Creating a Quality Brand Strategy Plan for your Hotel Marketing Success

Are you a hotelier willing to develop a strong brand that will highly distinguish in this dense market? Then, it is time to start working with your marketing team on developing an effective brand strategy plan. This will help you realize how you differentiate compared to your competitive set and allow you to implement the right strategies to appeal to your target audience. Indeed, branding is the basis for success for any company including in the hotel industry. Dan Wieden, one of the most famous advertising executives, who created one of the most successful marketing taglines in the business world for Nike “Just Do It” once said “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic”. Thus, as a hotel professional, it is crucial to design an attractive brand storytelling so people do not think twice before booking a stay at your property.

What is a Brand Strategy Plan?

A brand strategy plan is developed to create and reinforce your hotel brand aligned with your business objectives. It involves designing all the tools that are necessary to communicate the brand. This can allow you to better realize your hotel identity and define your story. As you will be developing your brand strategy, you will be able to determine how your content should look like to attract numerous hotel guests.

How Should you Organize your Brand Strategy Plan?

There are different steps you should take in order to complete an insightful strategy plan. In fact, you should make sure to have these various parts on your plan to better understand your branding strategies:

Brand Context: This part must include information about the market trends and background environment in which the brand exists.

Brand Objectives: Here, you must define well the objectives of your brand by making them SMART through quantifying them. Below is a visual illustrating how you can make your brand objectives smart:

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Brand Category: Your brand category should be determined whether you are an upper upscale, upscale, upper midscale, midscale or economy property.

Company Overview: This is where you must think how you best describe your company and its settings. You can here include your hotel mission and vision.

Business Model: This is where you will identify how your property offer values in a social, economic and cultural context.

Industry Problems: Thinking about the issues that the industry faces can help you determine how your brand can offer solutions.

SWOT analysis: A SWOT analysis can help you determine your hotel strengths and weaknesses in the internal environment as well as opportunities and threats in the external environment. This will allow you to see what your company is good at and what is it lacking from to reduce any hazards disturbing your operational success.

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Competitive Set: In the hotel industry, companies usually select a group of 5 competitors with which key performance indicators Occupancy, Average Daily Rate (ADR) and Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) are compared. You should consider subscribing to Smith Travel Research (STR) organization that can provide you with reports containing all these data about your competitive set. This will let you reflect on how you can outperform the other hotels.

Competitive Landscape: The competitive landscape can help you better understand your competitors and thus determine how you can expand your market share. There are several models that can help you define your competitive landscape. One of the most famous models used by businesses in this part of a brand strategy plan is Porter’s Five Forces Model visualized as below:

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Target Market: In this section, you have to describe well your target audience so you know and have your marketing efforts tailored accordingly. An effective description of your target market should contain information about its geographical location as well as demographic, behavioral and psychographic elements defining your ideal customers. You can here create a typical customer persona narrative so you understand better your typical guests. Below is a model you can follow to design your customer’s persona:

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Consumer Research: After defining your target market, it is important to conduct a thorough research about your customer’s lifestyle, likings and preferences in order to better identify their needs.

Path to Purchase: At this stage, you should be able to determine the experience your guests undertake while interacting with your brand. This is also known as a customer’s journey defined by the roadmap people take from travel need recognition to discovering your brand to booking a hotel stay at your property.

Brand Drivers: Brand drivers can be various adjectives that best define your brand identity and principles helping understand how you want to be represented in the market. Those help ensure a cohesive messaging for better decision-making.

Points of Parity and Difference: In this part, you must identify the points of parity which are what makes your hotel similar to the competitive properties to be a booking consideration for your guests. The points of differences are any areas that makes your hotel unique in terms of the offers compared to your competitors. Below is a diagram you can you use to well represent the POPs and PODs:

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Positioning Statement: The previous section will lead you to determine your unique selling proposition. You will here be able to write the statement establishing the differentiation for your hotel and realize how you stand out in the market. This will also allow you to think about your brand mantra that is an appealing message capturing your hotel brand’s essence and determine your positioning. Examples of successful brand mantras developed by hospitality organizations are the following: Disney “ Fun Family Entertainment” and“Ritz-Carlton Ladies & Gentlemen Serving Ladies & Gentlemen”. You can write yours with what best determine your property’s value proposition as those companies did.

Brand Identity Prism: A brand identity prism is a diagram visualizing how a brand is expressed through six elements (physique, relationship, reflection, personality, culture, self-image) building a brand identity. This model helps better understand your brand storytelling and can allow you to reinforce your core values. Here is how your brand prism should be visualized:

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Brand Elements: Through taking all this step, you will be able to better identify how you want your brand to look like. Here, you can create or rethink your brand name, logo, color palette, letterheads making a sensory identity in customer’s minds. Those elements listed in the graph below are examples of brand elements leading to your hotel guest’s brand recognition:

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Brand Protection: If you have not done so, you can here make sure that your brand is legally protected through trademark. Your brand strategy plan should contain how you ensured protection of what makes your brand unique.

Marketing Programs: You can here list all the marketing strategies you are currently implementing for your hotel pre-stay, during stay and after post-stay. Those should include any offline marketing efforts as well as social media and online ad strategies that are a must in this digital age. You can also narrate your guest service experience as it is an essential part of your hotel marketing strategies.

Budget: Based on your current and forecasted revenues, you must be able to determine the budget you want to dedicate to your marketing initiatives. Here, you should be able to have an idea about the dollar and percentage share of your budget for the different types of marketing efforts (e.g: traditional marketing, experiential marketing, digital marketing, etc).

Service Strategy: According to the all the steps completed previously, you will be able to have a better idea about the direction that your brand should take in term of product strategy. You will be surprised how at this point you will have ideas to develop your products and add extensions to enhance the quality of your service.

Distribution Strategy: It is important here to determine how you want to deliver the services you want to implement whether it is through physical or online settings.

Brand Equity Management System: This step allows you to think about research procedures that can help you collect accurate, timely and insightful information about your target audience and the market trends. This could be done through qualitative and quantitative research to track essential KPIs such as sales, engagement, customer satisfaction and customer lifetime value.

Integrated Communications Plan: After knowing better your brand through all the previous steps, you will have a better understanding of the objectives you want to achieve. This is where you will decide what are the strategies you want to implement based on the thorough analysis of your brand. Make sure that you include interconnected strategies with a clear communication plan through thinking about the best channels you can use to implement those initiatives. This is a crucial part as an effective integrated communication plan that will allow you to offer a seamless experience to your guests.

Relationship Marketing: This is where you will assess how your marketing activities after guest’s stay that reinforce your hotel brand unique value proposition. For instance, you can here think of effective strategies to implement in order to increase customer lifetime value such as a loyalty program.

In sum, if you are looking to build a successful hotel brand that will be remembered and talked about, it is time for you to dedicate your time on developing a high-quality brand strategy plan. You will see how inspiring it would be for you to implement unique marketing initiatives that will make you stand out in the eyes of your existing and prospect hotel guests. It is important to consider developing a brand strategy plan that includes all those steps as it will help you determine the right strategies you could launch and the feasibility of the projects you might consider to generate more business. A strong brand strategy plan requires efforts, time and commitments. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth it as you will be able to gain new ideas and fresh perspectives from a rich and insightful plan you will be developing!