Hotel Branding: Strategies for Standing Out in a Competitive Market

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5 min read

Mar 21, 2023

Hotel Branding: Strategies for Standing Out in a Competitive Market

The Ritz has a reputation of outstanding service. The Standard is known as a top after-party host for some of the most exclusive events. What’s your hotel’s story? Does it have one?

Polling shows that today’s travelers crave authentic and unique experiences from the hospitality industry. This suggests that you have several opportunities to differentiate your hotel brand — all you need to do to define your brand is study your ideal customer. 

In this article, we’ll explore ways to establish your hotel brand identity as defined by your guests. We’ll also provide three examples of ways that hotels have built successful brands you can use to inspire your own. 

Importance of Hotel Branding

Successful hotel branding is more than graphic design and brand recognition. No doubt, crisp imagery can sway customers to book your king suite over a competitor’s, but it’s often the little things that generate loyalty and repeat business. Everything speaks. Your core values; your facilities; your online booking experience; these are all things that influence how guests feel while interacting with your brand. 

When done right, hotel branding can impact your bottom line in three big ways:

Generating Loyalty By Choice 

Guests visit 38 websites on average before booking. Every single one of these sites lists the same standard details: your website, rates, room types, services, facilities, branded logos and images and customer reviews.

You might secure a reservation based on simple details, like room availability or location, but differentiation can attract customers who make buying decisions based on feeling. People exclusively eat at vegan restaurants solely based on conviction — they can book your hotel for similar reasons. For example, studies show that people want to travel sustainably now more than ever. If your brand incorporates sustainable practices into your operations, say so. Targeted differentiation tactics like these can breed long-term loyalty from guests who choose your venue over another. 

Lowering the Cost of Acquisition

A common notion in the hotel industry is that pricing, relative to the local comp set, is the only opportunity to win the race for visibility and stand out. But hotels that prioritize relationships with their customers — whether that be via email marketing or a well-built website — rely less on OTAs and lower rates to drive business.

Increasing Guest Spend

For total guest spend to increase, branding should be consistent across all engagement platforms and guest interactions. Inconsistency, or not knowing what to expect, increases stress levels; brands that offer consistent, predictable branding across all touch points can positively impact the guest experience, which in turn, influences how much they spend. 

FYI: The guest experience begins before your guests arrive, and so should your branding. Think about the picture you paint prior to arrival. Timely confirmation emails and informational text messages promoting upsell offers or automated booking tools can increase guest spend before they even check-in. 

How to Develop a Successful Hotel Branding Strategy

Whether you develop a hotel branding strategy from scratch or rebrand parts of your business, the following steps will guide you toward high-quality hotel marketing. 

Understand and Define Your Customer

If you don’t collect guest data currently, now is the time to start. Targeted and successful branding hinges on understanding your customers wants, needs, and habits. It’s likely you already have more data than you think. 

Your Property Management System (PMS), Revenue Management System (RMS), CRM tool, OTA extranet reports and others can all hold valuable information on your source markets and booking patterns. You may be surprised when you see the numbers stack up. Use this information to define guest personas, then brainstorm ways to attract your ideal customers using a targeted branding strategy. 

Did You Know? Your F&B properties are also a treasure trove of guest data. Hotel restaurant management software, such as Sevenrooms, integrates with your hotel CRM to provide a unified view of guest preferences across your portfolio.

Study your competition

For this exercise, cast a wide net for research beyond your direct comp set. Perform a Google search for “hotel in [your town]” and browse the results. Then, take note of your competition’s:

Written content across vanity websites and third-party listings
Stated vision or mission
Product (differences in facilities such as rooms with kitchens, on-site services and types of restaurants)
Visual content
Reviews (and where these are shared)

The goal of this exercise is not to imitate, but to identify missed opportunities among your competition and then capitalize on it.

Pro Tip: Change up the ranking order using the Google Ad Preview Tool. You can quickly understand what potential guests searching from various locations or other countries see.

Define Your Differentiator

Once you’ve identified the areas where other brands are lacking, use the information to differentiate your brand. Don’t be shy here; communicate your advantages across the images, philosophy, values and brand story. Shine a spotlight on select values, features and facilities that make your hotel stand out. 

Once these components are defined, it is crucial for them to remain clear and consistent across all your distribution channels and collateral. 

Let It Inform Your Hotel Marketing Strategies

Updating your marketing strategy with your new hotel branding is the next step. Common marketing strategies focus on the following areas:

Content: Informational articles and videos can help support your brand. Examples include creating content about your city and the most popular destination sites to visit; adding explanatory videos about your venue processes, procedures and regulations; and writing chef bios and dining experiences available to all guests.
Partnerships: Integrate your branding with partnering venues, attractions, and companies, such as wedding venues, sister sites and nearby destination attractions.
Merchandise: Gift shops filled with t-shirts, drink koozies, flip flops and golf gear should also support your branding efforts — specifically your logo! 
Social Media: Allow your guests to immerse themselves in your venue via social media. Post pictures of yummy dinner specials, collaborate with influencers who can take followers on a tour of the facilities, and encourage guests to tag themselves at your location.

3 Innovative Brand Ideas to Keep Your Hotel Ahead of the Competition

Your hotel doesn’t have to be a five-star facility to stand out, but it does have to know who it is. Here are three examples of brand ideas you may use to inspire your own.

Integrated F&B Concepts

The Ritz Carlton New York NoMad, which brands itself as “a gathering place for the social and an enclave for the sophisticated,” doubles down on their claims by offering guests the chance to dine at two restaurants by renowned Michelin-starred chef José Andrés.

When a hotel brand can paint its restaurants as its own destinations, you offer guests a truly immersive and unforgettable experience — one they don’t have to leave the property to try. In many ways, the food becomes the destination. 

F&B program

10 Ways to Supercharge Your F&B Program

Unique Loyalty Programs

Many hotels offer loyalty programs to encourage repeat stays. But your hotel can customize the program based on your offerings.

Casino destination, Caesars Rewards, lets customers earn and redeem points while gaming on-site or online, staying in their hotel rooms, shopping in their retail outlets and dining. The benefits are clear.

With destinations all over the world, the Soho House created a private members club that combines dining, workspaces and hotel rooms in a coveted, global brand experience. 

High-Tech and Futuristic Elements 

Hotel brands are increasingly leveraging technology to stand out among the competition. The Yotel New York famously features a robotic luggage service in its front window, successfully attracting modern travelers to the “world’s smartest places.” Not only do they offer contactless check-in and smart beds, it embraces hybrid work by introducing a Hybrid Half rate for those working and sleeping in one location. 

Hotel Branding FAQs

What are the Benefits of Hotel Branding?

Hotels that prioritize brand standards are also ensuring a consistent customer experience across every touchpoint. When customers know what to expect from their visit, they spend more and return often. Thoughtful hotel branding has a definite impact on your bottom line and industry reputation.

What is an Example of a Brand in the Hotel Industry?

When you think of branding examples in the hotel industry, you probably think of luxury hotels like the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, The Plaza or The Waldorf Astoria. These brands were built and refined via social media, customer reputation, and celebrity endorsements, among others. Some of these examples have dream locations to support their brand, while others simply leverage their hospitality reputation to fuel their brand strategies.

How Do I Know if My Hotel Brand Needs a Refresh?

A disconnect between your brand and guests can show in sub-par business results, guest reviews and more. Even without any clear symptoms, your brand will undergo changes in perception relative to its evolving competition, so keep your eyes open.

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