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Thought Piece: HOW TO CREATE THE BEST HOTEL BRANDING , The basics you need to know. 17th February 2020

By Pero Trivunovic, Group Partner & Creative Brand Director at I-AM London 

Nowadays you’ve got to work hard to differentiate your brand. Travelers have different needs, and branding your hotel is an opportunity to set you apart. It makes it easy for potential guests to see what you stand for and get to know your brand. Strong hotel brands build affinity and familiarity. You want people to not only easily recall your image and logo, but also get an immediate sense of what a stay at your hotel is like. When it comes to creating your hotel brand, the customer experience is top of the list. However, branding helps to set you apart from your competitors and connect you with your guests. Below are a few simple tips to consider and help you develop a successful hotel brand identity.

“73% OF CONSUMERS SAY A GOOD EXPERIENCE IS KEY IN INFLUENCING THEIR BRAND LOYALTIES.” 

PwC, ‘Experience is everything. Get it Right.’

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“90% OF CEOS BELIEVE THE CUSTOMER HAS THE GREATEST IMPACT ON THEIR BUSINESS.”

PwC, 21st CEO Survey (UK)

Begin with an understanding of your target audience. This might sound like an obvious notion – but the more thorough the research, the deeper the understanding of your customers’ functional needs and emotive desires, the more successful your brand communication will be.

A strong brand proposition needs to satisfy both sides of the brain. Knowing your consumers’ expectations, basic human touchpoints, and more complex emotive desires will help you shape and construct your brand proposition. A brand that resonates with peoples’ needs and aspirations will generate a more authentic and memorable experience. Your guests should therefore play an active part in shaping your brand – from the very beginning as well as throughout any future developments.

My best advice at this stage is ‘don’t try to be everything to everyone’. Find your niche, define your brand and cater to your targeted audience across everything that is valuable to them.

“CUSTOMER-CENTRIC COMPANIES ARE 60% MORE PROFITABLE THAN COMPANIES THAT DON’T FOCUS ON CUSTOMERS.” Deloitte (2017)

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Image source: Citizen M Hotel

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Your brand positioning should express how your brand is different from your competitors whether its location, its history and/or services … and how it wants to be represented in the minds of your audiences and potential guests.

Creating an effective brand positioning strategy therefore involves creating and developing brand associations in the minds of potential guests to make them perceive your hotel brand in a specific way.

By positioning your hotel correctly within the market and strengthening the opinion of your brand through your services and communications –  these actions combined will generate relevant guest loyalty and a willingness to buy into what your hotel brand has to offer. Effective brand positioning can be considered as the extent to which your brand is perceived as favourable, different and credible in the minds of your audience.

In order to create a unique, ownable and successful positioning for your hotel brand, you will need to analyze the following:

  • Get to know your guests. Understand exactly what your guests want and desire.
  • Understand what your hotel and brand capabilities Don’t over promise.
  • Understand how your closest competitors are positioning their brands.

Then once you’ve done that, you will need to develop a positioning that:

  • Will resonate with all your guests, be believable as well as ownable.
  • Can be easily delivered by your hotel within your capabilities
  • Is truly different from your competitors and sets you apart.

Your remaining challenge is to then reflect your new brand positioning in everything that you do from your brand personality, marketing campaigns, your products and services, your visual identity design and all of your communications.

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Image: Cloud 7 Hotel Designed by I-AM

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A powerful, targeted and engaging story, built on brand truths, will resonate with both guests as well as all internal and external audiences. To put it simply, good branding is good storytelling. We as human beings are wired to respond to a narrative. Let’s face it – who doesn’t like a good story? A narrative that leads to a better understanding of your brand helps create trust, develop a stance and build an authentic bond.

Creating and establishing a story for your hotel that touches on your history, your mission and your values, will immediately put you one step ahead of the competition. When done well, guests are significantly more likely to feel a connection with you and embrace the beginning of what is hopefully a long relationship with your brand.

“64% OF CONSUMERS SAY THAT SHARED VALUES HELP THEM CREATE A TRUSTED RELATIONSHIP WITH A BRAND.”

Harvard Business Review

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Image source: MOXY Milan Hotel Party    Copyright: PH Nicolo Gemin

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We’ve all been there, visited a hotel where there are so many clashing design ideas that it feels like a mashup of makeover programs. Not only can this alienate guests but if they don’t understand what you are trying to achieve, they won’t connect with your brand. One method of creating a distinctive, cohesive, memorable identity is to pivot all your choices around a strong and consistent creative concept. A successful creative concept is above all led by your customer insight, your brand proposition, story and values.

From architecture, interiors to graphics and environmental branding – they all have an impact on customers as they affect the atmosphere and experience of your spaces.

“COLOR IMPROVES BRAND RECOGNITION BY UP TO 80%” Forbes

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Image sources: Top Left: W Hotels, London ; Top Right: Holiday Inn, Green Bay; Bottom Left: Virgin Hotels, San Francisco; Bottom right: Moxy Hotel, Washington DC)

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With your consumer insights, your brand story and your central idea in place, at this point (if not earlier) it’s time to bring in the professionals to help craft your vision and bring your mental picture to life.

It’s key to note that your branding allows for potential ‘moments’- moments where your customer interacts with the branded environment. Thanks to Instagram, Pinterest and the proliferation of online content, your guests are exposed to more design than ever and their expectations are high. Consider how every element of your visual identity is a chance to communicate your brands’ aesthetic, style and tone of voice – from menus to business cards, to way finding and the toiletries you stock. It’s not just about being “Insta-ready” but it shows that your brand is invested in the customers’ experience of the brand throughout their stay and more.

Moreover, it’s crucial to note that your branding journey should not stop at a physical level; make sure that your channels incorporate this visual identity – from your website to your social media content and digital collateral.

“CONSISTENT BRAND PRESENTATION ACROSS ALL PLATFORMS INCREASES REVENUE BY UP TO 23%”  Lucid Press, 2019 – The State Of Brand Consistency Report

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Center Hotels Stationery (Designed By I-AM)