A hotel with a strong and trusted brand can charge a premium for rooms and other services and become more profitable than its competitors.
Every hotel is a brand in itself in a location and a specific building. The most vivid examples are the famous old grand hotels from the late 1800s. Most of these hotels still have a solid reputation and an aura around the name. All hotel brands are local and mean something to people living in the destination and their targeted audience visiting the destination. Top management is responsible for building a solid local hotel brand. It starts with a promise to the potential hotel guest and then continues with the delivery to fulfill the commitment. There are a few critical factors to succeed in building a solid local hotel brand.
The differentiated promise
Hotels are purpose-built and will be there for a very long time. Again, the grand hotels from the 1800s are good examples. The first part of a hotel brand is to give the guest a promise about the concept, product, and services. What can the hotel promise to deliver? Since hotels are long-term, the commitment needs to be long-term. The only way to succeed is to keep up with consumer needs, wishes, and behavior changes. Guests expect new food, entertainment, sleeping comfort, and technology to make a stay seamless. Hotels that keep updating their promise will always stay relevant and continue to attract guests.
Hotels that have not updated their promise during the pandemic, such as new cleaning and hygiene policies, will have a more challenging time attracting guests when travel rebounds. There are many things in hotels that are considered must-haves, and these are part of the promise, but never the differentiating promise.
Do not waste time making identical promises as your competitors. That will only convince your guests that it does not matter whom they choose. The only differentiator left then is the rate, and you will only compete in price. It is tough to build a competitive advantage - providing something valuable to guests that your competitors cannot replicate. However, hotels can take advantage of unique features such as location, the building, and exceptional facilities. Hotels can also find unique characteristics to attract specific target groups, such as families with small children. For example, large rooms, family dining, and a pool would attract families.
A shortcut to building a trusted brand is to borrow another trusted brand. The hotel can affiliate itself with a brand, such as Leading Hotels of the World, Design Hotels, or Best Western. A hotel can also franchise a brand, such as Hilton, Marriott, or Holiday Inn. Consumer trust will increase when an external party has put a quality seal on the hotel.
Delivering the promise, again and again, will convince the guest to trust the hotel brand. Moreover, repeating the delivery will refine the experience to consistent quality and save costs thanks to the concept of economies of scale. Repetition over a long time will also cement the brand promise, increase the number of great reviews and attract new guests.
Repetition is critical because it builds customer confidence over time with every cycle of promise and fulfillment. Every review is proof of repeated delivery of the brand and experience in the influencer and review era. Good reviews build trust almost as well as an actual previous experience.
The need for continuous repetition to build a strong brand is the reason why short-term campaigns are ineffective. Hotels discover a "need-period" and desperately run a short-term campaign that seldom produces the wanted revenue. As a result, every time a hotel runs a short-term campaign, the brand is compromised, and the hotel has to re-start building a trusted brand.
Thinking long-term in communicating and delivering the promise will build guest confidence, strengthen the brand and generate the profits needed to maintain and develop a more compelling brand experience.