while making them relevant to the desired consumer. Successful branding contributes to awareness, loyalty, affinity and in turn, a company's bottom line.

While creating a brand is a challenging process for all industries, in the hotel industry, branding presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Taking a brand identity from written text on a piece of paper and bringing it to life for consumers every day is even more complex when the offering is located in cities all over the country, a region or even the world, each with their own local cultures and personalities and many with different owners and management companies.

The sheer size of the domestic hotel industry – over two hundred brands boasting 51,000+ properties and over 4.8 million rooms (according to STR's census and chain-scale segments listing) – makes it even more important for hoteliers to find ways to make their offering stand out among the competition.

At Embassy Suites Hotels we developed a clear identity for the brand early on, and we bring it to life in every one of our 200+ properties located throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America. We recognize that a strong brand doesn't exist only in a marketing presentation or at company's headquarters, but rather lives and breathes in our properties, employees and guests. On the road to developing and sustaining our brand, we've learned a few things along the way.

  1. Know who your brand is and be comfortable with who your brand is not

    An excellent exercise for any brand is to establish who they
    are NOT. At Embassy Suites Hotels, we embrace that we are a full-service
    brand and do not try to be a luxury or lifestyle brand, but instead strive
    to own the full-service sector. To do this we've established brand pillars
    that differentiate us from our competition. Embassy Suites is the nation's
    largest brand of upscale, all-suite hotels. We require all of our properties
    to have at least 80% two-room suites (as of recently, owners can choose to
    develop 20% of their guest rooms as one-room suites).

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.