5 Insider Tips for Expert Hotel Branding

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Hotel Branding Tips

In a recent article, serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson compared entrepreneurs to homebuyers: there are those that like to build their own houses as opposed to renovating existing properties.

Doing it all from scratch is, in many ways, a harder and riskier process – but it allows you to design a house exactly the way you want it.

The same can be said for hoteliers – some like to start a hotel brand by wiping the slate clean, while others prefer to breathe new life into an old, tired brand.

Whether you’re working with a new or old brand, visually communicating your brand concept to your guests is key.

Here are five insider tips to squeeze the most benefits from your brand, new or old:

1. Root your brand in consumer insights

This might sound obvious, but a brand that resonates with the wants and desires of their audience will generate a more authentic and enduring experience. Whilst it’s tempting to prioritise your personal taste, your guests should play an active part in shaping your brand.

If you’re creating a brand from scratch, there’s a wealth of communities to tap into and collect insights from at the early stages of the process. As a starting point, don’t underestimate social media as a powerful resource to understand what makes the contemporary traveller tick. For example, Facebook Surveys and Twitter Polls are a great way to get fast feedback on your ideas for family-friendly hotels whilst Linkedin, and its numerous groups, is a great place to create questionnaires and canvas the business community.

If your hotel is already up and running, schedule times to take stock and re-assess where your brand is sitting in the current market. What may have started out as a business hotel may have evolved over the years as a hub for the cycling community, or a frequented spot for co-workers. Intermittent reviews will often reveal a market that is much bigger than expected. An email survey in exchange for a complimentary cocktail as well as face-to-face discussions with your guests will provide invaluable intel.

2. Build your brand story with honesty

Today’s audiences value honesty and transparency – so understanding where you stand in the market alongside an awareness of what you are and what you aren’t will resonate positively with your guests. Be honest with what you offer and craft a brand story that tells it straight. Today’s consumer has a sharply tuned antenna and they’ll see through an over-pitched or shoe-horned proposition.

As a case study – when the Hoxton Hotel started out their brand story was the “anti-hotel”. They put this principle into practice by replacing mini bars in rooms with a reception service at supermarket prices and reducing the sizes of their rooms to increase the experience in restaurant and bar areas. Using this brand story as a starting position, they went against the industry convention – and at the time this was radical and grabbed headlines. You would think that business travellers would have rebuffed the “anti-hotel” but this segment has actually become their biggest market.

3. Create a central idea and stick with it

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 creative concept.

For example, The Original Pig Hotel in Brockenhurst is positioned as a “restaurant with rooms”. This clear idea instantly describes the focus of your stay: the food. With a walled kitchen garden, low food miles for everything else and a resident forager, it’s easy to see that they take their F&B seriously.

Don’t know where to start? Look to your history, your passion or attitude, your location, and your architecture for inspiration.

4. Make it beautiful

Another obvious point, every time your guest engages with your brand is a potential ‘Instagram moment’. Thanks to Instagram, Pinterest and the proliferation of online content, your guests are exposed to more design than ever and their expectations are higher than ever.

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.

Consider how every element of your visual identity is a chance to be beautiful – 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 you care and invest in your business, which subconsciously communicates to the guest that you care about them.

5. Throw a spotlight on your location

Whether for business or pleasure, people value travel as an opportunity to experience new places, new sensations, and engage with the world beyond their day-to-day lives. People want to connect with where they are.

Hotels are perfectly positioned to fulfil these needs. A well-craft brand and interior design should reflect the local culture, surroundings and history offering an enriching, added-value experience for your guests. The result? A memorable stay and an increased chance of repeat bookings.

With the rise of the bizcations (business travel combined with a vacation) even business travellers are seeking an experience when they travel. Compounded by flexible working/leisure hours, business travellers no longer want a functional hotel, but one that makes their working hours feel experiential and enhanced.

80 DAYS Benchmark
80 DAYS Benchmark
Matt Utber
Matt Utber is the Founder & Creative Director of branding agency The Plant. Launched in 2005, their insightful design meant The Plant soon became a leading agency for hospitality branding. In the past, the team has designed for brands like the Four Seasons (London and Athens), the Langham Hotel London, Bespoke Hotels, and Hilton in Russia. In 2015, Matt decided to combine two of his passions, food and cycling, and set up his own cycling restaurant called The Dynamo and in 2017 he opened a second site in London.