The Future of Hotel Brands
David Collins, columnist and Co-Founder & Group Marketing Director at?Great National Hotels & Resorts?discusses the future of hotel brands..
In a previous article on hotel branding (31 December 2013), I outlined an alternative approach to developing hotel brands. How you must stand for something and give your customers something to believe in. And how you must have a brand that matters to your guests, one that?s head and shoulders above your competitive set and one that let?s your marketing work a good deal harder for you.
There is another very good reason for branding and that is to enable distribution and it?s this that is largely informing the debate on ?hard? versus ?soft? brands and which in turn is shaping a further discussion as to what exactly the future is for hotels brands.
Just to clarify firstly the difference between ?hard? and ?soft? brands.
A hard brand as the term suggests entails for example minimum standards in fit-out (as in a bricks and mortar, signage, d?cor, footprint, etc.) and service (as in staffing levels, client touch-points, etc.); the terms are typically for up to 20 years, are quite onerous and commercially challenging.
Soft brands on the other hand afford owners greater flexibility, are typically for shorter terms, tend to be performance based and allow the property to retain its own brand identity.
Hard brands also typically have a very defined customer base and pricing strategy whereas soft brands tend to appeal to a wider base of customers rate-wise. According to data collected by STR for example, hard branded hotels report a higher occupancy while soft branded hotels report a higher ADR and RevPar.
From the staying customer?s viewpoint, there?s predictability about a hard brand whereas with a soft brand, there?s more of an element of surprise, and with the travelling public travelling more and with greater confidence, it?s the latter option that?s becoming more popular. This for example is borne out by the introduction of Marriott?s ?Autograph Collection? or Choice Hotels? ?Ascend Collection? which are what?s called ?quasi-brands?. Marriott and Choice would both be synonymous with hard brand strategies.
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Source: David Collins (2014). The Future of Hotel Brands, Hotel Industry Magazine http://www.hotel-industry.co.uk/2014/03/the-future-of-hotel-brands/ published Mar 26, 2014. Viewed Mar 28, 2014.