The hotel industry is fiercely competitive, and in the battle to stand out, your hotel’s brand is at the heart of your success. Building and maintaining a successful brand requires diligence, work, and time, not to mention an intimate knowledge of the travel landscape.

As the hospitality industry changes rapidly, the success of individual hotels – whether they are small, boutique establishments, or franchises of a larger chain – depends largely on how well they can establish a successful brand image.

So, what are the most important elements of branding to bear in mind if you run a hotel, and how should you go about implementing them? Let’s explore.

The Basics

There are a few universal elements to branding that apply to almost any business, but they’re particularly important for the hospitality industry. Hotel owners don’t just provide a product that consumers purchase as a one-off – your guests will be spending time with you, and will inevitably form a more personal connection with your brand than with other products.

Your brand can generally be broken down into the visual and written elements – things like your logo, colour scheme, and content in brochures, adverts, and online – and the service you provide to your guests before, during, and after their stay.

They first step to developing these in a successful and consistent manner is to understand your target market, and your USP (‘Unique Selling Point’). Once you have a grasp on the kind of brand image you want to create, all further steps you take should keep this firmly in view.

Build your brand around your building (and vice versa)

The physical space of your hotel is arguably one of the most significant contributing factors to your overall brand. It will likely be the source of most of your images and visual marketing, giving potential customers a snapshot of what to expect. Considering your branding will be a visual and professional representation of not just your service, but your actual hotel, these two things need to remain consistent at all times.

Take, for example, a city-based hotel that caters largely to people traveling on business. This is a sector of the market that continues to grow rapidly, and this demographic is likely to expect cutting-edge service in terms of technology, particularly Wi-Fi and internet access.

A hotel that caters to this clientele would benefit from a building design that reflects the expectations of its guests. Subtle but poignant differences, like opting for modern sleek glass doors as opposed to older installations (including built-in screens displaying the weather and new), or simple aesthetic features like the inclusion of chrome detailing are all physical visual elements that would contribute to a brand image, demonstrating that the business understands its clientele.

Similarly, if your hotel is an older building with a rustic charm of its own, then capitalize on this in your branding. Focus your efforts on the character of the hotel itself, and make the physical building your guests will stay in the main ‘character’ in your brand story.

Beautify and Optimize Your Website

There’s no longer any doubt that the online presence of your hotel is now utterly integral to its success. With more than half (57%) of travel reservations made online, your digital footprint can make or break the success of your brand.

65.7% of hotel bookings are made on the website of the specific hotel in question, and the fact that you have complete authority over its content makes your site one of the best places to develop your brand profile.

Ensure your site is visually engaging, and is aesthetically aligned with your intended branding. A luxury boutique hotel, for instance, might feature aspirational images on its site, highlighting its extravagant and elegant offerings to high net worth clients. The images you choose, your logo, and even the font you use can all contribute significantly to the impression your site gives prospective guests.

Make sure not to let these things fall by the wayside, and invest the time and capital necessary to ensure they convey the right impression of your hotel. There are countless companies offering high quality graphic design, with some even offering free design consultation online, and enlisting their professional help is a great idea.

The technical performance of your site is also vital. While it might not seem like the most obvious factor in your branding, your website is often where your potential guests get their first impression of your hotel; if they’re met with slow-loading pages, broken links or missing features, or a site that simply feels clunky, they could be put off. Keeping on top of your website and updating it with fresh content regularly (such as including live Twitter feeds or local weather widgets) helps you build a brand with guest experience at its heart.

Social Media Branding

There are plenty of articles on how to build your brand on social media, and while many point to the same key concepts, there’s a good reason for this: your social media presence is vital to your brand image.

The main thing to think about when it comes to social media is what impression the content you post will give your guests about your brand. People often visit the social media profiles of businesses once they have become aware of their services, to help them get a better impression of the company. For this reason, you shouldn’t just see your social media presence as a way of promoting your services (although that can be important), but as a way of galvanizing your customers’ opinion of your hotel brand.

Make sure your tone, the images you use, and the type of content you upload all fit into your overall brand image. A high-end hotel might post images of the beautiful surrounding areas, or its grounds and rooms; whereas a hostel or hotel with a focus on convenience could post updates on things to do in the local area, advice on getting around or tips on places to visit.

Who Is Responsible For Your Branding?

While the owner or manager of a hotel might be responsible for developing the brand strategy for the business, the number of people who contribute to its success is much larger. In effect, your entire staff body is responsible for the success of your hotel brand.

From the individual who maintains social media upkeep, to your housekeeping staff, every employee has a role to play in ensuring your brand image is effectively maintained throughout your clients’ stay. Even the smallest things have a big impact: it seems trite to say that all your staff should treat guests with the utmost respect, but how they interact with guests can make a significant difference.

For instance, if they engage with your customers in a personally friendly manner, allowing their individual and personal characteristics to shine, they will offer a completely different experience to that of following a more traditional, formal approach to customer service.

Consider developing a document that outlines your plan for your brand, and how your employees play a role in this – distribute this to all staff, and make sure to include guidelines on how they can support your goals. This shouldn’t be an opportunity to micro-manage, but more of an overarching set of guidelines of how your staff can contribute to the character of your hotel. If handled well, this can not only help your staff provide your guests with a consistent impression of your brand, but can often result in a reinforced sense of pride and loyalty among your employees.

Final Thoughts

Branding is never a simple or easy thing, and a successful brand isn’t built overnight. The most important thing to creating a successful brand for your hotel is never to lose sight of what sets you apart from other businesses.

In this fiercely competitive market, which is constantly being redefined by new challenges and changes, your guests need a reason to choose to stay with you, and the brand you build needs to convey that to them.

Know your audience. Know what makes your hotel a fantastic choice. Develop a strong idea of exactly what kind of brand you want to build, make sure your staff understand it, and take steps to develop this profile. If you build it, and build it well, they will come.

Debbie Miller
Debbie is the Founder and President of Social Hospitality where she assists clients with social media and content marketing. When she's not online, Debbie enjoys spending time with her spoiled dogs; watching movies; reading; and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
Debbie Miller