Building a Brand: An Independent Hotelier’s Guide

“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” – Paul Rand

Does your hotel have a brand? The answer is yes, even if you said no. Everything from your website design to the language used in your emails to room decor says it all about your hotel. And if you haven’t put any effort into your hotel branding, that says volumes to your guests. 

Branding is important for independent hotels because it instantly conveys to your customers who you are and what you represent. The best part? Good branding equals more bookings. Let’s unpack exactly what branding is, why it’s important, and how to implement branding for your independent hotel starting today. 

What is hotel branding?

Branding is how you express your hotel’s missions, values, and target market through the consistent use of brand colors, logos, font, design, and tone of voice. It reflects your hotel’s personality, builds its reputation, and makes a promise to your guests, with your services and products acting as proof points. In essence, your brand is your hotel. 

Is branding important for hotels?

Strong branding acts as a North Star, and provides direction for all your activities, from design decisions to your hotel’s business goals. To make an impact, branding must represent your hotel’s values, mission, and unique selling proposition. 

Consistently adhered to, good branding creates coherence, which is essential for building brand recognition and trust—and increased bookings as a result! What’s more? Good branding also builds a strong reputation, which not only attracts guests but top talent as well.

How to build your hotel brand

Determine hotel values and brand promise

When building your brand, it’s important to determine your hotel’s values and create a mission statement/brand promise that reflects them. If you’re starting from scratch, begin with a brainstorming session, which makes for a great team-building exercise for staff. 

In the process, you’ll need to consider if your values are aligned with the interests and concerns of your current guest segments/demographic (see next section). For example, if one of your values is to provide a luxury experience but a large portion of your guests are most interested in budget accommodation, there will be a misalignment. If you value something other than what you currently are, then rebranding is in order.

To inspire you, here are some common hotel brand values:

  • Quality care
  • Sustainability
  • Community
  • Growing profit
  • Having fun
  • Teamwork
  • Commitment
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Inclusivity

We love how the Stay Wilder eco resort shares its values on its website and summarizes them as: “We’re powered by nature, local communities, and regenerative design.” This statement not only offers deeper insight into their brand but also tells guests that, by making their values public, they are holding themselves to a high standard. 

Once you’ve solidified your values, use them as a foundation for your hotel’s brand promise. For Stay Wilder, their brand promise is: “Planet-first eco-glamping for those who want to stay wild and keep the world wilder.” It’s a promise that gives their brand direction and speaks directly to their target guest segment.

Here are some other hotel brand promise examples to inspire you:

  • Quality in Life (Swissotel)
  • Treasured Time (Rotana)
  • Cozy Hideaways for the Adventurous Traveler (Venue Hotel)
  • With urban-inspired spaces and intuitive services, every stay is fun, vibrant, and energetic. (Hotel Mi)
  • To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality by delivering exceptional experiences – every hotel, every guest, every time. (Hilton)
  • Let it shine. (Iberostar)

Define your hotel demographic

You probably already have a strong sense of who your guests currently are. But if you haven’t already, map out each category of guest, and then make up a persona. Give them a name and put yourself in their shoes to help you discover their motivations and create empathy for what drives them and what they want in a hotel. Depending on your goals, your list of characteristics might look like this:

  • Name 
  • Age range
  • Marital status / family
  • Life goals
  • Pain points
  • Key influences
  • What’s important to them
  • Why do they travel and at what frequency
  • How much money are they willing to spend
  • Online activities / offline activities

Here’s an example of a customer persona: Fiona is a mom, married with two kids, who books mini-breaks for the family. The persona hones in on what types of experiences she wants, what she needs from a hotel, and what influences her decisions. 

A sample customer persona chart

Keep your brand in mind and speak to your guest personas to create marketing campaigns and vacation packages, and update your website to inspire your demographic.

Create a brand style guide

“Define what your brand stands for, its core values, and tone of voice, and then communicate consistently in those terms.”  – Simon Mainwaring

A brand style guide is where it all comes together! Create a document that keeps track of all your branding decisions. It is your guide to communicating cohesively and consistently.

It usually contains:

  • Mission, brand promise, and values
  • Your logo and how it may be used
  • Typography (fonts and sizes) for headings, subheadings, and body text
  • Brand colors, along with hex numbers
  • Tone of voice
  • Imagery guidelines
  • Mood board

Start small. While you want to adhere to the brand guide, it is a living document that you can tweak, update, and add to as you evolve and grow. When starting out, a five-page document will do. As you evolve, it just may become a 46-page whopper like this one from Four Seasons! Though, as you will see, it’s more visual and not textually dense.

But first things first! As you decide on all these brand components, let your mission, brand promise, and demographics guide you. If your brand mission is to provide a comfortable home base for your adventure-loving guests, then the colors you choose need to evoke that. If you’re a motel situated near the beach (lucky you!) and you cater to surfers seeking budget accommodation, you certainly don’t need to encapsulate the elegance of the Four Seasons brand guide! Instead, capture the vibe of your property and what will speak to your guests. 

Implement branding consistently across all channels and points of contact

With your handy brand style guide in hand, you can now go forth and express your hotel’s brand promise and attract your perfect guest! It may not always be that easy, but we promise you, a brand style guide makes it easier. It will help you decide if social media influencers are aligned, if an email campaign will resonate, and where to begin with a website redesign.

Check out My Miami Vacation’s website for branding inspiration. Vibrant colors capture the spirit of Miami beachside accommodation, ample white space creates a sense of spaciousness you’ll find at their apartments, and even the decor in their property photos is within the same color scheme. They are very clear about what they offer and every word, photo, and testimonial back that up.

Maintain your theme through your website, social media, digital ads, print advertising, and email marketing to reinforce your brand. Your brand style guide is easy to share with internal (staff) and external stakeholders (marketing agencies and web designers, for example) to ensure everyone is on the same page.

At this point, you’ve done all the hard work by setting the foundation of your hotel’s brand. Now it’s all about consistency. Be consistent and you’ll keep building trust. As long as you keep your brand promise, we’re certain your hotel will see the fruits of your labor. 

A word about storytelling

Another way to think about hotel branding is to consider it storytelling or telling a narrative. Say you’re a spa resort focused on spiritual getaways. Your hotel’s story might be about how a stay at your property provides a transformational experience, where guests can get away from the world to get in touch with their inner world. 

Effective hotel branding tells that story through images of guests enjoying relaxing facials, yoga by the pool, or serene meditation sessions in the garden. Branding is how you share your story with your guests. 

Reinforce with reliable hotel tech

Branding is all about determining your promise and building trust with your guests. As Jeff Bezos says: “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.” Putting it that way stresses the importance of meeting guest expectations.

While tone of voice, logos, colors, and the like are at the forefront of your brand, don’t neglect the backend! Reliable hotel tech is of the utmost importance. All the trust you’ve garnered through your efforts to align your values and hotel culture through physical and visual representation can easily fall by the wayside if your hotel management software isn’t up to snuff.

Imagine—after seeing your social media and digital ads—a guest visits your website to book, only to find the booking button doesn’t work or the reservation system is clunky. Every barrier to booking, every little piece of friction, erodes the confidence your guest has in you. 

Incorporate reliable hotel software with track records you trust, the flexibility to implement relevant applications, and the ability to offer a branded experience through all customer-facing touchpoints, including marketing and transactional emails. 

Build Your Brand and They Will Come

If you were thinking that branding is all about colors and logos, think again! “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another,” says Seth Godin. 

But it’s bigger than this, too, isn’t it? When hotel branding is used as a way to express your values and larger mission, it attracts guests—and employees—who are in alignment. Not only is this the best way to build community, but loyalty as well. May you continue to hone your brand, find your people, and build guest loyalty to inspire your days.

Did you know we offer web design services, especially for lodging operators? Reach out for a free, no-obligation quote for a new website that reflects your property’s brand and drives more bookings.