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How to be a brand steward

In a recent blog post I addressed the necessity of proactive branding because regardless of the level of attention given — or not given — to branding, it just happens. Then I shared insights regarding how to position your brand in your marketplace and in the minds of your target audiences.

So, what’s next? It is the all-important phase where I frequently see individual properties and even portfolios of properties failing to drive the return on their marketing investment and to build tangible equity in their brand.

Once you’ve properly engaged in the activity of brand positioning for new brands, or repositioning for existing brands, you will have established an articulate brand platform. Everything that follows is within the discipline of brand stewardship — a process over time that is best organized into three primary areas: operations, communications and the corporate culture.

Operations

Every individual within the organization who makes decisions will find his or her options become easier to evaluate and their decisions easier to make when they look to the brand platform for inspiration and guidance. Consequently, ownership and/or top management can observe greater consistency and synergy throughout the organization. All of this contributes to increasing equity in the brand.

Here’s how proper brand stewardship saved one of our clients from making an error that would have sent the wrong message to both guests and employees. The brand platform defined the personality of a hotel brand as casual, friendly and playful. However, management had chosen all black uniforms for the spa employees. We directed a review of that decision through the filter of the brand. This resulted in light khaki pants and pastel t-shirts with petite line drawings on the chest reflecting each employee’s role in the spa by depicting a guest enjoying yoga, massage, facial or fitness services.

Communications

The essence of the brand can be more accurately captured in the brand’s identity — logo, trademark, tagline, typography, color palette, visual and verbal vocabulary. Messaging to the various target segments as well as internally can be more strategic and more consistent. Guidelines can be crafted for responsible parties within the organization and all outside resources. The strategic planning necessary for well-conceived public relations, advertising, sales support, web, other digital and interactive including social media can be stronger, can work more efficiently and can maximize sales and marketing investments.

We crafted a brand platform for a resort that promised, “Life can keep getting better.” Then we worked with the executive team to develop a series of classes designed to drive incremental revenue to each department: golf, spa, horse ranch, art studio and food and beverage. The program was branded as “Short courses in living better.”

Corporate culture

The third and equally important component is a sustainable brand stewardship program for all employees. It can be designed to guide everyone — managers and the hourly staff alike — in how to live the brand day-to-day.

As an example, first we repositioned a French country-style inn (compete with Monet-inspired gardens) based on its ability to respond to guests’ desire for traditional and contemporary interpretations of life’s simple pleasures. Then we developed a sustainable brand stewardship program for employees. This was branded as “The Impressionists Program,” and employees were charged with creating impressions informed by the brand platform.

So, when it comes to branding, be proactive, and when it comes to brand stewardship, be consistent. If you do, you will achieve awareness, recognition and clarity in the marketplace. You’ll attract the right guests the first time, and they’ll turn into repeat clientele.

However, if you don’t take the lead on your property’s branding, your customer will do the job without you (and you may not be so happy with the results).

Please share your questions, comments and success stories as we learn to be more brandwise together.

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