Proactive branding: Begin with the brand platform

In my last blog post, I made the point that there is no such thing as a non-branded property. Regardless of the level of attention given — or not given — to branding, it just happens. So the best course of action is to take proactive steps to define your brand and to create the branded experience you desire for your property.

The first step is to engage in brand positioning. This goes for new ventures and for those in need of repositioning or those in transformation. It is an exacting exercise — one that will result in what I call a brand platform.

This exercise starts with gaining clarity on the competitive set in which the various types of customers — not ownership or management — place the property. No doubt, your property survives on more than one target audience, and each has options when making their purchase decision. Those options vary depending upon whether your customer is a leisure traveler shopping for a vacation, a meeting planner seeking the perfect venue for a productive meeting, a businessman or woman in transit or perhaps a bride planning the day of her dreams.

Consumer insights are the key to effective brand platforms — insights found within the common mindset shared by all your consumer target segments. When consumers within each audience select you from their own self-defined set of options, there exists something that motivates — if not compels — each of them to choose your hotel or resort. What is that elusive common mindset? Herein lies an idea capable of differentiating you property based on what can motivate customers to not only visit your hotel or resort but to stay with it.

It is this truly consumer-centric brand idea that best informs and inspires your operations, communications and company culture, because the success of your business is dependent upon this audience that comprises your collective market segments.

Each brand has components that make up the brand platform. Different people use different words to define these. I choose target insight, brand essence, promise, proof, values, character and benefits. After defining the brand’s components, one is equipped to boil the key elements down to a positioning statement. This is a single sentence that includes the communications target, the context in which they see your property, how it is differentiated and the target’s key benefit to be enjoyed as a result of having a connection with the brand. An articulate brand definition can be stated in a single sentence — perhaps in a phrase — and a truly well-focused brand in a single word.

Here is an example of how I crafted a hotel’s positioning as the summary of its brand platform. This is an elegant, century-old island property with a tradition of hosting multigenerational family gatherings.

Positioning statement: For those who value tradition, our hotel is a shining example of timeless continuity, whose unique locale and historic substance engage guests in the enrichment of their own personal legacy.

Phrase: Enriching one’s personal legacy

Word: Legacy

The brand platform is the simple and profound foundation upon which the business stands. It is the stage upon which the operation performs. Look for my next post when I will address what follows creation of the brand platform — the discipline of brand stewardship.