cottages in the middle of beach

Brand Management for Hotels: Crafting an Online Experience That Makes People Book Instantly

The job of hotel marketers is fairly simple: bring the hotel to the attention of potential guests, and make it look like the most desirable option for their vacation or stay for whatever purposes.

There are several technical requirements to make the hotel marketing smooth online, these include rate parity, SEO, Google Ads, social media ads, influencers, distributing inventory to multiple OTAs, and other sales channels – but there are very well defined and tested workflows for all of these.

The job gets complicated when ads don’t work as expected, website and direct bookings are not converting well, and social media engagement remains rather flat. What went wrong? Why your hotel’s digital marketing strategy is not working? How to promote your hotel now?

Master the four essentials to craft a winning hotel brand experience

We do brand audits for hotels and resorts every week, and analyzing the results of over 100 audits from various property types has outlined quite clear indications. 

This article is about the five essentials of a successful hotel brand experience that is required to maximize conversion rates and marketing efficiency. Get these five aspects right and your hotel marketing results will take off in an instance. If these basics don’t add up or done wrong, then the fundamentals of the hotel marketing setup will remain inefficient and results will remain mediocre at best.

Hotel and resort brands that have their basics right typically experience significantly faster sales processes, higher conversion rates across all sales and distribution channels, and stellar engagement on key communication channels – including social media.

A perfect product presentation

To make a memorable first impression, and eliminate all doubts from the mind of your customers, your hotel will need a 10/10 product presentation. No shortcuts are allowed here. Forget the in-house photographer, the hobbyist drone pilot, and the early 2000s style web 2.0 BORING content written by your marketing team. 

To craft a perfect product presentation, your hotel will need the following:

  • Professional level photography, following the latest visual style trends
  • Crisp videos showcasing the unique features of the property
  • Short and informative content that answers most questions your guests would have
  • A pixel-perfect hotel website that makes it easy to discover all aspects and features of your hotel

Sounds easy, and investing in a perfect product and brand presentation should not be a question – having a top-notch presentation is a no-brainer, right? Not for over 70% of independent hotels and resorts.

In the case of over 85% of hotels who audited their brand with us, product presentation was rated below 5 out of 10, which is a strong signal of shortcomings.

Common issues were using old and outdated hotel photos, uninspiring text content, and poorly done videos. Over 60% of the time, market research respondents complained about the website design as well. 

Inspiring, consistent marketing communications

Marketing communications are often the first thing a potential guest sees and experiences from a hotel. The first impression is very important to establish a good idea about the brand, in the mind of the customer.

Be it a search ad, YouTube ad, Instagram story, or Facebook post – each piece of content published by the hotel has to communicate brand values, differentiation, and needs to contribute to a great brand experience.

Hotels are among the worst performers in any B2C industry when it comes to marketing communications – having a very little real understanding of what guests care about to see when choosing a hotel.

Keep it fun, pleasant and enjoyable

Hotels are meant to be fun, pleasant, and enjoyable. This should be reflected in their brand personality, marketing communications, social media, and other means of one and two-way communications. 

City hotels often that attract business customers can afford to have a more serious, business-like tone of voice. But leisure-oriented hotels and resorts should stay away from that tone of voice.

Hotel brand audit results clearly show that travelers are reacting positively to the following content topics:

  • Happy couples
  • Tasty, well-presented food
  • Spontaneous moments
  • Romantic moments
  • Natural-looking influencers
Swim Up Lagoon Suites at Sandals Royal Caribbean
Photo from Sandals Resorts (https://www.sandals.com)

The same travelers will be most likely rejecting and ignoring content that:

  • Looks unnatural
  • Sales oriented
  • Trying too hard to impress
  • Features unattractive people
  • Features people from a different socio-cultural segment
Rotten Oysters: The worst of the worst (and wackiest of the wacky) of our  first year on the job | Oyster.com

Based on our market research results, which contains over 500,000 data points, potential guests expect a friendly and warm tone of voice and communication about the resort experience other than flexing with awards and trying to impress with factual details.

Leisure Hotels and resorts that work with a “serious tone of voice” are going to find it difficult to make their social media popular, or to earn engagement from their marketing communication efforts.

Frequent comments received by such hotels include:

  • Not fun
  • Boring
  • I won’t pay for this
  • Nothing special 

Over 80% of market research respondents shared that they are interested to see the following:

  • Rooms, villas, and accommodation
  • Signature features of the hotel and resorts
  • Food and drinks
  • Attractive people
  • Facilities and amenities
  • Pools and recreation areas
  • Spa & wellness facilities

At the same time, over 90% shared that they are not interested to see the following in any form of marketing:

  • Staff and employees
  • Unattractive people
  • Back of house
  • Pictures were taken with mobile phone
  • Other real guests in marketing pictures
  • Awards
  • Industry recognition related content

Clearly demonstrated differentiation

Differentiation in hotel marketing is an essential part of any brand management strategy. This is understood by hotel management teams who want their property and brand to stand for something. 

The most iconic hotels worldwide are all known for something unique: celebrities stayed there, signature dishes and drinks, views from movie scenes, or proximity to landmark locations – people are happy to pay a premium to experience these. But why would they pay extra for something seemingly average?

Brand Management for Hotels: Crafting an Online Experience That Makes People Book Instantly
Can you tell any difference between these Maldives resorts? Do pictures justify the price differences?

Key differentiating factors for city hotels are:

  • Price
  • Reputation
  • Location
  • Concept
  • Facilities 

Key differentiating factors for resorts are:

  • Location
  • Experience
  • Facilities
  • Theme
  • Concept
  • Price
  • Reputation

Differentiation is the very basis of your hotel brand identity, communicating the unique values and features to potential guests. Hotels and resorts without a clear differentiation and brand identity will become commodities – competing only based on price and location.

If you visit Booking.com or Expedia and search for the Maldives, you will find hundreds of resorts that look almost exactly the same. Why would you pay more than $5,000 a night when you can have a seemingly similar experience for $150? The answer is differentiation.

With marketing communication tools, each hotel and resort needs to be able to demonstrate the features and aspects that make their concept unique. These tools include

  • Pictures
  • Product descriptions
  • Videos
  • Design language
  • Brand experience

Should a hotel fail to demonstrate its key values, potential guests will compare it to other options based on price and location only. This will not enable price flexibility, and the hotel will be exposed to volatile demand trends.

Easy booking experience, transparent pricing

Nothing is a bigger turnoff when a guest decides to book a hotel, then finds that their prices are confusing, and he better off returning to OTAs to complete her reservation.

An easy booking experience is the last step of the guest conversion funnel. Ideally, your guest will be happy to see a straightforward pricing system – without any hidden fees, all taxes and charges included. 

In reality, over 75% of our hotel brand audit respondents shared that booking experiences frustrate them – and they will likely return to an OTA to book. They added, that in many cases and OTA is a cheaper option.

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