Coyle Hospitality Group attended the recent Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) in San Diego where two in depth sessions featured solid advice from representatives of top consumer and hotel brands. Here, we take a look at highlights from these hospitality consultants and brand leaders.
In the session “Branding: Let’s Step it Up” representatives from some of the most well-known consumer brands – Google, Disney and USA Today – gave tips on brand strategies, maintaining a consistent voice in the market and fostering brand images. What does it take to build a brand? You must have something unique, deliver consistently and remain relevant to your customers, said Lisa Becket, vice president of destination marketing strategy, Disney Destinations. Following are further tips from this session’s brand leaders.
- A strong corporate culture and an original vision are essential to a consistent brand message, said Gopi Kallayil, director of product marketing, the Americas, for Google. Kallayil said you must go to where your customers are; if they’re online, you must go online. For instance, every minute, 35 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Your customers blog, tweet and influence hundreds of friends. Listen to customer feedback and act on it, he said. Hotels have the opportunity to be experience-based and information rich, to capture guests’ likes and dislikes and to be able to micro-brand within the brand.
- Staying true to a brand image requires creativity in tough times, said Disney’s Becket. Disney was presented with a brand challenge in trying to discount without diminishing the perception of the brand. Becket said the company found creative ways, like a local resident promotion, that relayed discounts but focused on the “Disney story.” Stronger brands have fared better in down economies, added Becket, because people stick with what they trust.
- It’s important to be part of the context of your customers’ lives, said Jeffrey Wilks, senior vice president, brand marketing for USA Today. If you can surprise and delight customers on a regular basis, all the better, remembering that personalization and localization are important to today’s consumers. Wilks added that hotels have the opportunity for fantastic differentiation, by delivering personalized, localized experiences to everyone who walks in their doors.
- Becket added that collecting information about the guest experience and using it in ways that are meaningful for guests is a key component to building a strong brand, but you must be consistent to your brand’s core values while doing so.
During a later session, “Hotel Leaders Outlook: The Big Brands’ Perception”, the principals of major hotel brands spoke about the future of the industry and how their brands are confronting changing customer needs.
- President and COO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson, pointed to a broad industry recovery underway, saying there will be RevPar growth in 2011. With the 7thbiggest retail website in the world, Marriott continues to enhance how it markets to customers, he said. Migration to smartphones and other mobile devices will continue.
- Mobile reservations are up ten-fold, added Frits Van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood Hotels. Brands need to have a platform that’s flexible enough to accommodate consumers and provide the information they seek. He said hotels must measure customer engagement, constantly ask how they are doing and offer powerful, brand-building, rewards programs.
- Even big brands with solid reputations have difficulty differentiating their brands. Said David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western International, loyalty programs present one opportunity for this differentiation. The ongoing challenge is that online travel agencies (OTAs) are training consumers to believe that price alone is the driver.
- Raymond Bickson, managing director and CEO of Taj Hotels, which has a majority of its hotels in Asia, said that the growing middle class in China results in about 10 million outbound travelers that are being missed by U.S. hoteliers.