Rebranding A Hotel Is A Challenge But Best Worked Through Methodically
By Erik Stuebe
As hospitality becomes more competitive, hotel rebranding has become more prevalent. Segmentation is no longer just about price, but increasingly about finding your target audience or niche and creating an identity that’s distinctive on the hotel scene. Standing out from the crowd and competitors is the name of the game to remain profitable and relevant, which is generally the motivation behind a rebrand in the first place.
• The first step is to debrand, which is not always an easy feat. Debranding generally involves the unceremonious task of removing from site – and from sight – all collateral, signage, uniforms, advertising, marketing material both online and off that pertain and make reference to the hotel’s previous identity and of course carry the former branding, imagery, logos and even words or catch phrases associated with the previous look and feel. Other platforms like Tripadvisor and similar feedback or profiling sites online and sales channels and ambassadors including travel agents and booking sites also need to be advised, revised and updated to have true cut through for the eventual rebranding to have traction in the marketplace.
• Rebranding a hotel is a lot like creating a new hotel by using the same staff and structure but with a new belief system. New rules, policies, marketing strategies, distribution and customer base are all essential elements in making a new brand a reality. In broader terms a rebrand means imposing an entire set of new standards and systems, but from a practical operations viewpoint, its important to harness people power by deciding which departments need to be involved in the rebranding process and in what capacity. Only then can a budget be fixed for the entire project, and specific expected outcomes determined and defined in a set timeframe.
If you’re retaining the same operator and merely changing a brand, it’s a much more fluid, simple process than changing both the operator and the brand. Changing the operator at the same time can be very disruptive from a personnel perspective, and that transition needs to be planned out much more thoroughly, possibly with assistance from a consulting expert in corporate rebranding.Once the decision to rebrand the hotel has been made, having the right team in place operationally makes all the difference. The devil is in the details, so the more each department has a scheduled game plan, the smoother the rebrand will go. Bear in mind that the hotel’s new brand identity and core values need to be at the heart of every decision related to product or service, no matter how big or small. This will ensure seamless operational execution across the entire hotel.
• Financially, a rebrand might involve new reporting methods, computer systems, procedures, suppliers and contacts to be implemented. From a financial perspective, a decision also needs to be made ahead of time as to whether the hotel will remain open during the rebranding. Often there’s more of an impact after a reopening, but realistically the operation may need to continue in order for the business to survive the process. This may put more pressure on the team, however it also means that errors are likely to be addressed and fixed more efficiently with real performance indicators at stake.
• To adequately rebrand, marketing is an important part of the process to promote and publicise the new identity, but also champion and police the new look and feel within the new brand guidelines. An increased marketing spend is unavoidable, but can be coupled with the less expensive but often more influential power of media relations and publicity. On marketing, creating new advertising and templates to work with is just part of the plan. Signage and all branded elements from in-room cards and compendiums to restaurant menus and gift bags need to be revised. A definite focus should also be on loyalty marketing and promotions to convert existing supporters, and a definite focus on internet and social media to gain and sustain momentum for the hotel’s new brand.
• There are various ways to conclude if a rebrand is a success or not, including RevPar, brand awareness, perception and distribution. However, according to brand experts, the truest measure is most certainly customer satisfaction. Customer Service during a hotel rebrand is therefore one of the most important parts of the rebranding process, and guests present and future need to be communicated to and involved in the experience. After all, branding is more than a logo. A brand is every single touch point of the guest experience and consistency is key. The lynchpin to this is ensuring that the brand is understood internally with each staff member an ambassador, its then time to embark on a true rebranding process for maximum impact with all stakeholders.
• A good rebrand starts with foundation discussions and strategy discussed by the general manager and director of sales. Distribution and sales are key areas, with sales platforms and relationship partners such as websites and travel agents on board to embrace the different services and style you are rolling out.
Conclusion: In conclusion, getting it right at the start is essential to a successful hotel rebranding. Making a list, assigning roles to team members and getting them involved will make the process easier. Be clear about what your brand is all about, and this will assist in the rollout by influencing everything the team does and the way they execute it.