Industry Update
Opinion Article24 April 2017

The Brand called ... Guest

By Indrajeet Banerjee, Associate Vice President - Sales & Marketing at The Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts

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Brand Positioning forms a critical part of a hotel's investment plan and long-term strategy. Its influence on the ultimate success or failure towards the ROI cannot be undermined.

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Having said so, personally, I have always been inclined towards understanding & learning as to why do certain brands fail against their aspired vision of where they want to see the brand sitting while some succeed and in a real sense who decides the brand positioning?

A brand is not just about an organization's positioning vision or statement.

It is far beyond. It is an emotion. An emotional quotient between a guest and the brand, attached to "trust" on the brand promise or otherwise. This element of attachment or distance towards the brand promise possibly plays the most crucial role in deciding where does brand ultimately sits and whether the brand vision connects with the ultimate user.

The connect is delicate and sensitive to the "aspired" brand positioning and the "perceived" brand positioning. It is long-term and requires a brutal level of excellence towards delivering the brand promise and arriving at that perfect connect where the "aspired" and the "perceived" brand positioning merge into one another and the brand is truly evolved!

The aggressive growth of supply in hotel rooms in almost every customer segmentation will continue driving fierce competition in the hotel industry. A successful brand positioning in this scenario first requires an in-depth understanding of the "micro" customer segmentation which it aspires catering to and then most importantly knowing what it takes to create that connect between the "aspired" and "perceived" brand promise. This shall stand out to be the true brand differentiator and help the brand to rise above from the rest thereby creating its own identity and a competitive edge – from the guest perspective.

In this endeavor towards delivering the brand promise, it is important to understand that the gap between personalization and customer experience is getting closer by the day. An average 300 key business hotel with a 70% occupancy has nearly 75000 touches each year with micro touch points during the journey of each guest between the booking experience and the departure. Hence, effective delivery of the brand promise is no longer attached to the helicopter view knowledge of guests or understanding broad customer preferences. The competitive edge today is about knowing "micro trends" that is learned at every guest touch point and further sliced by generations from millennial to baby boomers to arrive at that perfect mix of personalization to each "micro customer segment". A merciless delivery of service excellence to this knowledge base ultimately determines whether the guest departed believing in the integrity of the brand promise. Each such walk of faith is a step forward towards achieving a sustained brand positioning.

To conclude, across all markets, customer segmentation, brands, and categories, it is the end user that differentiates, controls, elevates or reverse-upgrades a brand based on the guest's perceived brand positioning derived by the experiential means of the brand.

The Guest creates the Brand.

Indrajeet Banerjee

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