Let’s start with the obvious: the 2019 pandemic changed the hotel industry and travel trends almost entirely. Being active in various markets in Europe, the US, and Asia – we can share that hotels stuck with the pre-2019 travel marketing playbook do worse in brand recognition and popularity.
Hotel and travel advertising changed in the past years
It is important to understand that most hotel digital marketing practices originate from almost a decade back, from a time when hardly any company used online advertising.
Back in the day, hotel marketing and distribution were done almost entirely by tour operators and travel agencies. Starting in the 2010s the rewards and benefits became apparent, so most hotel businesses started to invest heavily in direct advertising. This created a massive online noise. This peaked in the 2016-2019 travel content epidemic when influencers and content creators flooded the internet with drone videos and on all channels.
Travelers are tired of being barraged with generic travel content and basic hotel ads
Today, travelers have seen almost all destinations on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube – 70% of frequent travelers had a travel advertising burnout and fatigue. People are just not so interested in travel advertising anymore.
Most travelers are scrolling through hotels on Booking.com like it’s a food delivery app menu. They are hard to impress, and with hotels hungry to get some revenue, competition is higher than ever.
Hotel brands need to get the attention of potential guests and connect with them on a deep, emotional level.
Why is brand management so important in 2021?
Before discussing why hotel brand management became more important than ever before, let’s sum up the current state of travel and hotel marketing:
- Limited travel demand
- Potential travelers ignore hotel ads and travel content
- More and more hotels advertise online
- Online advertising costs are continuously increasing
- Hotels are starting to be seen as a commodity by travelers
For the previously described reasons, the best tools for hotel marketing teams is to develop the following 3 assets:
- A recognized, sought-after brand
- A spotless first impression and product presentation experience
- A brand positioning that fits perfectly to the market
These qualities became essential to stand out online. Just think about your hotel selection and booking experience. If you are like 85% of other travelers, you will want to get the best value for your budget. You want to book the fanciest hotel you can afford, at the best location, with the best facilities and amenities – and a style in line with your aesthetic preferences.
Brand and marketing communications are tools to make a lasting first impression on your target customers, make them remember your company, and convincing them subconsciously that your hotel product is the best choice for them.
2021 hotel brand management tips to grow sales and brand recognition
1. Build your hotel brand positioning based on customer insights
For most hotel marketing teams, the first step to improving brand positioning and branding, in general, is to ditch all the ideas that are currently in place. Unless you want the hotel general manager or the marketing team to book hotel rooms, do not prioritize their opinion.
To craft a brand positioning and product presentation that fits market expectations well, you want to collect insights from travelers in your target markets. This can be done by surveys or other forms of market research.
To collect feedback and insights from potential guests, a hotel company has two options:
Audit the current brand to understand what aspects people like and dislike about it. This is a practical approach when planning brand optimization strategies instead of creating a new brand – or rebranding.
To run a general survey to understand what various segments of travelers expect from a hotel like yours. This market research method is used when planning a conceptualizing a new hotel brand, or rebranding an existing company.
Either way, the most successful hotel brands are not based on the ideas and imagination of the hotel management but are based on customer insights.
2. Develop your hotel marketing communication guidelines and stick to them
Various forms of hotel marketing communication are the first signals a potential guest sees about your hotel or resort. It is extremely important to make every view count – by making a memorable first impression that enhances the connection between your hotel brand and its audience.
One particularly good way to build a recognizable brand both online and offline is to have a set of brand and marketing communication guidelines.
Brand guidelines are more than just a set of logo and color-related instructions. Brand guidelines should govern the topics and values your brand is talking about, standing for, and represents. Each piece of content, photo, video, ad, or social media post has to be in line with your brand.
This ensures that your marketing communications as a whole supports your brand growth – and shapes public perceptions about your hotel brand.
3. Communicate the hotel experience with honesty
Starting in the early 2010s, hotels have developed a very specific, rather unnatural marketing language that is present to this day. If you have visited hotel websites in the past few years, you might notice the advertorial-like language that was meant to be luxurious and sophisticated, but often comes across as pretentious.
Unsurprisingly, hotels with this language on the website largely underperform brands with a more honest and natural-sounding marketing language. People are generally not impressed by content that is hard to read, and trying too hard to impress.
A very good piece of advice is to adjust the tone of voice across all marketing communication channels to match with how your potential guests speak and communicate. This can be done based on consumer insights – but even better, talk to your guests and listen to how they speak. Most brands that we work with have developed their marketing language based on continuous testing and collecting thousands of feedbacks regarding content written in different styles.
Another important aspect of honest marketing communications is not making things too much better on picture compared to how they are in reality. People are not stupid. They can tell if a photo is obviously edited, or beautified. Presenting a hotel product to be much better than how it actually is, will make your guests disappointed. They will share their photos and experiences on TripAdvisor and your brand will be discredited forever.
4. Prioritize a first impression experience to engage guests
Lastly, our final tip for this article is to prioritize developing an engaging first impression experience. This is very important to get your potential guests “sucked in” to your brand.
A first impression experience can happen on any of your brand and marketing communication channels. Be it social media, your hotel brand website, or a good old Google Search Ad, you want to make sure that every element of your hotel marketing communications is impressive.
Your hotel brand strategy is useless if people do not get the right messages and do not engage with your content. This is why it is so important to ensure a seamless product presentation and first impression experience.
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