In Branding

The recent Marriott-Starwood deal has us thinking about hotel brands and their value to consumers. If the merger is successful and creates the world’s largest hotel company, how will it impact the two companies’ combined 30 brands? Dana has worked with both businesses (Marriott Conference Centers, Starwood Meetings and Starwood’s SPG Pro travel agent program), so we have an inside track on what makes these brands tick. While it makes for entertaining water cooler chat to imagine Starwood’s edgy W brand getting into bed with Marriott’s by-the-book Springfield Suites, maybe the real pillow talk for hoteliers should be what makes a solid hotel brand development strategy and how that can translate into guest satisfaction.

For Marriott, consistency across the brand has been a key strategy. (You have to respect a brand that has written the rulebook for hotel guest hospitality.) Starwood, on the other hand, has built a diverse brand portfolio, ranging from Aloft to St. Regis, with individual brands that have a life of their own. Will these seemingly opposites attract? As we watch this merger unfold, we asked the members of Dana’s leadership team to share their advice on developing a strong hotel brand strategy—just in time for the new year.

A great brand message is believable, desirable, deliverable and unique. When 30 brands are managed under the same roof, it’s more difficult to accomplish this for each brand—the deliverable and unique components are inherently contradictory. The consolidation of flag hotel management is a real opportunity for independent hotels and resorts. — Bob Prewitt, President

Maintain brand integrity at all levels. A brand style guide ensures consistency across all communications, and it empowers your employees—from the front desk to the back of the house—to champion the brand with confidence. — Lynn Kaniper, Creative Director and COO

A decade ago, brands were built from the top down. Then, digital marketing refocused us on bottom-up efficiency and microtargeting. Now smart marketers do both, building a strong, consistent brand with quality content, and marketing to individual segments with resonant, engaging messages. — Mark D’Amico, Director of Search and Analytics

Allow each brand to retain its own personality so the guest experience continues to be unique and special, but uphold consistency through corporate SOPs. If standards are applied equally at all levels, you’ll ensure the delivery of the brand experience is positive. — Tracy Stottler, Executive Director

Enable customers to interact with your brand on their terms. Present flexible interactive tools to let them book services online, navigate the property and check their loyalty rewards status, all from the mobile device of their choice. — Stephen Sharp, Director of Interactive

You reveal your brand to customers, not only in words and pictures, but also in the mediums you choose to relay your message. Matching a brand with proper advertising vehicles can set it apart from the crowd and help it cultivate a unique personality. — Karen Paton, Media Director

Research is pivotal in ensuring a brand’s relevance, whether it explores messaging, promotional offers or the on-property experience. It’s time and money well spent and promises to lead to an integrated brand identity that will appeal to all its target segments. — Sandy Welsh, Director of Strategy and Research

For help with your 2016 hotel brand development strategy, contact Lynn Kaniper at or 609.466.9187 ext. 117 today.

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