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2021 hospitality brand management guide: increase online bookings with these branding strategies

How to get more direct bookings? How to increase ROI for a hotel marketing campaign? How to increase booking engine conversion rate? These are some of the most common questions in a hospitality marketing context.

Interestingly, independently managed hotels are resorts are among the worst penny-pinchers when it comes to digital marketing and online advertising investments. We are always shocked to see the unwillingness of marketing directors and hotel general managers to invest in the online brand growth of their property – often spending less than small local businesses like hair salons or dentists.

So catering to their needs, we have collected five approaches that will not require additional continuous investment. Having a recognized, trusted, and popular brand is a significant asset for hospitality companies, separating commodity hotels from successful hotel businesses. This article is about how to leverage powerful brand management techniques to strengthen a hotel brand.

1. Develop a simple, yet impressive marketing communication language for your hotel

The vast majority of guests have the same expectations from a hotel: great living spaces, good food, and enjoyable vibes. For more specialized needs, people will find boutique hotels that cater to their requirements. But 90% of hotels need to focus on getting the basics right.

Despite the above, over 70% of market research respondents from our hotel brands audits shared that they see hotels are awkwardly trying to go above and beyond to impress them.

Typical marketing communication issues that guests complained about include:

  • Trying too hard to impress
  • Communicating irrelevant topics such as staff photos, and hotel management related stuff
  • Unnatural, sometimes uncomfortable tone of voice
  • Boring tone of voice that lacks personality
  • Over-promising in marketing communications

At the same time, hotel brand audit participants shared that they are happy to see the following:

  • Simple and clear product presentation
  • Focus on facts, unique characteristics, and details that matter
  • Friendly, informal marketing communication language
  • High-quality, but realistic photography

Such qualities of hotel marketing communication need to be reflected on the brand website, on key OTA channels, and most importantly across all advertising campaigns. Refining brand and marketing communications do not require continuous investment, but hiring an expert to work based on the brand audit results is highly recommended.

2. Develop and communicate a strong differentiation based on the unique features and experiences of the hotel

Differentiation, differentiation, differentiation! One of the most important aspects of hotel marketing, yet hardly ever implemented efficiently. Based on several discussions and consulting sessions with hotel marketing directors and hotel brand managers, this has the following reasons:

  • Being afraid to differ from the norm
  • Being afraid to test new positioning strategies
  • Working based on proven techniques
  • Innovation is not supported by the management

Differentiation is a key element of a brand positioning strategy. The problem is that most independent hotels do not have a brand strategy, and they manage marketing without any positioning in mind. Aspiring to be a good option to everyone is the most common approach – which inevitably leads to a high level of standardization on the market, even going to an extent where hotels will copy each other’s marketing practices without any evidence of its efficiency.

The problem with market-wide marketing uniformization is potential guests will not be able to see the difference between hotels and resorts in the destination.

Embracing unique characteristics and features helps guests to like a hotel for what it is, and what it has to offer – enabling more confident booking decisions. Differentiation can be most efficiently promoted on the brand website, which gives a great opportunity to convert guests directly.

hotel brand audit
Photo by Vincent Rivaud on

3. Create a magazine-quality product presentation on your hotel brand website

Subpar product presentation-related issues are among the top complaints in the hotel brand audits. When addressing the issue with hotel managers, they often share that the hotel management did not grant an adequate budget for photoshoots so they had to work with amateur photographers, or did their photos in-house.

Get top-notch photos and videos for your hotel

This is a very unfortunate decision from the senior management, in today’s picture-perfect online world, guests expect gorgeous hotel photos and high-quality hotel videos.

Today, free video content on YouTube and social media comes with high production and editing standards, which requires commercial content to be even better. This is especially true for high-end luxury hotels and resorts where potential guests will not be impressed by outdated production qualities. It is easy to pick up the difference in video quality and production value, even for non-technical people.

Saving on this will cost more both short and long-term.

Have a clear website design that embodies what the brand stands for

This is a must. If you have an older website, you won’t necessarily require to invest significant amounts in design and hosting, as hotel design platforms like WIX and SquareSpace offer excellent solutions for simple websites. Hotel websites are relatively simple brochure-websites that need to be capable to introduce the hotel features and enable guests to book. Blogging, content management, web-store-like features are included with all website design platforms.

The most important aspects of a successful hotel website that converts are:

  • Picture-perfect product presentation
  • Rich, factual information about hotel and accommodation features
  • Website must follow brand guidelines
  • Navigation, functionality, and design must be simplistic

4. Standardize marketing communications across all channels

There are not too many hotels in the world that nailed their marketing communications. With awkward social media content, try-hard email marketing content and even worse YouTube ads, most hotel brand audit clients of us have received below-average ratings for their unorganized marketing communications.

An industry-standard best practice is to standardize marketing communication across all channels. How to achieve it?

  • Share the same content in platform-specific formats
  • Ensure that brand guidelines are kept on all mediums
  • Apply the same tone of voice on all platforms and mediums

Such consistency will represent your hotel brand more efficiently, offering a better brand experience for your future guests. Besides the improved brand experience, this approach will help you to communicate the USPs of the hotel more effectively. This will result in more engagement and trust from your potential guests.

At last, but not least, following a unified marketing communication strategy will reduce the time taken on content creation, scheduling and various social media management tasks.

Reward direct bookings with VIP privileges

Goes without saying, offering direct booking benefits is necessary to make the hotel brand website the most attractive option to book at. Saving on commissions and enabling various forms of pre-stay and post-stay communications are just two among the various benefits that direct bookings mean to a hotel brand.

Strategies that were most welcomed by travelers participating in our market research and brand audits are:

  • Price-matching
  • VIP benefits and extra inclusions
  • Hotel or resort credit

Do not list non-exclusive benefits as direct booking perks

It is important to highlight that guests can get upset and feel fooled if they find that perks that are offered as direct booking benefits are also available for non-direct booking guests. If everyone gets a welcome drink then don’t list it as a direct booking inclusion.

Start your brand optimization by doing a hotel brand audit

Does your product presentation trigger a “wow” first impression? Is your social media content inspiring or just the usual cliché? Why and why people would choose to book your hotel?

Each selected scope of your analysis will add a separate page to your report with the following information:

  1. Score ratings of multiple micro-aspects (1 to 10) by your respondents
  2. Respondent opinion about various aspects of your hotel or resort
  3. Score ratings of similar hotels benchmarked with your scores
  4. Comments and feedback received from your respondents

Configure an audit that fits your budget and answers your questions. The audit price is based on your configuration.

hotel brand audit

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