To Brand or Not To Brand
By Edward Donaldson VP Marketing, Small Luxury Hotels of the World | May 19, 2010
The larger question of critical importance today, however, is the relationship of brand value. In reality, consumers value branded companies. A walk through any major shopping area will prove this. Brands deliver major impact to a business as they will most often bring loyal customers with previous positive experiences. For independent hoteliers, this can make a huge difference to being successful or not when competing in a market place.
In a chaotic world with fragile customer loyalties and fast shifting market preferences, brands such as Small Luxury Hotels of the World that work exclusively with the independent hotelier, whose focus is on utilizing brand awareness and put both energy and effort into driving it with dedicated customer support allows the independent hotel members continue to flourish and grow. It is also important that participants in the brand utilize every available opportunity to ensure complete capitalization is taken advantage of.
One key element that has changed over the course of the years is that the customer has become the primary asset. The hotel has become part of the distribution system that delivers branded products and services to the customer. In the global market, the intangible brand becomes a very tangible product and the brand becomes a focus; a rallying point in the marketplace and an identifiable choice for both customers and members.
Branded products and services, then, will become an even more important part of the marketing landscape in the future. Brands that control the branding message will be well-rewarded by higher than average returns where customer focus and continuity are in place. Some companies that own various brands attempted to market all of their sub-brands in an integrated message. There has been a shift away from that as in many cases it became confusing to consumers and difficult to focus on segmentation effectively. Although that strategy has changed, there is still a perceived impact for the stronger identity to support the weaker "sisters".
Brands, to be effective, must be promoted through to the consumers. For marketing organizations such as Small Luxury Hotels of the World one of the key elements for success is the knowledge of the brands' consumers. Once the information about who is buying a product is known, a targeted marketing plan can be executed to attract the clientele. Marketing is also targeted at the potential clientele. In the luxury sector, there is a great deal of "see and be seen" cache for those with aspirational wishes. In all branding exercises, there is a value assigned by the consumer. For the independent hotelier, being associated with the correct brand allows them the opportunity to ensure they are available for the correct consumer at the right time.
Advertising in the media has become an expensive proposition as the ability to get a message heard increases and the channels of distribution continue to expand. Additionally, the revolution in the messaging field changes daily and will continue to evolve. As a result, brands will focus more on direct and highly targeted marketing to identified consumers. This, of course, will need to be driven by sophisticated customer tracking systems that tie into the way in which reservations are made and customers arrive and depart from the hotels that they stay in.