If you have been working in the hospitality industry in the last few years, chances are you’ve been hearing catchphrases like “stay on brand” and “that’s very on brand” more and more often.
And yes, these terms can be a bit insufferable and even cringe-worthy, but adopting the on-brand/not-on-brand thinking definitely has merit, and here are a few reasons why:
The purpose of a brand
Determining what’s “on brand” and what isn’t from the start provides an important blueprint that helps hotels communicate their vision to both their customers and employees while removing any inconsistencies in messaging. And because in hospitality success is often defined by evoking the right emotions, hotels really should make sure they communicate their story by translating it into all aspects of the experience and eliminating any factors that can interfere with the overall feel of the hotel. Having clear dos and don’ts determined by branding straight from the start can help hotels (independently owned ones especially), achieve this consistency, and filter out any elements that would make the employee or the customer confused as to what they’re dealing with.
Branding and hotel design
In the first instance, having a story actually helps the hotels choose any design elements and elevate them to meaningful and strategic from just beautiful. Furthermore, having a clear brand identity provides a platform for naming room types, event spaces, menu items, color palettes, uniforms, and so much more. It also gives the sales and marketing team room to be creative, but in a way that’s consistent with the original vision. In short, the initial work you put into branding will pay off in terms of internal consistency and turn up the strength with which you evoke emotions in your guests.
Branding and company culture
And this extends beyond the look and feel of the hotel. Clear branding also removes the danger of the vision getting lost with staff members or a management company coming into the picture. Without a clear story, the staff are left interpreting what they think the brand is — and that leaves every employee choosing their own adventure when it comes to guest interaction, operations, sales, and marketing. This in turn means there is no cohesive voice between the salesperson and the client when they walk through the door and interact with the bellman, front desk, and so on. And just like with inconsistent design, inconsistent customer experience creates confused emotions. And a doubtful customer is undoubtedly bad news.
A strong brand identity creates loyalty, employee retention, and revenue
Why is that? Well, numerous studies have shown that the number 1 factor in consumers’ buying decisions is trust. Employees are where trust is forged. If an employee can identify and see themselves reflected in the brand they work for, they will see this job with more passion, pride and stay longer. When employees have long tenure and care, it creates reassurance when a returning client checks in, recognizes the employee, and is greeted by name. Having an identity creates continuity, and consistency which, in turn, inspire guest loyalty. This ultimately leads to more clients and more revenue. Staying at a hotel with an identity is more than a transaction but a personal experience that is selected on trust and reliability.
So, how to build a strong hotel brand?
Building an identity and brand may be daunting, so it is really helpful to break the process down into a few steps. You can start by identifying your “pillars”, which should be represented everywhere from marketing to operations. Your pillars are the values that will help you build your mission statement, your company ethos, training manuals, marketing materials, voice and tone guides. It takes time and investment to do this, however, it will ultimately be the foundation of your brand. A strong foundation is paramount when building anything.
How to keep the momentum going
My experience in the hotel industry has been largely with independent hotels. In my time, I encountered many owners, all of whom built a hotel with fervor and excitement. Their enthusiasm sometimes created chaos, but that was not necessarily a bad thing, because as the management company, it helped us identify what’s important to them and we could then translate that through the property. But while it can be enlightening and inspiring at the start, it can inhibit the progress further down the line. I have experienced owners come into a lobby and decide they don’t like the DJ playing and don’t want that DJ rehired. That resulted in a meeting justifying why that DJ was hired, what audience they bring, the energy they fill the lobby with, and ultimately the revenue achieved. So, the best advice I can give to an owner is once you and your management company agree on your brand, avoid re-inserting yourself into the day-to-day and let the management company run with it.
At the end of the day, management and ownership have an aligned goal and that is to create a successful hotel. It is true that we determine success through P+L, but using the brand is the roadmap through which those successes are achieved. A roadmap that can also make those successes more sustainable and replicable, when used and maintained by a strong, united team.