In my last post I began to address the topic of repositioning a brand in the marketplace in which it operates. The second environment to be addressed is repositioning within the minds of consumers. This encompasses two connected but quite different aspects: first, the customer groups that may purchase what you offer for very different reasons, and second, the communications target — the common mindset shared by all of the various consumer groups that one depends upon for success.
Consumer perceptions of and attitudes towards travel and specific brands change over time; consequently, their behavior changes, too. An example of evolution in consumer behavior and its influence on various marketplaces can be found in how the FIT segment has evolved. At one point, members of this segment were seeking familiar brands when they visited diverse locations. The success of major brands domestically and internationally is a testament to consistent branding across a portfolio of properties. However, as the world of hospitality has matured over the past two decades, so have the expectations of experienced FITs. After staying in a particular brand’s hotel in Portland, Paris and Patagonia, they began to look for more distinctive experiences. Independent properties became more attractive. These properties listened to and learned from the new attitude of experienced travelers. Owners and operators began repositioning their brands to resonate with changing consumer perceptions and, in the process, became more successful at competing with the big guys — thus the birth and growth of the specialized boutique hospitality marketplace.
Here are three examples of repositioning for independent brands within a single portfolio. One was a stately 100-year-old-hotel, another was a casual mid-priced property with an 18th century heritage and the third was a mid-20th-century creation in disrepair. Two were underperforming, and one was experiencing a comprehensive remodeling. We set out to reposition each property to its best advantage within unique marketplaces and distinct competitive sets without abandoning the equity that existed in each of the brands. The repositionings — summarized respectively as “legacy,” “camaraderie” and “nostalgia” — were also crafted to counter consumer perceptions of the properties, which, in reality, had eroded over time.
Our first task was to gain consumer insights that are highly valuable and, in fact, always necessary. These enabled us to define more accurate psychographic consumer profiles and to discover the mindset shared by the diverse consumer segments for each property. Only then were we properly prepared to make truly informed decisions about the planned renovations and operational changes as each hotel was transformed. We also became equipped to develop more compelling strategic marketing communications programs as well as inspired corporate cultures. The past guests embraced the changes because they better fit with their expectations of today, and consequently, an even better consumer was attracted to each property. The net result was improved rates, increased revenues and happier guests with the potential for greater loyalty. Each hotel experienced a midlife change — not a midlife crisis.
Please share a comment, question or success story as we learn to be more brandwise together.