Unveiling the Power of Hotel Branding
Hotel branding goes beyond your brand name, logo, appealing decor, a sleek website and comfortable beds. Successful hotel branding hinges on a carefully curated, unique - and compelling - identity that positively differentiates your hotel and leaves a lasting impression on your target audience.
With over 187,000 hotels worldwide and over 17 million guestrooms, it’s fair to say that guests today have no shortage of options when it comes to accommodation. To truly stand out in the sea of competition, hotels today need a robust identity that breaks through the noise and resonates with their intended audience.
With 78% of millennials saying that they'd rather spend their money on experiences than on things
Providing seamless and captivating guest experiences – that will entice your hotel guests and keep them coming back for more – should be the cornerstone of your branding strategy.
But in such a densely saturated and competitive hospitality industry and amidst the burgeoning cost of living crisis, it can be challenging for hotel businesses to create a loyal customer base and establish their position as a market favourite.
In this article, we will explore the significance of branding for hotels, highlighting its role in shaping your brand’s reputation and delving into the essential components needed to succeed in this dynamic industry.
Whether you’re a specialised boutique hotel, a luxury hotel looking to rebrand, a new hotel looking to make your mark, a global, five-star hotelier or a quaint bed and breakfast, this guide will equip you with the tools to take your branding to the next level.
What is hotel branding?
Hotel branding is more than just a logo: It’s how you shape brand perceptions. Essentially, your branding encapsulates the very essence of your company and everything it has to offer. It’s the image you want to convey and the emotions you seek to evoke. It’s what turns your hotel into a distinct experience that people will choose to return to time and time again. It’s what unites your offerings, menus and services under a shared set of characteristics and values. It’s how guests feel about your business post-stay, and it’s what they invest their time, trust and loyalty in.
Branding is physically made up of all of your brand assets – such as your choice of typography, fonts, and social media communication – as well as the exclusive brand experiences you provide, your brand story, and your brand’s core values. However, it’s more than the sum of your brand assets; it’s a chance to build trust, establish a credible brand reputation and forge an identity that people – customers, clients, partners and investors – want to be associated with and can buy into.
In reality, every interaction customers have with your hotel – whether it’s visiting your website, checking out your social media, or staying with you – leaves them with an impression of your business. This underscores the significance of branding – giving you the chance to cultivate positive brand associations, forge meaningful connections, and champion the quality of your services.
Unlocking Success: The Strategic Importance of Hotel Branding
Crafting a strong brand in the hospitality business is crucial for a variety of reasons.
1. Positive differentiation. The hotel industry is highly competitive, with countless options available to travellers across the world. Effective branding not only helps your hotel stand out in a crowded marketplace, it allows you to highlight what makes your property unique, whether it’s your sustainable practices, luxury services, location, design, amenities, a specialised service level or the overall guest experience.
2. Consistency. A well-defined brand provides a framework for consistent service and guest experiences. When travellers choose a branded hotel, they have certain expectations about the level of service, quality, and amenities they will receive. Consistency in meeting these expectations builds trust and encourages repeat business. It’s a win-win.
3. Trust and Credibility. A strong brand not only attracts potential guests but also conveys a sense of reliability. In an industry where guests rely on their accommodation for a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience, trust is an invaluable asset. Without it, brands will struggle to secure their position in the market. The simple truth? When people recognise and trust your brand, they are more inclined to choose your hotel over others.
4. Loyalty. Positive guest experiences contribute significantly to brand loyalty. When guests associate your brand with memorable stays, they are more likely to become loyal customers who return for future visits. These loyal guests may even turn into brand advocates, sharing positive word-of-mouth recommendations and becoming organic promoters of your hotel – a form of marketing that’s hard to beat.
5. Partnerships and Investments. A well-established brand opens doors to partnerships, investments, and franchise opportunities. It serves as evidence of your hotel’s proven track record and strong market presence, making it an attractive prospect for collaboration or investment within the industry. In essence, a powerful brand attracts guests and draws in potential investors and partners, paving the way for further growth and success.
Elevating your brand: Proven techniques
1. Convey Your Brand’s Core Values and Story
To really connect with your customers and potential guests, it’s crucial that they truly grasp the essence of who you are, what you’re all about and why they should stay with you. Focusing on decor, facilities, or location simply isn’t enough. Sure, these aspects play a role in shaping a guest’s decision to stay with you, but today, people are looking for more from the brands they choose. They want brands that stand for something, deliver outstanding experiences, and align with their personal values. You’re more than a piece of real estate. You’re an experience, someone guests can trust, and an identity that guests can buy into.
In the hospitality industry, branding focuses on more than mere physical features – it’s about creating lasting experiences and establishing a personal connection with your audience. Successful hospitality brands have one thing in common: A strong set of values and unique stories that set them apart.
So, what drives your passion? What makes you unique? Where did your journey begin, and, most importantly, what motivated you to embark on it? Take a moment to reflect on the ‘what,’ ‘why,’ and ‘who’ that form the foundation of your business. What values do you hold dear and extend to your guests – whether it’s a commitment to luxury, diversity, or sustainability? Why do you do what you do? And who are the individuals behind your brand?
Ultimately, a well-crafted brand narrative draws customers in and broadens your appeal to potential patrons worldwide. Customers are captivated by stories. Stories they can connect with, share, and wholeheartedly embrace. Stories evoke emotional responses and, most importantly, foster genuine connections.
Your brand story should intricately weave together the history, mission, values, and the people who bring your brand to life – all while staying true to its authentic core.
2. Develop Your Unique Value Proposition
What makes your brand unique? How do you differ from – and why should customers choose you over – your competitors? Are you proud of any single feature, benefit or service? Why do your customers return to you? What do you provide that your competitors don’t?
You can never ask yourself too many questions when it comes to figuring out who you are and crafting your unique value proposition. Discovering and leveraging your unique selling proposition (USP) is crucial to highlight – and celebrate – what makes you different and why customers should care. Successful branding strategies hinge on truly understanding and embracing what sets you apart, and this principle should be the foundation of all your branding and hotel marketing efforts.
Is your hotel equipped with captivating in-room features, eco-friendly products, and a lively rooftop bar? Perhaps it adheres to a distinctive design theme, holds a special historical place, or caters to a unique clientele.
In crafting your hotel’s brand story, shed light on the aspects that set it apart from competitors and showcase the unique experiences it provides. Whether it’s your commitment to sustainability, your partnerships, or the range of services and amenities you offer, identify what makes you stand out and make sure the world knows about it.
3. Establish a Brand Loyalty Program
A loyal customer base – engaged through rewards programs – is essential to your brand’s longevity and success. Bottom line: Your guests are your biggest brand champions, so be sure to make them feel valued.
Understanding your customers’ preferences is key. Do they gravitate towards rewards or value exclusive opportunities and discounts more? Your branding and marketing strategies should always be tailor-made to cater to your target audience’s specific needs and desires.
The trifecta of reward programs, recognition, and redemption is pivotal in cultivating a devoted customer base. When a guest checks in at one of your hotels and later returns to another, it’s a golden opportunity to acknowledge and reward their loyalty. Securely storing their information allows you to show appreciation for their ongoing support.
Everyone loves the VIP treatment, and you can create a deep sense of belonging by demonstrating a genuine understanding of your guests’ needs and respecting their time. Treating your loyal guests with the respect they deserve will undoubtedly turn them into enthusiastic brand advocates, spreading positive word-of-mouth endorsements and leaving glowing online reviews.
4. Get Creative and Provide Seamless Guest Experiences
Tapping into the power of experiential elements is crucial to ensure your guests have a memorable and positive experience. This is especially important today, where 78% of millennials prefer investing their money in experiences rather than material possessions (Zippia, 2023).
In the hotel industry, every aspect of your business is an opportunity to impress guests and differentiate from competitors, and staying ahead with new technologies and emerging trends is vital to engage your audience effectively.
Sceptical about the difference it can make? Consider this: a remarkable 91% of hotel guests acknowledge that a pleasing aroma positively influences their stay, and 69% believe that a delightful scent in the hotel lobby enhances their perception of the establishment (Premium Scenting, 2019).
Ensuring your guests have a truly enjoyable experience is paramount when they choose to stay at your hotel. Here are a few elements worth considering:
The scents in your hotel can really set the mood. Instead of overwhelming your guests with a mix of smells, carefully select and purposefully incorporate them. The chosen fragrances should enhance the overall guest experience, taking into account what appeals to your guests and where it’s suitable to use them. Consider incorporating fragrances that align with your brand’s personality to craft a comfortable and unique atmosphere.
Sound holds significant sway over how we perceive our surroundings and greatly influences our sense of ease, enjoyment, and the likelihood of revisiting a place. By strategically harnessing the power of sound, you can strengthen your brand identity and elevate customer and client engagement.
Consider incorporating audio seamlessly throughout your hotel, ranging from background music in elevators and curated playlists to live performances or carefully selected recorded collections.
However, it’s not limited to music; your choice of ringtones, reception language, tone of voice, and volume also play a crucial role in shaping brand experiences. These auditory elements evoke emotional responses, so it’s essential to carefully consider which tones align with your organisation and avoid overwhelming guests with excessive noise.
The hotel industry is becoming increasingly tech-savvy in response to evolving customer preferences. Tapping into technology not only helps your business streamline operations but enables you to deliver highly personalised, top-notch, experience-driven services to your guests.
While assets like 3D virtual tours are brilliant experiential elements that invite prospective guests to immerse themselves in your establishment and interact with you virtually, it’s also important to harness technology to provide your guests with user-friendly, customer-centric solutions.
Little Hotelier says that nearly 85% of travellers book activities on mobile devices. With this in mind, ensuring that your site is optimised for mobile phones and is friendly across all touchpoints is crucial.
You don’t want to miss out on bookings because you’ve failed to optimise your site for mobile phones. Ensure cohesiveness across all aspects of your hotel’s brand identity. Create social media content, optimise OTA channels, design compelling advertisements and craft mobile-responsive website landing pages.
5. Optimise your OTA Listings
If you use OTA – Online Travel Agency – listings, they likely send a sizeable portion of bookings your way, bringing customers to your hotel, boosting your profile, and helping you reach audiences you might otherwise struggle with. Yes, partnering with third-party sites is a great way to boost your brand recognition, but choosing the right partners is hugely important. The OTA sites you opt for should align with your brand identity; otherwise, you risk losing the niche you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.
It’s important to recognise that when it comes to OTAs, brand creators often have limited control. While some platforms allow minor profile adjustments, such as updating information or swapping images, the overall alignment with your brand requires careful consideration. Make the most of the available changes to ensure the chosen site complements your brand ethos.
Curate your OTA listing with a keen eye on visuals. This is your chance to narrate your story and attract a diverse customer base. Carefully select images that encapsulate your essence and strategically highlight features that define your brand. Consider the order of images – what grabs attention first matters. Whether it’s the promise of comfort, sustainability, or adventure, ensure your visuals encapsulate your brand philosophy effectively. This is your digital shop-front; make it count.
Standing Out in a Crowded Market: Tips for Hotel Branding Success
1. Have a sturdy marketing strategy
The world’s best hotels have one thing in common: a robust – and comprehensive – marketing strategy. When developing your in-house marketing plan, looking beyond mere graphic design elements is essential. It’s about engaging with your target audience and shaping their perception of your brand.
Your first step should be to ensure brand alignment and unify your employees and stakeholders in a shared vision. This foundation will enable you to create uniform content that resonates with your guests and fosters a genuine connection. Choosing the right tone and channels is crucial for reaching your intended audience effectively.
It’s worth noting that approximately one in every three travellers relies on specific mobile apps, such as TripAdvisor or Yelp (Little Hotelier 2023), to research upcoming trips. Be sure to incorporate these preferences into your marketing strategy. Where will your advertising efforts yield the best return on investment?
To achieve impactful brand marketing that boosts awareness and growth, consider employing a variety of digital marketing tactics to make your hotel stand out. These strategies encompass:
- User experience
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
Throughout all customer touchpoints, maintaining a consistent brand presence is absolutely essential.
2. Target a specific market
Understanding your audience – their likes, dislikes, pain points, and desires – is absolutely crucial. However, it’s important to acknowledge that you can’t please everyone. Instead, you should tailor your brand identity to your target market.
Why is this so vital? Customising your brand to a specific audience and truly grasping your customers’ needs will drive bookings and ensure you meet customer expectations. This approach not only solidifies your position in the market but also helps you sidestep negative reviews.
Create audience personas to identify the most effective ways to connect with your audience. For example, if your demographic consists mainly of young families, adjust your offerings accordingly. If business travellers are your primary audience, focus on providing fast Wi-Fi and well-equipped meeting spaces.
Define the core appeal of your brand. Does it cater to independent and informed individuals who prefer exploring the world over staying in their rooms? Or is it targeting those seeking an immersive hotel experience with top-notch services catering to every need? Recognising the preferences of various hotel guests and tailoring your approach accordingly is crucial for effective branding.
Identify your ideal market segment, whether it’s corporate business travellers, leisure seekers, vacationers, tech-savvy travellers, luxury clients, or casual passersby. The key to a thriving brand lies in understanding what guests expect from your hotel and meeting those expectations.
By delving into your guests’ needs beforehand, you’ll be better equipped to not only meet but exceed their expectations, earning their trust and loyalty.
3. Develop your brand philosophy
What sets your hotel apart? What makes your offerings stand out compared to your competitors? Are you focused on providing exclusive experiences for families, creating a tech-friendly work environment, promoting relaxation, or pursuing another unique angle? In essence, is your aim to offer a home away from home for business travellers, enable adventurous explorers to discover the world, or provide the ultimate relaxation and points of connection?
Regardless of your specific focus, the responsibility falls on you to articulate your unique value proposition. Clearly define what you provide to your guests, explain how it benefits your target audience, and make the case for why they should choose your hotel over competitors. Illuminate your distinctive philosophy and give it the spotlight it deserves. Embrace and celebrate the things that set you apart, whatever they may be.
4. Have a solid brand identity
Crafting a robust hotel brand identity is a game-changer for achieving success. As mentioned earlier, your identity is more than just a logo or a name; it’s the very essence of your establishment, encompassing your values, personality, tone of voice, and services. It’s what makes you, well, you.
When crafting a distinctive brand identity for your hotel, you should focus on three fundamental elements – visuals, messaging, and experience. The goal? To create a hotel brand identity that resonates with customers and is unique, memorable, recognisable – and ownable.
Consider your target audience – what type of name would appeal to them? While catering to a specific demographic is essential, be careful not to alienate potential customers. Successful hotel brands span the globe, so opting for a universally relevant name is wise. When selecting a name, you should always prioritise accessibility and consider incorporating terms like hotel, inn, or motel – words already linked with the concept of hotels and instantly signpost your services.
When designing your logo, think of it as the visual embodiment of your brand. It should resonate with the core values while being distinctive and eye-catching. Your logo serves as the image through which customers identify you, so it’s crucial that it reflects your organisation. For instance, a sustainable hotel might opt for symbols like a leaf or tree, emphasising their commitment to sustainability.
It’s always a good idea to establish a set of brand guidelines to reinforce on-brand usage and uphold your brand. The key to success lies in maintaining consistency; consistent branding across all touchpoints reinforces a robust brand identity and simplifies the process of customers connecting with your brand.
Navigating challenges in hotel branding
As with all industries, the hospitality industry faces significant challenges in the face of an economic downturn and a looming recession. Here are key hurdles faced by hotels and effective strategies to overcome them:
1. Staff Shortages and Retention
Challenge: Recent data from the Office for National Statistics reveals a staggering 83% surge in advertised job vacancies within the hospitality sector, resulting in a substantial deficit of 170,000 jobs in the UK (Restaurant, 2022).
Strategy: Overcoming this obstacle hinges on strategic investment in team training. By implementing comprehensive training programs and defining your employer branding hotels can empower their existing staff with enhanced skills, making them more adaptable and proficient in handling diverse tasks.
2. Cost of Living Crisis
Challenge: The cost of living is exponentially expensive right now, and people are much more mindful of their expenditures, reserving their disposable income for essential needs. This, in turn, leads to a reluctance – or inability – to spend on leisure and luxury, significantly affecting the hospitality industry.
Strategy: Hotels can deal with this challenge by making customers feel valued and keeping them coming back for more. Consider setting up rewards programs and offering your customers extra perks to incentivise them or add value to their stay. By doing this, people will still want to stick around, feel appreciated, and keep spending even when money’s tight.
3. Environmental Concerns
Challenge: Booking.com’s Sustainability Report indicates that a striking 83% of global travellers consider sustainability a crucial factor in their choices. This burgeoning trend poses both a challenge and an opportunity for hospitality businesses as guests increasingly prioritise eco-friendly practices.
Strategy: To meet this challenge, it’s crucial for hotels to not just acknowledge but fully integrate sustainable practices into their operations. This means adopting energy-efficient technologies, cutting down on waste, and giving preference to locally sourced materials. Beyond these steps, openly demonstrating a strong commitment to sustainability isn’t just a nod to consumer values; it’s a way to position your brand as a responsible and ethical choice. This approach not only resonates with guests who prioritise conscientious choices but also nurtures a deeper connection between them and your brand.
Need some help?
The power of great branding is not just about creating a robust visual identity; it’s about crafting a unique narrative, fostering meaningful connections, and delivering experiences that resonate with your target audience.
At Studio Noel, we’re dedicated to helping you unlock your full potential through strategic branding. We understand the challenges and opportunities that the industry presents and are committed to creating brands that captivate, resonate, and leave an indelible mark on the market.
Don’t let your hotel get lost in the sea of options. Your success begins with a powerful brand – and we’d love to help you build it. Drop us a line today.