Adapting Your Brand for Global Markets

By Roger G. Hill Chief Executive Officer & Chairman, The Gettys Group Inc. | October 28, 2008

As global markets continue to emerge and change the business landscape, suddenly it matters not only that your product "Plays in Peoria," but also that it "Plays in Phuket". Planning and strategizing to secure your place in this increasingly competitive world market is essential but can also be daunting.

With China continuing its boom, and India's middle class having taken their place as the next big spenders, everyone wants a piece of the global pie and the hospitality industry is at the forefront. As we contemplate this growth, the questions become overwhelming. How do you carve out your niche in the global market? How do you ensure that your brand resonates in another culture? How do you pitch your idea in a way that captures the imagination of another society?

One of the biggest challenges to break into the international market is recognizing, preparing for, and embracing the differences between the hospitality industry in the U.S. and other countries around the globe. Distinguishing the differences among these different cultures is vital and recognizing and adapting to the needs will place you way ahead of the pack as you go global.

Thinking Globally is Thinking Locally

In other words, don't knock off your approach in the States when you take your brand abroad, but instead design your product with the specific needs of the locality in mind. I am often surprised how few take the time to know the culture that they're going to be working in before they go to that ever-important first meeting. When we attend a pitch in a country that we haven't visited before, my associates and I travel at least 3 days in advance of the meeting. We eat in the restaurants, stay in the hotels, tour the streets and, again, talk to as many people as we can. What we find so often in the Hospitality Industry overseas is that our clients are uninterested in having us reproduce what we have created in the United States, in their country. Instead, they want the same tenets of the brands that we bring abroad re-created especially for their culture.

For example, a hotel project that we are currently working on in Abu Dhabi wanted a full bar in their lobby, but, as familiar as we were with their culture, our designers were already programmed to understand that the bar would have to be hidden in such a way that the alcohol wasn't visible to passers-by. Moreover, the food and beverage outlets needed to be easy to find, 11 months a year, but hidden from view during Ramadan when fasting occurs during daylight hours. Because our team members participate in cultural immersions before beginning a project, they are prepared from the onset to engage with the client from a familiar cultural perspective.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.