Refreshing, Re-articulating, Re-branding or What? Fixing the Tired Brand

By Laurence Bernstein Managing Partner, Protean Strategies | August 07, 2016

Just when we thought the "branding" fetish of hotel owners and operators had retreated into the back-reaches of the mind, replaced by design fetishes or mobile fetishes or OTA neuroses – just when we though we'd wrestled the branding beast to the ground – just when we thought we had branded all that could be branded (and sub-branded, co-branded, extended, and the rest), the wretched word reappears, wrapped in the disguise of "re".

Re-brand; re-fresh, re-position, re-frame, re-articulate, re-contextualize – an entire universe of "do-it-again-branding" to confuse, confound, and just plain con hotel owners, operators and marketers. The reason is not complicated: branding is an ongoing process, and as tastes competitive environment changes, so must the hotel's brand change.
The question is: how much does the brand need to change, and how profound does the change have to be. In other words, is a re-brand, re-positioning, refreshing, re-articulation or re-what?

Before we can get into a discussion about fixing the brand, we need to review the basics of what a brand is and how we get there. At its most basic, a brand is a construct in the mind of customers and stakeholders, based on multiple interactions (direct and indirect, conscious and unconscious) with the brand and its products, filtered through their own pre-existing bias and life experiences.

That's fairly technical and esoteric, and is important only to brand-heads like this author. What is important to owners, brands and operators is "what the brand does." And what is does is fundamental to the success or failure of the enterprise.

The brand (the way people think of the organization and its products and services) determines how the product or service is experienced (the same service delivered by different brands will be experienced differently); it determines how the experience is evaluated (we evaluate experiences not on absolute rational things that happen, but rather on a collage of rational and emotional filters that are directed by expectations, previous experiences and personal state of mind – in other words, the brand); and importantly it determines whether we tell our friends about the experience (turn experiences into remembered experiences) and whether we want to repeat the experience. It is not too much to assert that a strategically formulated, brilliant executed brand can make any product or service a success, regardless of the real quality of the product or service! Of course, it's easier and more authentic if a great brand enwraps a great product. But it isn't always so!

Clearly, the brand is an essential component of any hotel. It is, as we say, the very business itself. So it is essential that the brand be as great as it possibly can be at every moment in time. And this is where the "re" starts creeping in. A well crafted brand results from a stringent exercise that looks vaguely like the info drawing.

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Coming up in June 2019...

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.