Building a strong brand for your hotel is really no different to establishing good relationships with people on a personal level. If you bore them, lie to, or disappoint them, you’re going to lose friends very quickly.
Of course, it gets a lot more complicated than that but by being engaging, consistent, authentic, and exciting, a hotel brand can create a positive and lasting reputation.
In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about building a successful hotel brand, including key examples.
Table of contents
What is hotel branding?
Hotel branding is how you create an instant affinity and sense of familiarity from travellers when they hear your hotel’s name.
Successful hotel brand building will result in guests being able to easily recall your image and logo, and also get an immediate idea of what a stay experience is like at your hotel.
Their need to research will be reduced by your existing legacy; your brand reputation tells them everything they need to know. For example, will your hotel be known for being a place to seek comfort and solitude, or a thriving and vibrant social hub?
Tips for branding your hotel
Whether you’re starting from scratch or undergoing a re-brand, there’s a number of factors and influences you need to consider before you begin constructing a brand for your hotel:
- Your location
- Your local culture
- Your local environment
- Your local competitors
- Your preferred target segment
- Travellers behaviours and motivations in your market
On top of this, you also need to factor in how you plan to offer value and originality to consumers, so you stand out amongst the crowd. Once you have all this information scoped out, you can get into the exciting stuff of building your brand.
Crucial elements for establishing brand identity
There are a number of building blocks that contribute to a successful and long-lasting brand, but what do you need in place before you introduce yourself to the world? Here’s a list of essential items to cover:
- A name and a logo
Over time your brand name will become synonymous with an experience. Guests will see or hear your name and feel an emotion or picture a scene. Your logo is the visual representation of your name – the backbone that solidifies your brand in the consciousness of customers. Your name and logo need to be as memorable and original as possible while aligning seamlessly with your brand values.
Note: Keep SEO in mind when choosing a name. If you choose a name that is too common or is competing with other strong and already established brands, it will be very difficult to rank highly on search engines.
- A core philosophy
What does your hotel stand for? What does it believe in? Whatever morals and values you assign to your brand at the beginning will impact every aspect of your brand strategy. For example, does your brand believe strongly in sustainability? If so, you would need to reflect this in your design, logo, and guest experience.
- A strong visual identity
Tied closely with your name and logo is the design of your hotel website, the content you post on social media, in your emails, and more. The look and feel of your brand needs to match your core philosophy. Using the example above, sustainability might dictate warm and earthy colours or soft greens, rather than bright reds or yellows.
Outside of colours, you need to think about what typography you use, and what images you display to market your hotel. Everything needs to be in sync.
It’s important that guests are able to understand who you are and why you do what you do. What mission drives your business?
If you have decided your hotel exists to provide luxury travellers with a guilt-free, eco-friendly stay then you need to create a narrative that discusses why your brand feels strongly about it, how the experience is achieved, and the difference it makes to both your guests and the world at large. The more aspirational you can make your story, the more inclined guests will be to join you on your journey.
Key tip: Ensure your tone of voice makes sense alongside your statements. E.g a brand revolving around fun and novelty shouldn’t use language that is too formal.
- Define your offerings
Your offerings are perhaps the most impactful part of your brand when it comes to how guests feel and react to it. This means creating rooms, amenities, menus, and staff interactions that trace back to your original brand proposition. Your offerings and service are how to prove to guests that your brand delivers on its promises.
It should also go further than this, to include your hotel’s relationship with the local community.
Importance of brand development and how to get it right
Developing a strong brand will ultimately ensure the long term success of your business, and make it easier over time to grow your profit.
By developing your brand you’ll be able to:
- Set expectations around value and pricing
- Promise and deliver a consistent guest experience
- Create awareness of your business
- Build trust within the industry
- Strengthen staff motivation
- Establish a loyal customer base
This last point is particularly important. Your brand development will depend on the relationship between you and your guests.
It’s one thing to come up with a catchphrase or an ‘about us’ tagline – but it means nothing if you don’t follow through. The experiences your guests have, and the reviews they write will shape the way your hotel’s brand develops and how travellers identify with it.
This is why it’s so important to:
- Provide a guest experience that matches what you promise
- Stay consistent with the quality of service offered
- Work overtime to source and action feedback
- Constantly manage reviews and guest communication
- Reward customers for their loyalty
It takes a long time to establish a positive brand reputation but a bad reputation can sometimes be created by just one bad piece of feedback. That’s why fostering guest loyalty is essential. You need your guests to be your brand ambassadors. For this to happen you need to make them feel like they are part of an exclusive club that gets treated like family.
Hotel branding strategies and ideas
The end goal of establishing and developing your brand is that your hotel(s) will receive more recognition, with more general awareness from customers about what your brand means.
This should lower your cost of acquisition over time and enable you to steadily increase revenue and profits.
Here are 9 key tips to help you earn that recognition.
1. Develop a marketing strategy
This includes deciding on how you will design your website, what third-party channels you will sell through, what types of emails you will send, which other businesses you will partner with, how you will influence your reputation, how you will establish loyalty, and more.
2. Be strategic with marketing dollars
Make sure you have analysed your target market in detail. This will allow you to spend money where it will have the most impact. Eliminating marketing waste and investing in channels with higher conversion rates can help you capture more revenue, leading to increased profits and higher performance scores that you can use to your brand’s advantage.
3. Keep an eye on the competition
Hotel branding is especially important in areas of high competition. Many hoteliers find themselves in price wars with the comp set, consistently working to undercut one another for a competitive edge. If your property is located in an area saturated with comparable hotels offering similar services, hotel branding provides an opportunity to set your hotel apart from the competition.
4. Be different
With guest expectations growing, as well as tech innovation and disruption, there’s no room to be static. You have to constantly find ways to reinvent your offerings, so guests have a reason to choose you. This might mean rotating your packages more frequently, taking personalisation to the next level, or adopting the latest technology to match what guests are using in their everyday lives.
5. Stay true to your history
Whatever you set out to do with your brand must be your mission everyday. No brand can please everyone, so you need to set your sights on delivering the best possible experience to your core market. Chopping and changing ideas will lead to inconsistency in service, and your reviews will suffer as a result.
6. Empower your staff and establish connections with your audience
A strong brand always has proud staff that are invested in the mission and the story. To boost the personalisation that guests experience, give your staff the freedom to share the hotel’s story, problem-solve, and take initiative to satisfy guests at all times.
7. Prioritise a mobile-friendly booking experience
With new data continuing to show the growing popularity of mobile-booking, it’s a must for your brand experience to be the same on mobile as it is on desktop or any other device. The second a web page fails to load or a booking experience becomes clunky, the brand image you have established starts to waver.
8. Optimise your OTA listings
For brand consistency, your OTA listing needs to be treated with the same care as your own website, given how many travellers are likely to book with you on channels like Booking.com or Expedia. Ensure your content and your gallery are held to the same high standards, and that all key information is included.
9. Make social media your right hand man
Social media can be where your brand explodes into life. If you post something that goes viral for all the right reasons, gives followers a chance to engage, or creates a sense of community, your audience will do the rest of the work for you. It’s important to give social media its own strategy and ask yourself how you will share your brand story in a way that gets people talking.
The best hotel branding examples
If you want to aim high, some inspiration can be taken by looking at some of the best brands in the world to see how they make their brand special. Here are three quick examples:
1. Six Senses
Every year, Travel + Leisure magazine surveys over 300,000 respondents to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe. The publication boasts a monthly circulation of over 950,000 readers and has been considered the leading travel authority since first hitting the news stands in 1937. In the ‘World’s Best Brands’ survey, readers rate hotel brands on their locations, rooms and facilities, food, service, and overall value.
In 2017, Six Senses hotels, resorts, and spas came out on top, followed by the Oetker Collection and Auberge Resorts.
Six Senses was founded in 1995 and has built a reputation of creating a sense of sustainability and wellness. All of these things are top-of-mind for modern travellers and when guests stay at a Six Senses property they can engage in:
- Wellness screenings
- Sleep and nutrition optimisation
- Connection with local surroundings
- Energy efficiency
- Sustainable waste management
- Charity initiatives
This is in addition to a luxurious five-star experience in beautiful locations such as the Maldives, Fiji, and the Seychelles.
Marriott has dedicated itself to creating a varied abundance of content since 2014. So far, Marriott’s content studio has produced:
- An online travel magazine called ‘Marriott Traveler’
- TV shows
- Virtual reality experiences
- Short films
- Shareable social media content
- Real-time, customer-centric marketing opportunities
The proof is in the pudding too; in the first 90 days Marriott’s online magazine drove more than 7,000 bookings.
Marriott also has a strong tradition of always putting its customers first. J. Willard Marriott’s original goal for his business was “good food and good service at a fair price.” And it’s safe to say the brand has always stuck to this guiding principle.
MGM Grand in Las Vegas brings Sin City to life on its social media pages. Whether the hotel is posting a video of a lively pool party, or photographs of an event, followers are always aware of what is going on there.
This provokes interest and anticipation from guests who are beginning to research their next trip to the city, and it provides useful information for those who are currently staying at the hotel.
The key is to encourage satisfied guests to amplify your hotel’s brand as far as possible. Guests who take photos at your property often share their experiences, allowing people to view your hotel through the eyes of their peers, which is a wonderful organic channel for traffic. Posting and promoting stories like proposals or anniversaries will reinforce a positive perception of your hotel.
Key guidelines for hotel brand building: Takeaways
- Aim to instil an instant affinity and familiarity from travellers when they hear your hotel’s name
- Define what your mission and philosophies are, and build your brand on this foundation
- Create a strong narrative for your hotel with cross-functional storytelling
- Remember that your guests are your ambassadors and loyalty is a key to brand success
- Ensure every element of your hotel service, communication, and content is consistent with your overall brand experience
- Create a marketing strategy to grow your brand recognition and awareness
- Use social media as a vessel to make your brand exciting and shareable
- Look at what your competitors and industry leaders are doing to know how you can stand out