Branding: Competition gets personal

In my last blog post I wrote about turning your brand inside out and making your consumer the center of your branding efforts. Why? Because the most successful brands are based on ideas that forge a bond between a company and the audience upon which the company depends for success. And this bond must be one the competition cannot break. A simple example is Apple computer. I’m an Apple man. Always will be. Period.

How do you go about gaining that valuable consumer insight? The process is a combination of business acumen and psychology. Think of it as charting a road map and looking for the intersection between two major highways. The first is the one traveled by your business and the second the path of personal values traveled by your best customer.

As decisions are made about the type of property you are developing or redirecting, all attributes — from design to services and amenities to the general style of the experience you envision — add up to the direction you intend to take the business. As I have worked with hospitality clients over the years, they have also prepared a basic demographic definition of the customer they hope to attract. But by really focusing on their vision of the business, they end up defining a brand based essentially on their product and service offerings. This is dangerous. Your competitors can easily one-up you and take your customers away.

If, instead, you explore your various consumer groups (leisure, group, social, wedding, etc.) on various levels you can gain insights that allow you to find a deeper connection between your company and your best target audience — something much harder for your competitors to replicate.

Try examining the customers on three levels: rational (Why do I want to come here?), emotional (How do I feel when I’m here?) and self-expressive (What does relating to this place say about me?). Consider each of your different consumer targets (leisure, group, wedding, etc.). When examining these various key audiences, what you’re really looking for is what they all share in terms of a mindset. What is it that inspires each group to pick you over the other options they are considering? This is all about what they value. And it will reveal your communications target versus your consumer targets — the target your brand must speak to.

Then when you compare the experience delivered by your hotel or resort and the mindset of your communications target you will be equipped to see the best possible intersection between the path you have chosen for your business and the path traveled by your best customer. Therein lies the insight that will inspire your brand idea — one that matches your hotel or resort’s experience with current and prospective customer values.

Here are two examples of brands we have positioned and the insights that inspired us to make connections with consumers that are relevant today:

Example 1:

A 100-hundred-year-old hotel, which had served five generations of loyal guests, was seeking to attract new customers.

Communications target insight: The timeless traditions that enrich their lives and those of their families are spurred on by experiences that transport them to familiar, comforting moments and feelings of security, continuity and belonging.

Brand positioning: For those who value tradition, our hotel is a shining example of timeless continuity whose historic substance engages guests in the enrichment of their own personal legacy.

Example 2:

A casual, homey-style hotel and pub dating from 1742 needed updating to remain relevant to today’s travelers and local patrons.

Communications target insight: One’s life becomes fuller as it is filled with friendships, strong family ties and far-reaching connections with people from other walks of life.

Brand positioning: For those who value camaraderie, we are a premier example of authentic hospitality whose historical heritage and cozy village locale engage guests in old and new relationships with friends and family.

A brand platform that is built to connect with guests on a deeper, personal level will foster bonds that are lasting and that your competition cannot break. How’s that for competitive?