Why Hospitality Branding and Design is so Influential for Your Guests (and Investors)

"For brands that can pair cohesive visual design elements with an excellent customer experience, they are in a great position. These brands stand out looking good while getting the job done. Regardless of whether a hotel is small and independent or part of a franchise, branding matters."

By: William Scott, Brand Strategist
Linkedin: WilliamUnsung

Hospitality Branding Primary Blog Image

Do you remember the beautifully designed and ever-so inviting entryway that greeted you at your favorite restaurant for the first time? Perhaps the ornate touches that made the menu stand out in its design and presentation? Consider the personal touches that make a hotel stay feel a bit more like home, or even remind you that you were far away from it all. These extra steps are more than just additional details — they are a part of a company’s brand.

For the hospitality industry especially, an emotional connection is often one of the features that returning customers remember. As a brand’s reputation becomes well known, the experience, whether good or bad, is a reason to welcome new customers or push them to a competitor.

For brands that can pair cohesive visual design elements with an excellent customer experience, they are in a great position. These brands stand out looking good while getting the job done. Regardless of whether a hotel is small and independent or part of a franchise, branding matters. The same can be said for restaurants and other tourism-related attractions.

BRANDING 101

To get started with branding — or rebranding, hospitality leaders must focus on two areas. First, they must know who they are serving. This is better known as the target audience. Second, they must be confident in what makes their company the best at providing a particular service. In short, a company must know what differentiates its brand from the competition. 

For some companies, these two factors may be obvious. For others, it may take additional time and research to find these details. It is worth the time and investment to determine and plan around these factors before moving forward with a new branding campaign. At the base level, discuss with local community leaders, or bringing in a hospitality branding expert to assess your current brand aesthetic.

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Benefits of Branding

From new and returning customers to your staff, branding has great benefits to your company’s reputation. It is easy to think that customers are the only ones who will see the benefit of targeted, cohesive branding, but that doesn’t take into account the whole picture.

Higher Perceived Value

Branding should communicate exactly what your business is about. It establishes your position of value and informs your guests what they can expect from you. These elements coalesce to solidify your brand in the minds of your guests, from the initial first impression to the last moment they spend in your valet or carpark. That first impression is crucial to setting expectations, and a strong brand that communicates these expectations well also makes a strong first impression. Everything from the color theory of your foyer to the architecture of your concierge desk works in tandem to create an identity that you don’t want to be forgotten. Utilize your physical and digital space in a way both imaginative and indicative of your value and you will be recognized as you intend.

Emotional Connection to the Experience

So much of what we sense is tied to our memory and likewise the emotional resonance that a particular moment impressed upon us. Whether it was the smell of the tropics that wafted
through the hotel lobby on your island honeymoon or the kitchen wizardry on display at your favorite gastropub - the one with all the glass and the open kitchen-plan - the ways in which you absorbed that experience are what crystalized it in memory and tied it to the emotions of the moment. While all of these things feel entirely organic, there was planning, research and careful execution that brought them to be a cohesive reality. Each of these elements contributes to your brand’s identity and resonance with your guests, and poises your brand with a competitive edge over the countless other establishments offering the same core service in your neighborhood.

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Hospitality Branding

In the hospitality world, don’t just consider branding as your logo, colors, or photography. Think beyond the basic elements such as a brochure, Facebook page, website, and exterior signage too. For the hospitality industry especially, it is critical to see the large role that experience will play in a customer’s emotional response. This starts with the first interaction and extends far after the stay.

Focusing on the experience, return to the unique selling proposition of your business. What sets you apart? Know your value and include this strength throughout a hotel stay or a dining experience. By no means should you neglect the visual brand of your business, as these elements are just as important, but learn to think of your experience and your visual brand as a cohesive unit that work in tandem. These elements together represent a larger consolidated vision of your brand that affects both how you are perceived by the public and by investors. Both will feel more confident putting their money forth for a brand that is unique and established in itself.

Let's drill down on how hotels should focus on their branding efforts.

Here's Nine Ways to Re-think Your Hotels Brand

The hotel industry is big business. Attracting and keeping customers is often about making the an emotional and personal connect with your guests. While technology has made some things easier, such as booking a reservation or checking-in early, the benefits of branding remain. Technology can’t compete with the warm, welcoming tone of a hotel manager or a restaurant host.

Two can be better than one - It’s time to partner

Provide your guests with a recommended experience from a trusted brand. In this case, find a local partner in the area that has excellent reviews as a must-see tourist attraction. You will not only help to support another business in your community but also invite guests back to the hotel that provided the recommendation.

Remember that all components are important

For a successful rebrand, every part of the hotel’s identity must match. No piece can be left behind. From services to digital materials, tone, appearance, and messaging are essential. Nothing is more damaging than when old branding shares space with new materials. Ensuring this transition goes smoothly is the niche of the branding professional - choose a creative firm that fits your brand desires.

Your website is usually the first touch point, and first impressions matter

You need more than a beautiful design for your website; you also need great content. For potential customers, a high-performing, secure website is a must-have. Stay on top of your website maintenance to update slow-loading pages, broken links, and other issues that can deter customers from booking a stay at your hotel. Don’t forget to include other helpful things like a local events, influence and blog content.

Make sure the inside matches the messaging

While guests explore your hotel, they shouldn’t have to wonder if they’re somewhere else. What are the attributes and values that you would use to describe your properties brand? If more calm, gentle words are used, let the interior of your hotel reflect these details. If you have the city’s skyline as part of your branding, be sure that these personal touches are included inside, too.

Everyone is a brand ambassador

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to think that branding is a one-person show. Instead, it’s a combination of everyone who is a part of your company. Empower your staff to be unique in how they interact with customers while still displaying brand values. Let them know how important they are to the success of the company.

Open your building to the community

Going back to the importance of partnerships, hotels have an opportunity to offer their space for community events. This is an excellent way to show community investment and support of local causes. While guests are attending a local fundraiser or conference, they will also receive a chance to view your space. In the future, your hotel could be their place of choice.

Represent the city - Don’t forget the people

It’s important to pause and determine if your branding has kept up with the culture and pace of your city. It takes a skilled person on your team to be a natural connector that attracts new and returning guests. Failing to acknowledge the full picture of your city can put you years behind your local competitors who are steps ahead. Now more than ever, it is vitally important to represent the vibe, aesthetic flair, and personality of your locale. Sometimes this can be hard to do on your own, so don’t be afraid to reach out to branding and marketing professionals with experience in your industry to do so. It will pay off for your brand identity.

Be a part of the neighborhood

It shouldn’t be hard to find your hotel. Your brand identity should be well known in the community, which means your hotel should be located within the city. Working with a branding partner who is well versed with the community, keep up with local events and share other ways for tourists to shop local during their visit.

Social media should share your story

As with all of the pieces of your brand’s identity, social media should tell the story of your brand. From the word choice to images shared, your social media account is another part of a customer’s experience. Use social media to tell more about your story, but also  use it to share resources with your community. Always be cautious about security measures for protecting your account. It is best to have a dedicated social media manager.

Examples of Branding

Three Best Practices to Keep in Mind as You Focus on Branding Your Restaurant

[edit] Congratulations, you have a great logo. How are your Yelp reviews? What about your food? For restaurants, a customer’s dining experience is much more significant than the beauty of a logo or the colors of the walls inside of a restaurant. As a check-in, ask your staff about your brand. See if they know the expectations of service.

1.

Details Matter

Every element of the whole carves out the unique niche that you fill, and each of these things should make your guests feel like they want to share their experience. While a fraction of your guests will take the time to leave a positive review on Yelp, far more will share “Instagram moments.” Whether that be a perfectly plated meal, elegantly monogrammed napkins, fun and irreverent wayfinding signage, or a branded wall that is unmistakably your restaurant, the details matter and they make a big impression on your current guests and potential future guests as well.

2.

Merchandising

This translates into your merchandise as well. While not necessarily a fit for every restaurant, branded merchandise is a no-brainer for many restaurant brands. If your guests love your restaurant and most importantly identify with your brand and its values, give them the chance to do the marketing work for you while they are out and about. Branded tees, hats, glassware and ceramics are a great way to send the experience home and into the streets with your satisfied guests and keep the conversation going long after they’ve paid the check.

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Cohesive Design

These details, while important, are nothing if not consistent. Each of these elements needs to be on-brand, easily discernible, and accessible. Whether it be your online menu, your floormats, your social media accounts or your in-unit collateral, each must convey a vibe and design language that speaks to your brand.

How to Get Started

Once you know who you are serving and what makes you the best at providing this service, you’re in a great starting position. After providing additional details on your target audience, it’s time to create something that can be easily understood and accessed by your customers and staff.

You will need a logo identity and style guide to start. It helps to empower every member of your staff to use the logo in the correct way and communicate with consistent messaging. When creating your guide, think of every channel that may use your branding. From billboards to social media profiles to brochures, your branding is most successful when it is consistent. 

Don’t be afraid to enforce how you use branding elements. It’s who you are as a company, and it’s important to treat your image with this level of importance. Some companies include a brief training on where to find branding materials or templates and how to use them. This process is involved and vitally important to your business’ success, so don’t skimp out on the fundamentals here. This isn’t a job for Fiverr. Hiring a professional design and branding partner will go a long way - allowing you to create an identity from the ground up and solidifying your USP to the community at large.

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