Boutique hotels can be considered the new kid of the block. Although they’ve been in existence for several decades, operating under the banner of ‘independent’ hotels, it’s only recently that the world has exploded in its fascination for boutique hotels.
Today, more than ever, travelers are looking beyond the usual frills and fancy that are offered up in the name of hotel stays. They want a more intimate, more unique experience that brings them closer to the community the hotel is located in. In such a scenario, boutique hotels stand in direct opposition to their flashier, empire-like counterparts – the chain hotels.
But, despite their general appeal, boutique hotels have to make the same effort, and sometimes more, to establish their brand. Without a strong identity to guide them, it’s all too easy to lose themselves in the crowd.
Brands can no longer be faceless entities for the consumer. We live in the age of information where the customer has access to all kinds of resources to facilitate his buying decision. These days, brands have a life and existence of their own, and customers interface with these identities on a daily basis.
Take yourself. What comes to mind when someone says the word “Marriott?” You’ll immediately conjure up an image of something intensely luxurious and opulent. Large foyers, gilded ceilings, soft-spoken yet crisply smart waiters, silver tureens and state of the art facilities. Why does your brain associate all this with one simple word?
That’s the magic of a brand. And the value of building it.
Think about the concept of identity, like your name, or who you are. All those things that go into making ‘you’ are also the things that set you apart from the rest of humanity. The same goes for a brand. It is an entity that is distinct from other entities in the same industry. In business-speak, this is called differentiation.
So, what differentiates one hotel from the other and why should we even engage in differentiation? The answers to these questions are altogether simple. Danny Meyer, the CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), states that ‘recognition’ is the primary reason why guests wish to return to the same hotel.
Recognition only stems from uniqueness, and if you want to cultivate a battalion of loyal consumers, you’d better engage quickly. The reason why boutique hotels have been on the rise in the last decade is because the modern traveler does not want a monolithic experience that he will get in any typical chain hotel. They want a uniquely curated experience that they can fondly remember, and if they get that, they will come back to you.
That brings us to the next aspect – what differentiates one hotel from the other? Experience differentiates. All that your guests are exposed to, that they feel, that they’re touched by when they interact with the tangible aspects of your brand constitutes its ‘experience’.
A strong brand is that which stands completely apart from its competitors. Think about it: A thousand others are vying for the consumer’s attention, essentially promising core hospitality services. Mergers and acquisitions have made it even more confusing for the customer today.
The world’s 10 largest hotel chains now offer a combined 113 brands at various price points, 31 of which didn’t exist a decade ago. This makes differentiation more important. IBISWorld also pegs the boutique hotel industry at 7 billion as of June 2017; rising at a CAGR of 4.8%.
Therefore, the essence of your brand needs to be different, and it needs to percolate down to all aspects of the brand – from your design, to service, to logo and so on. Let’s now run you through the standard elements that make up a brand.