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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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.