10 Tips to Build Your hotel Brand Without an Agency

Posted on August 29, 2010

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Branding is a science that takes time, knowledge, resources and… money. A branding agency will be a invaluable asset while branding your hotel but when adding-up all the tasks that need to be sub-contracted, building your Brand can become a very costly exercise that not all small independent hotels can afford.
Here are 10 Tips you need to keep in mind in case you have to Do It Yourself.

1 – You are NOT a Branding Expert.
So don’t try to become one over night just because you have to develop your Brand yourself. Keep it simple and to the point. Simplicity and Relevance are the two key words you and your team need to keep in mind through-out the exercise. Unnecessary complexity will lead you to a mess you won’t know how to get out from. Successful Brands can be the simplest ones that come from a single and clear vision.

2 – Don’t Delegate the Leadership of the Project.
Your Brand will have to be shared and lived by the entire organisation from top to bottom. It is imperative that the lead comes from the top. Your Brand is your biggest intangible asset, so take charge.
Delegating the leadership of the project to your Marketing department might be tempting but actually exactly what should not be done. Your Brand will be a (clever) combination of all your departments expertise from Front Office, to Housekeeping, Human Resources, Food and Beverage, Engineering etc. The role of your Marketing department is only to communicate your unique offering within the most appealing package possible. More on that subject: Hotel Branding is Not a Marketing Function

3 – Write Your Brand statement, yourself.
This is the backbone of your Brand promise. A Brand should be lived by everyone within your hotel and eventually externally as well. So make your vision clear and known.

Do you know what is a camel? It is a horse that has been designed by a committee.
Write your vision statement yourself and don’t seek the approval from each stakeholder. Seek feedback and opinion but make your own final decision or you will only come-up with the lowest common denominator shared by everyone. Weak.

Don’t feel discouraged if it takes you time to find the right words and tone. Writing the right Brand statement can be a painful exercise. So take your time and don’t release it until you know it is right, valuable and credible.

Also make sure you distribute your Brand statement to all your employees yourself. This is the best way to ensure that the message you want to convey internally is communicated consistently. Avoid the Chinese whispers.

Tip: Writing the Brand statement of your three main competitors can be of great help to define yours.

4 – Identify which Tribe you Belong to.
Human kind has evolved a lot but there is one thing that has not changed since stone age: We live in tribes.
As customers, we don’t buy and consume necessarily based on what we need but based on what we believe the tribe we belong to needs. And our consuming habits are a tool to reinforce our belonging to this tribe. Tribes define trends. The tribe(s) YOU belong to is your target market. Define it clearly.
Now I hear you saying, “thanks captain obvious, tell me something I don’t know!”.
The hotel industry is a rare one that is selling a tangible product (meaning not virtual) that can be purchased from anyone on the planet and from anywhere on the planet whether it is using the internet as a distribution channel or not. So it is very tempting to just say “my target market is everyone”. If you try to market your Brand to everyone you will actually reach no one. Because you cannot be part of everyone’s tribe.

5 – Unique Selling Points that you can call Yours.
The danger is to have a product that could be endorsed by any logo. When logos are interchangeable that is when you know you have a problem.
Branding gurus will usually advise you to be radically different in order to have a unique Brand. You may not be able to be radically different with your hotel, but Unique Selling Points is what you need.
If you have one TRUE Unique Selling Point, your Brand is already unique. Find your Unique Selling Point(s) and push it (them) in every piece of communication. Limit your Unique Selling Point(s) to a maximum of three. The more USPs you will have, the weaker they will be and the more messages you will need to communicate. Don’t confuse your market and stay focused on one or a few.

Tip: Keep your USPs relevant. A LCD flat screen in your rooms cannot be called a USP anymore.

6 – Don’t Get Stuck on the Brand Name.
Naming strategy can be a bit of a myth so don’t panic about finding the right name. It is all about what you will do with your Brand that matters. There are great Brands out there that have a very ordinary name (eg: Four Seasons) or in some cases a name that would not make the cut in many naming strategy sessions run by high profile branding agencies. Just find a name that 1/ is relevant to your Brand statement, 2/can be registered in your country and 3/has no cultural sensitivity in your main market sources.
Your Brand name will only influence the first impression your guests will have about your hotel. Your overall Brand definition (and its implementation) is what will influence the last impression and guests satisfaction.

7 – Find Your Rhythm.
Sound Branding is largely under utilised in the hotel industry. Take advantage of it to create a unique perception.
Customers react emotionally to music and sounds so when well chosen, your music selection can have an immediate positive impact on the mood of your guests and on their overall impression about your hotel.
Define the style, be it lounge music, jazz, soul or any other, and then play it consistently through-out your public areas. Also make sure you have enough variety so your guests don’t end-up listening to the same song during a week in your resort…
In the same way that you define your Unique Selling Points, be unique in your selection of music. Try to avoid the common hits that your guests hear back homeon the radio on their way to work and avoid the well-known elevator music…
More info about Sound Branding in the Sound Branding Blog

Tip: Use the same style of music on your on-hold telephone message to reinforce your sound branding.

8 – Brand tag-line – Cut through the Clutter.
Go through a travel magazine or hotel trade tabloid to see what others are doing. You will realise that most of the independent hotels’ are using the same triggers or pushing the exact same Unique Selling Points in their Brand or advertising tag-lines. List the tag-lines of your direct competitors and other hotels with a similar Brand positioning and make sure yours is not using any of the common words used. This is the only way you will be able to cut through the clutter that is out there. Forget Best Practices.
Example: “Your home away from home” is not a really unique Brand tag-line…

9 – Do Not Work on your Logo until you have a Clear Brand strategy.
You may wonder why I have waited until #9 to talk about the logo.
Designing the logo is the last thing you should be doing. I know we are all tempted to start with it but your logo and your Corporate Identity must remain a visual representation of your Brand strategy. Not the other way around. The clearer your Brand strategy, the easiest it will be to decide what the logo should be. The logo is the conclusion of everything you will have done when conceptualising your Brand.
If you cannot design, don’t force it. Keep it simple and make it yours. The best logos are either the most complex ones or the simplest ones. Keep it simple.

10- Stay Loyal to your Customers.
You and your team will have invested a great amount of time and efforts developing your Brand. So stick to it. Drill your vision and your Brand concept down to everything you do. Without exception. Be loyal to your customers and they will be loyal to you. It is all in the gives and gets. Stay loyal to your tribe by giving your customers what they desire and they will stay faithful to you.

Tip: A point-based loyalty programme is not enough to foster loyalty. Customers buy your brand. Not points.

If you have developed your brand yourself, be it a hotel Brand or others, without any help or support from a third party consultant, please feel free to comment and share your experience here.

Fabrice Burtin – August 2010

If you liked this article you may want to read the following:
Hotel Branding is Not a Marketing function
Building a Brand answering three questions
We should Not get Stuck with Best Practices

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