Creating Brand Relevancy Through Brand Bonding

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Eric Mower & Associates | March 15, 2010

When I started in this business almost three decades ago, marketing was still relatively new as a core discipline within the hospitality industry. Hotel companies had just recently added senior level marketing positions at the corporate level. Most individual hotels had a Director of Sales position only, and those with a Director of Sales & Marketing position were few and far between. Moreover, the person with that title tended to be heavily engaged in on-the-job learning since there typically was no predecessor to learn from and few, if any, available training programs tailored specifically to the hospitality specialty.

As industry competition heated up and the traveling public became more savvy about choosing where to stay, marketing became an increasing priority. It was no longer "if you build it, they will come", but rather "if you build it, will they come?"

From its beginnings to 2007, hospitality marketing has progressed and, arguably, has caught up to other industries, such as consumer package goods, that embraced the discipline much earlier. Today, it is at a level of sophistication that was unthinkable when the first Vice Presidents of Marketing accepted their new corporate positions within growing hospitality entities back in the 1970s.

Public relations, a vital component of hospitality marketing, has seen dramatic growth as well, both in approach and in practice. Thirty years ago, it was all about publicity - sometimes for publicity's sake. The phrase "there's no such thing as bad publicity" is an extreme example of this idea. The goal was primarily to create awareness and to inform. The word "branding" hadn't yet come into PR focus.

Today, while publicity remains at the heart of most hospitality public relations efforts -- whether on a corporate or unit level - it is approached in the context of a broader marketing initiative...and branding is key. For the sake of image, business building and efficiency, it is targeted to a specific audience and it seeks not just to inform, but to engage the prospect in a relationship - one that will have long-lasting benefit for both the constituent and the client.

Over the years, we found our public relations efforts becoming increasingly tied to our clients' overall marketing objectives. Publicity efforts, in particular, became aligned with clients' specific brand-building objectives. The PR conversation gradually took on a larger role, working hand-in-glove with (and in some cases, supplanting) traditional advertising as an effective tool for reaching constituencies of all kinds.

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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.