I have lost track of the number of times a potential client has asked, “Should I brand my business?” What I’m referring to are the existing independent properties that have chosen not to fly the flag of a major portfolio brand — ventures that have been operating for a while, if not for decades. My response is always the same: “It’s too late. You’re already branded. It just happens.”
Any hotel or resort that interacts with customers is engaged in branding. Those customers are collecting impressions, forming perceptions and acquiring attitudes about that particular property, what it offers and how it delivers services and products. The sum of these facts and feelings is what becomes the brand in the consumer marketplace. The same holds true within the business marketplace. This includes the non-consumer target segments, such as the all-important media, management companies, investors and the pool from which future employees are drawn.
So, the question to be asked is not shall we brand, but rather, shall we engage in proactive branding? Do we consciously, thoughtfully influence our guests, future guests and other target audiences so the cumulative impression that forms in their minds is the one we want them to have? Of course. And if we don’t proactively brand, what happens? Simple. That cumulative impression may or may not serve your needs and may, in fact, work against you.
Consumers may discover their expectations are not met, and the gap between their perceptions and your reality may become not just a gap, but a problem. It is like an abyss into which your customer falls, and you never see them again. Because you may be attracting the wrong customer, one that is thinking you are delivering too little or perhaps too much. In such cases the customer’s experience is uncomfortable, and they won’t come back, which of course puts more pressure on your sales and undermines your marketing efforts.
Now, if you’re ready to be proactive, here’s what it entails: an activity at a point in time and a process over time. Brand positioning is the activity, while brand stewardship is the process.
Stay tuned for my next post, which will address both.