Hotel Branding | IBIS’ new pillow talk

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In the world of branding, the fastest and easiest route to changing a look is through a Logo & Corporate Identity Makeover. It’s the expedited method of projecting a new image, and an ongoing journey of constant changes, regardless how subtle.

One industry in particularly stands out when it comes to recognizing the power of the Brand – the Hospitality Industry, which is an important piece in the overall Travel Industry. For the sake of simplicity, I view the hospitality industry to include all types of hotels & resorts, restaurants, and other related businesses, like Spas. This segment is often identified as the Lifestyle Industry.

The reason is simple: it’s a growth industry, parallel with improving economies in any given country that triggers people to travel, coupled with increased global business/trade/commerce. Essentially split into two main market categories; 1. Business Travel, and 2. Leisure Travel. These categories of course go into further sub-categories of specialized niche markets, including MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions), Adventure Travel, Cruise, Culture Travel, Culinary, etc. But I won’t go into detail, preferring to stick with Brand Identity evolution of hotels per se.

Hotels are an interesting bunch. They are unique as they are always at the forefront of understanding (most of them at least) consumer behavior and changing consumer tastes. As a service industry, they MUST get this right or face the risk of losing customers. Historically, many modern innovations appear in hotels first, before they go mainstream. Things that we take for granted today; from electricity, in-house laundry service, elevators, room service, to on-site restaurants, on-demand TV, gym facility, Spas, and wi-fi Internet connections, all we’re pioneered by hotels. Also, the amount of consumer research that hotels undertake (again most of the better ones), that are amassed from all the guest surveys are a treasure trove of consumer insights, with which (when used effectively) hotels improve their brand experiences.

Another factor that I personally find to be unique in hotels AND airlines, is that customers (well travelers) spend so much real time in them. Having first-hand experience as a globe-trotting Brand Strategist and corporate workhorse before that, I know just how much time you spend in hotels and on airplanes. The infinite hours I spent on myriad transpacific and transatlantic flights, sleeping with all the hotel chains under the rainbow, from the drab to the fab! All translating into observing every detail of brand touchpoint that you come across being held captive in the hotel room or airline seat.

So here’s a look at Europe’s biggest hotel company, France-based ACCOR. In my opinion, for many years ACCOR has just been growing their hotel portfolio without much thought of Brand Differentiation. They flooded the market with so many brands, many of which were cannibalizing each other’s markets. Where Mercure ends and Grand Mercure begins… where Novotel Resort comes in and All Seasons comes in… down to which is the realy 4-star hotel, is it Novotel or Mercure… all of their brand positioning was unclear.

ACCOR finally realized this brand confusion and decided to review their brand offering. The end result is the IBIS Brand Makeover, which is great!! Looks like ACCOR did some serious soul searching, acknowledging the strength of their IBIS Brand and build on it. In the process they scrapped the All Seasons and Etap brand, and instead used IBIS as an Anchor Brand, and created Brand Extensions via the new “IBIS Styles” (replacing All Seasons) and “IBIS Budget” (replacing ETAP).

I also like what ACCOR did with the identity design, choosing pillows to communicate a good night’s rest, which is the core of what hotels really offer, regardless of their star-rating. A comfortable bed is absolutely crucial. We all know the raving success Starwood has had with their Westin Heavenly Bed, that trail-blazed brand positioning in the room, and single-handedly reinforced the Westin Brand Promise. Get the best night’s sleep at Westin, guaranteed!! Customers can even buy the entire line of linens, duvets, pillows, and even the bed if they fancied them and wanted to replicate the experience at home. The Power of a BRAND!! The Heavenly Bed strategy spun off into a great money earner for Starwood, much to their surprise. Other hotels have followed suit, with their own versions of “to-die-for” beds, and began selling them online.

There’s of course more work to do, but they started with their bread-and-butter brand, IBIS, which is being rolled out across the world, especially in the fast growing markets of China, India, and Indonesia, among Asia’s fastest growing travel markets.

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A Logo & Corporate Identity Makeover is, however, by no means what branding is all about, and the potential it can deliver. Customers are already experiencing your company’s products & services in their very own distinctive way. The MEANING of a product & service in any customer’s mind is what SHOULD matter to any organization. It is this MEANING that needs to be thoroughly analyzed, managed, and optimized in the company’s best interest. This the foundation of strong branding and brand positioning strategy.

Logo_Etap-Hotel-by-ACCOR_OLD-LOGO_dian-hasan-branding_FR-3An Identity Makeover is not without risk. The key is in the hands of Customers, who decide “WHAT’S HOT” and “WHAT’S NOT!” Therefore, if a company changes its logo WITHOUT changing the meaning – ie. properly align and match their brand message with the positive brand experience the company WISHES customers to have – the often sizeable investment in aesthetic touch up is reduced to a futile and expensive exercise. An utter waste!

Companies MUST ensure that the brand experiences they provide remains positive, therefore if your products and/or services still show weaknesses; customer satisfaction is dismal, market share is lagging, your customer service department is drowning in complaint calls, stakeholders are edgy due to weak stock performance, staff morale is in the abyss while staff turnover is high… a logo makeover WILL NOT bring about improvements like a magic wand!

Inspiration: Brand New; Plus Brand; Ideas Inspiring Innovation

About dianhasan

Brand Storyteller, Travel Writer, Speaker, Creative Writer & Thinker - avid observer of randomness in everyday life - Sustainable Business, Eco Matters, Sustainable Urban Issues, Architecture, Heritage Conservation, Innovation & Brand-Strategy, Cross-Cultural Communications, Travel, Tourism & Lifestyle.
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