Focus on customer experiences to build brand, Cornell summit concludes

ITHACA, NEW YORK The vast quantity of consumer information available on the Internet can help hospitality firms to manage their brands more effectively, but it can be challenging for managers to identify relevant information.

Complicating matters, social media does not represent all travelers or households, so brand managers must also use conventional research methods, although research questions must be updated for modern consumers, participants in the inaugural Cornell Hospitality Research Summit conclude.

These and other key issues in consumer research and brand management are covered in the Cornell conference compilation, “Building Brands in the Internet Age: Analytics, Loyalty, and Communication,” which is available for free download from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research.

A brand represents a promise of benefits and experiences based on well-designed research about consumers’ wants and needs. For today’s consumers, a hospitality brand should provide experiences or create the framework that allows guests to have the experience they seek. Beyond that, a brand must connect with customers’ emotions to generate true loyalty.

In terms of customer loyalty, hospitality firms might do well to reevaluate their loyalty programs and to segment program members according to their actual patronage, since so many loyalty program members are participating only for product discounts. Instead, the focus of loyalty programs and brand management in general should be customer contact and recognition.

Participants in the summit included Thompson Hotels owner Stephen Brandman, Coyle Hospitality President Jim Coyle, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International Vice President of Marketing Sean Taggart, and Sabre Hospitality Solutions Vice President of E-marketing Paolo Torchio.