Hotel Brand Differentiation – An Oxymoron?

Global hotel groups run the risk becoming generic booking services if they are unable to successfully differentiate their member portfolio of hotel brands.

Jumbo shrimp - the classic oxymoron

Many major hotel brands are described by the linguistic equivalent of jumbo shrimp served with mild picante sauce. At best ambiguous; often, meaningless.
Photo Credit: 434pics (cc|flickr)

The recent binge of brand launches by the major hotel groups, already not particularly adept at communicating distinguishing characteristics of their portfolio, results from pressure from investors for growth, despite slow new hotel room construction.

The outcome of the “Identify the Hotel Brand” quiz Hotel Brand Explosion Difficult to Describe illustrated the issue. Posed to the readership of this blog, which is largely comprised of seasoned travelers, the winning entry correctly identified only three out of the 100 brand descriptions presented.

Congratulations to Alexandra Zubko, co-Founder of TripTease for the comparatively high score. Others characterized the quiz as “impossible,” which I would tend to agree with, based on my score – which was a pathetic 19. Bear in mind that I had not only seen all the correct answers, but worked extensively with each description to create the quiz itself…

As opposed to focusing on the brands that were missed, more can be learned from the brands that Alexandra correctly identified (I too got these three correct.)

The first was Marriott’s Residence Inns: “Designed to provide everything you need to thrive on long stays, the all-suite [Residence Inns] features upscale, spacious suites with full kitchens and room to eat, work and dream. Plus you can enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast, Wi-Fi, evening socials and grocery delivery service.”

Residence Inns has always been a very pure brand – Despite the substantial number of all-suite brands, the positioning, size, and amenities of a Residence Inn were clearly defined.

Next was InterContinental’s new Even Hotels brand: “[Even Hotels] is the first hotel brand designed for business and leisure travellers who maintain a healthy and active lifestyle and are looking for a complete wellness experience at a mainstream price point.”

The “complete wellness experience” was a definite hint, and that is exactly the point. It makes the brand unique. It was also helpful that the brand was positioned as a pioneer and that it offered mainstream positioning.

The third was DoubleTree by Hilton: “It all starts with a warm chocolate chip cookie, a simple touch that sets the tone to create a rewarding experience for a guest’s entire stay. [DoubleTree by Hilton] understands that doing the little things well can mean everything.”

Trusting one’s branding to a cookie is risky – it’s certainly not a competitive advantage that is difficult to replicate. However, given the weak branding of the competition, at least it’s something unique that differentiates the brand.

Now, let’s compare those with the description of Best Western’s newest brand, Vīb (sorry to pick on BW) the brand wasn’t included in the quiz. This is a new brand, representing something that is a departure from Best Western and its recent Premier and Plus sub-brands.

Here’s the brand definition: Vīb (pronounced Vibe), is a stylish and technology-centric hotel concept created to meet the needs of today’s connected traveler.

First, if the name itself requires an explanation, that’s not an auspicious start. Next, if a new hotel brand is not stylish, and providing the tech travelers demand, it probably should not be a brand. Vībs appear to be directly competitive with Starwood’s Aloft and Element brands, as well as InterContinental’s Indigo, Marriott’s Moxy and Hilton’s Canopy lifestyle brands.

The playing field is getting crowded, which demands even more pronounced differentiation. Best Western leadership is counting on fee levels approximately 40% of those assessed by competitors to appeal to owners/developers. That may help secure some early deals, but continued expansion will require guests to favor the brand over the others.

Three Ways to Differentiate

There are three proven methods to solidly position brands – 1) unique attributes of the product itself, 2) superlative scale, such as being the first, or largest, and 3) the brand’s unique personality traits.

Over the long term, successful product traits may be duplicated or others may grow larger, so the comparatively more difficult task of developing a unique brand personality (and keeping it relevant) is the ultimate goal. Below are three examples from iconic brands beyond the hospitality industry:

“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”

What is remarkable is that Apple Apple’s branding can be parsed by product vertical and remain salient.

  • The best personal computers in the world
  • Leading the digital music revolution
  • Reinvented the mobile phone

But even Apple isn’t perfect, the iPad positioning is suspect – the tablet does not necessarily define the future of mobile media and computing devices. Regardless, Apple’s branding superiority is on par with its market cap.

“Coca-Cola is the most popular and biggest-selling soft drink in history.”

Being the best selling soft drink in history is not a position that is easily relinquished.

“To be genuine, fun, contemporary, and different in everything we do at a reasonable price.”

Virgin’s branding is all personality. Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial realm spans over 400 very different companies – and being different is part of the organizational DNA. Most importantly, the brands must reflect the first trait; being genuine – without that, the other attributes don’t protect the brand nearly as well.

But there are lodging brands that reflect high quality branding –

Kimpton effectively describes itself with a distinctly contemporary attitude and sense of fun.

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
“There you are. We just knew we’d find each other. You: A savvy traveler who’s always up for thoughtful perks. Us: The best loved boutique hotels with a passion for making it personal. We’re stylish — you’ll love our bold design — but we don’t do stuffy. Helping mix business and pleasure, like a perfect cocktail, is our secret sauce. So whichever of our 60+ hotels you choose, we’ll find ways to make your stay extraordinary.”

InterContinental would be well advised not to mess with Kimpton’s branding as it integrates the brand into its portfolio.

Four Seasons is similarly differentiated by a brand description that is all about pursuing quality and exceptional service delivery.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
“Times change, but our dedication to perfecting the travel experience never will. Our highly personalized 24-hour service, combined with authentic, elegant surroundings of the highest quality, embodies a home away from home for those who know and appreciate the best. As the company has grown from a single hotel to 96 in 40 countries, our deeply instilled culture, personified by our employees, continues to get stronger. Over more than 50 years, our people have built an unrivalled depth of reliability, trust and connection with our guests – a connection we will steadfastly uphold, now and always.”

A new brand (that I was proud to work on) also clearly positions itself on a global scale:

National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World
“National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, brings together and showcases sustainable hotels and lodges around the world that are innovators in providing enriching and authentic guest experiences and inspiring travelers to engage with a destination.”

The spectacularly high name recognition and outrageously favorable brand sentiment contributed by National Geographic undeniably anchor the brand. However, even if the group of hotels was not affiliated with National Geographic, the branding would still be distinctive.

So, effective hotel branding is possible, it is just not getting the attention it deserves from the the major hotel groups. This is not because they employ ineffective marketing leadership, it is the external pressure to grow that is the culprit. In an effort to make a brand as exploitable as possible (suitable to a broad range of destinations, appeal to diverse market segment and not filter out too many prospective deals with unnecessary constraints) the branding gets softened, often losing its key points of differentiation.

Hotel Brand Quiz Answer Key:

For those that may take exception to that last point, I offer as an example for your consideration, the top 100 hotel brands from the top 10 global hotel groups. Easy? It should be. I’m sorry to say it is not. Test yourself – see how much difference the removal of the brand name and key geographic or numeric signals makes. Plus, feel free to offer unsubstantiated claims of your success in the comments.

Question 1:
“[Brand] is contemporary by attitude, socially responsible and service-driven.”

Question 2:
“When you stay with [Brand], you really enjoy its good service and exceptional value. You’ll notice its unique style, familiar atmosphere, and carefully maintained facilities, immediately let you know that you’ve picked the perfect place. You’ll appreciate having just the right amenities- all at a sensible price. Oversized work area. Large, well-lit [Brand] signature showers. Free high-speed Internet access. free morning medley breakfast, in-room coffee and newspaper. Over [number] locations [area]. [Brand] rewards program and commitment to your satisfaction.”

Question 3:
“In exceptional destinations around the globe, [Brand] reflect the culture and history of their extraordinary locations, as well as fresh, modern expressions of [Brand]’s rich legacy. [Brand] provides guests the exceptional environment and the personalized attention of true [Brand] service that creates a singular experience.”

Question 4:
“[Brand] provides global travelers with luxurious accommodations and spas, dramatic architecture, multiple exceptional restaurants and bars, and state-of-the-art technology to create memorable experiences in gateway cities and magnificent resort locations.”

Question 5:
“You’ll feel right at home with [Brand] residential style amenities and affordable rates. You’ll find enough room for an extended stay, with separate areas for relaxing, working and dining. Studio and one-bedroom suites with a fully-equipped kitchen, free premium cable TV and a large work area with bright task lighting let you feel at home on the road.  On weekdays, start your day off right with our free continental breakfast.  Enjoy the convenience of free high-speed Internet access, weekly housekeeping service, and guest laundry and exercise facilities.”

Question 6:
“If you’re looking for a great value over a longer stay, [Brand] is for you. Our spacious rooms have a well-equipped kitchen and free premium cable TV.  Weekly housekeeping service and onsite washers and dryers provide you with all the conveniences of home.  Free high-speed Internet access, convenient personal dataports and voicemail allow you to get work done when you need to.  [Brand] offers great rates for stays of one week or more.”

Question 7:
“We can’t stop time. We can just make it seem like you have more of it. It’s not a trick, but rather, the result of our unique philosophy. We believe the best setting is the one that allows the extraordinary to emerge. Whether in a slowly swaying hammock or in rooms swathed in silk with gorgeous views of the [area], we’ll ensure nothing comes between you and what you seek—whether clarity, inspiration or wellness.””

Question 8:
“[Brand] is known as the industry’s first branded boutique hotel, artfully combining the conveniences and consistencies of a brand hotel with the design cache and service personality of a boutique.”

Question 9:
“An enduring symbol of sophistication, style and legendary service, [Brand] creates exceptional luxury experiences at more than [number] locations around the globe. The memories created by the ladies and gentlemen of [Brand] stay with you long after you leave.”

Question 10:
“[Founder]’s refreshing collection of one-of-a-kind modern luxury hotels, created in collaboration with [chain], is an evolutionary response to the desire for a sophisticated experience from the guest with a contemporary lifestyle.”

Question 11:
“[Brand] is [chain]’s benchmark brand in the budget segment. This nifty, casual brand offers a simple, no frills solution and has made essential comfort at a budget price central to its thinking. With more than [number] hotels in [number] countries, [Brand] offers its guests comfortable rooms with fluffy duvet and pillows, free WI-FI (except in Australia) and a gourmet breakfast buffet. In 2012, [Brand] redesigned its public areas with a focus on optimizing these lively spaces in a nifty, playful way and creating a warm, friendly atmosphere.”

Question 12:
“Designed to provide everything you need to thrive on long stays, the all-suite [Brand] features upscale, spacious suites with full kitchens and room to eat, work and dream. Plus you can enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast, Wi-Fi, evening socials and grocery delivery service.”

Question 13:
“Within the [Brand] family, [Brand] nurtures an off-beat, avant-garde spirit that invites medium-stay guests to experience a new way of hotel living. Discover our 30 square-metre modular suites and a wide range of services which give you total freedom for work and relaxation such as relaxing massages, the loan of a Smart, the Boutique Gourmande and the Suite Box.”

Question 14:
“[Brand], located in premier city-centre locations, are designed for the individual traveler seeking personalized service, gourmet dining, exceptional concierge services, unparalleled business amenities and luxurious small meeting and event facilities.”

Question 15:
“[Brand] is a leading mid-market brand committed to providing a caring, consistent and comfortable hospitality experience delivered with a touch of home.”

Question 16:
“The casual atmosphere. The thoughtful touches. The attentive, courteous service. It’s easy to understand why the [Brand], which includes [Brand], [Brand] and [Brand], is so popular with both business and leisure travelers. Located in key business and vacation destinations across the world, [Brand] is an upper-upscale full-service brand featuring flexible meeting space, restaurants, business and fitness centers. Our resorts offer golf, tennis, beautiful beaches, spas and more.”

Question 17:
“With [Brand], you have access to [number] budget hotels all over [area]. Sleep well in a trio room or a duo room from €19 a night. In business for over 25 years, [Brand] offers clean, convenient rooms for 1, 2 or 3 people at the lowest price, 24/7.”

Question 18:
“Warm, clean, comfortable surroundings welcome you at [Brand], with all the amenities to ensure a restful and productive stay at an exceptional value.”

Question 19:
“[Brand] is designed for the way you live and work. An all-suites hotel with more spacious rooms, it offers a separate workspace with moveable desk and ergonomic chair. Enjoy luxurious bath amenities and bedding. Connectivity Panel technology. Flat panel TVs in living/work room and bedroom areas. Microwave, refrigerator, Wolfgang Puck™ coffee and room service. Plus a swimming pool and state-of-the-art fitness center. Contemporary dining with the barista gourmet coffee bar, hot breakfast buffet and dinner menu. A 24/7 convenience store with comfort food as well as healthy and organic snacks. Free high-speed wired and wireless Internet access. [Brand] rewards program and the [Brand] Pledge, a true unconditional guest satisfaction guarantee* that promises your complete satisfaction or your night’s stay is on us.”

Question 20:
“[Brand] hotels, located in prime destinations and business districts, offer an intimate environment for travelers eager to experience the local flair. Guests enjoy personalized service and modern comfort in rooms and locally-inspired restaurant/bars. Event facilities are perfect for small weddings and business meetings.”

Question 21:
“Located near major highways, [Brand] hotels offer road travelers on a budget easily accessible and basic overnight accommodations at more than [number] convenient locations across [area].”

Question 22:
“With nearly [number] locations in over [number] countries, [Brand] offers a welcoming and restorative experience where you can relax and be yourself. From a full-service stay that includes free WiFi to a convenient stop in your travels, there’s a [Brand] for you.”

Question 23:
“[Brand] is the first hotel brand designed for business and leisure travellers who maintain a healthy and active lifestyle and are looking for a complete wellness experience at a mainstream price point.”

Question 24:
“[Area] hotel economic leader, [Brand] offers you the ultimate comfort: a new innovative bedding designed by the [Brand] Research Department, a comfortable and well-equipped room, modern and design welcome areas. Caring and efficient, [Brand] ensures the highest level of service of its category: a 24 hour reception, breakfast from 4:00 am to midday, light meals served round the clock and a non-stop bar. An ISO 9001 certified guarantee of quality and illustrated by the “15 minutes satisfaction” contract. With more than [number] [Brand] hotels in [number] countries, whatever the reason for your stay, [Brand] has the hotel you are looking for!”

Question 25:
“An upscale brand in major urban centres, gateway cities and resort destinations offering business travellers high levels of comfort, service and amenities.”

Question 26:
“These suites are built for the extended stay traveler who appreciates independence and the space for a relaxed and productive stay. Guests have come to know us by our modern spacious suites with full kitchens, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast and friendly staff who deliver a warm ‘hello’ when you walk through the door.”

Question 27:
“Get everything you’re looking for with style and service you want, all at a great price. We have what matters most to you like stylish rooms, comfortable beds, delicious breakfast and fresh coffee. Plus lots of other extras you’ll love.”

Question 28:
“With over [number] convenient locations across [area] offering free breakfast and free high speed internet access, and over [number] properties throughout [area], [Brand] is one number you can count on for a great night’s rest.”

Question 29:
“One of the most recognized names in the industry, [Brand] offers travelers a world of authentic experiences. The brand continues to be the innovative, forward-thinking global leader of hospitality. With products and services that meet the needs of tomorrow’s savvy global travelers, we shape experiences in which every guest feels cared for, valued, and respected.”

Question 30:
“For value-conscious families looking for familiar and dependable accommodations, [Brand] is a nationally recognized lodging chain with a heritage of hospitality. The brand has nearly [number] hotels in [number] countries that offer comfortable accommodations regardless of travel occasion.”

Question 31:
“Offering that little something extra, from well appointed rooms to modern amenities, [Brand] are thoughtfully designed to suit the needs of any business or leisure traveler.”

Question 32:
“[Brand] is a collection of high-end hotels all around the world. Each hotel of the collection stages with talent a unique personality and story, experienced by guests through its architecture, interior design and services. Each hotel is inspired by one of the three typical atmospheres of the collection. Some hotels present ‘Heritage’ origins, places filled with history; others reflect an aesthetic universe, a style, the ‘Signature’ of a personality that contributed to their creation or decoration; still others promise a relaxing time, ‘Serenity’ in a natural or urban retreat. All hotels of the collection invite guests to experience ‘Memorable Moments’.”

Question 33:
“Offering “everything in one place,” each resort blends grand settings, luxurious rooms and world-class entertainment to delight you with a truly enchanting getaway.”

Question 34:
“With smart, engaging service, [Brand]’s trend-setting designs capture the energy and style of each individual location.”

Question 35:
“[Brand] located in leading destinations worldwide, feature innovative guestroom designs, extensive meeting facilities, energizing restaurants and bars; all to ensure every guest will find the right space to connect to whomever and whatever matters most.”

Question 36:
“[Brand] is a collection of independent, remarkable hotels whose only unifying characteristic is their glorious individuality. Each hotel is hand-picked for its distinct character and personality, appealing to passionate travelers seeking local discovery.”

Question 37:
“Inviting spaces and room to unwind. Whether you’re relocating to a new area or embarking on a family vacation, [Brand] provides an atmosphere ideal for today’s extended stay guest. Enjoy spacious suites with fully equipped kitchens in most locations and an atmosphere where you can truly make yourself at home.”

Question 38:
“A refined level of comfort awaits you at [Brand]. Distinct styling. Personalized service. The plush amenities and features will always leave a lasting impression.”

Question 39:
“[Brand] is the only midscale hotel brand that combines the strength of an international network with a strong quality commitment, and the warm experience of hotels, all different, rooted in their local community and managed by enthusiastic hoteliers.”

Question 40:
“Situated in key destinations around the world, each [Brand] is a one-of-a-kind experience with a compelling local flavor. Here you will find attentive service, relaxing surroundings and thoughtful touches you expect from [chain] on a grand scale. Guest rooms are comfortable and refined… dining experiences are crafted by expert chefs… and artfully appointed lounges and public areas invite you to linger. [Brand] properties are also ideal for large-scale social engagements and business events. Flexible meeting spaces, elegant halls and sophisticated entertainment and presentation capabilities ensure a memorable and successful event.”

Question 41:
“Meet the [Brand], a network of historic, boutique and unique hotels that offer guests an authentic, local experience. Member hotels share a passion for delivering attentive service to guests seeking a more experiential, individualized travel experience that gives them a sense of local flavor.”

Question 42:
“At [Brand], we anticipate travelers’ needs and deliver what matters most. All of our guests are welcomed with a two-room suite, free made-to-order breakfast each morning, and complimentary drinks and snacks for two hours every night. We’re delighted to welcome you in over [number] unique locations, so stay with us and come experience all [Brand] has to offer.”

Question 43:
“[Brand] is the award-winning, upscale, yet affordable, hotel brand. We continually strive to ensure today’s busy travelers have everything they need to be the most productive on the road, no matter the occasion. With high levels of service and amenities usually only found in pricier hotels, guests count on us to help them be successful when they’re on the road.”

Question 44:
“Today, [Brand] celebrate the travelers of the world. Our mission is to host you brilliantly… to make your every event and stay with us unforgettable and effortless. From next gen meeting spaces to tech-enhanced guest service and beyond, we offer [number] locations worldwide to help you connect, relax and recharge — wherever it is your travels take you.”

Question 45:
“Smart luxury is at the core of everything [Brand] does. We offer our guests one-of-a-kind experiences, service that’s intuitive and connections to people and places near or far. We’re the destination of a new generation of global travelers for whom life, business, and pleasure seamlessly intersect. People who know that the greatest luxury is the luxury of being yourself.”

Question 46:
“For a modern and savvy choice in mid-tier, extended-stay travel, guests choose [Brand]. By delivering unexpected style, enhanced flexibility, expanded spaces, and differentiated amenities, [Brand] is creating a more forward-thinking extended-stay experience. Our goal is to ensure guests are comfortable and productive, whether they’re staying a few days or a few months.”

Question 47:
“You are not just a person. And we are not just hotels. We are a 15-room boutique fishing lodge in [area]. And a 3,000-room luxury high-rise on the [area]. We’re not bound by similarities. We’re bound by distinction. We may share a [Brand]. But everything else is different.”

Question 48:
“[Brand], the award–winning chain of all newly–constructed, interior corridor hotels, continues to raise the bar in economy lodging. With over [number] hotels, [Brand] provides a consistent and reliable experience for all business and leisure travelers alike.”

Question 49:
“Born in [year], [Brand] is a 4-star international midscale brand for business & leisure travelers, with hotels located in the heart of major international cities, business districts and tourist destinations.”

Question 50:
“[Brand] is an iconic, stylish and sophisticated brand with leading-edge style where the delight is in the detail. It offers guests a holistic hospitality experience that’s totally relevant to now.”

Question 51:
“From the moment you arrive at [Brand], we want you to relax and feel at home. We offer a warm atmosphere and helpful service. You’ll restore yourself in our clean cozy rooms and you can stay connected with free high-speed internet access.”

Question 52:
“[Brand] welcome international, cosmopolitan seasoned travelers from all over the world for business and leisure stays. [Brand] is the executive lifestyle upscale hotel brand: a new generation of hotels for a new generation of mobile, hyper-connected customers.”

Question 53:
“There you are. We just knew we’d find each other. You: A savvy traveler who’s always up for thoughtful perks. Us: The best loved boutique hotels with a passion for making it personal. We’re stylish — you’ll love our bold design — but we don’t do stuffy. Helping mix business and pleasure, like a perfect cocktail, is our secret sauce. So whichever of our [number]+ hotels you choose, we’ll find ways to make your stay extraordinary.”

Question 54:
“Travel should be inspiring, and inspiration is exactly what you’ll find at [Brand] worldwide. Select from historic hotels, chic boutiques or luxurious resorts. Discover the local scene with the help of on-site navigators. Plus, enjoy active lobby lounges, bars and restaurants with [trademark] events.”

Question 55:
“A new hotel philosophy where imagination designs the experience and experience invents the future. This is not luxury. This is the future. The images are reality. The reality will be affordable, in a relative context. This is [Brand] – witness, work in progress coming to a conclusion.”

Question 56:
“A new hotel philosophy where imagination designs the experience and experience invents the future. This is not luxury. This is the future. The images are reality. The reality will be affordable, in a relative context. This is [Brand] – witness, work in progress coming to a conclusion.”

Question 57:
“For those seeking an energizing experience, [Brand] by [chain] is the hotel brand that creates ‘a positive stay’ with its simple, guest-directed service and thoughtful, local choices.”

Question 58:
“An extended stay hotel brand offering comfortable and stylish accommodation.”

Question 59:
“[Brand] properties reflect the unique personality of each locale, and are dedicated to creating inspiring and vibrant living spaces where travelers can indulge in their own personal sense of comfort and style with attentive and unscripted service.”

Question 60:
“Enter a [Brand], and you’ll immediately notice how good it feels to be here. That’s because each of our signature services has been designed with a better you in mind. Experience truly restorative sleep in our iconic [trademark] bed. Energize with a [Brand] workout. And indulge in our delicious [trademark] menu.”

Question 61:
“Since the original [Brand] [area] opened its doors over [number] years ago, the [Brand] brand has sought to provide an experience that goes beyond expectation. With its distinct heritage and signature [Brand] butler service, found at every location around the world, there is no address like [Brand].”

Question 62:
“With over [number] locations worldwide, [Brand] offer great value to leisure and business travelers including free [trademark] breakfast and free high-speed Internet access. We work hard to earn our reputation as the best value under the sun.”

Question 63:
“[Brand] and its [trademark] employees link the world with [area] elegance across a collection of unique addresses offering their guests and partners a “Cousu Main” service enriched with emotion, performance and a passion for excellence.”

Question 64:
“[Brand] is committed to your success. You can spread out in our oversized rooms with separate sleeping and living areas. Every room includes a full size pull-out sofa bed, as well as a refrigerator, microwave and in-room coffee maker and free high-speed internet access. And throughout our hotels you’ll experience breathing room – our 100% smoke-free policy.”

Question 65:
“When you’re looking for a nice place to stay for a price that’s easy on your budget, look to [Brand]. You’ll get a free premium cable channel and you can ease into your morning with free coffee.”

Question 66:
“[Brand], all inclusive resorts, create experiences where anything is possible, because everything guests need is included: luxury accommodations, authentic dining options, world-class entertainment and locally inspired activities.”

Question 67:
“[Brand] combines style with casual hospitality. Featuring spacious guest rooms with the cozy corner, free Wi-Fi, the 24/7 gallery menu, coffee to cocktails bar, and free a.m. [trademark] breakfast with your stay.”

Question 68:
“[Brand] are perfectly situated in key business, airport and suburban locations. We offer tasteful, intimate hotels with comfortable guest rooms that offer a wealth of thoughtful amenities. Every hotel provides casual dining options, inviting lobbies and cozy library lounges for reading or socializing. And of course, flexible meeting space that can accommodate a wide range of functions.”

Question 69:
“[Brand] is a new generation of expertly curated luxury hotels inspired by the lifestyle and sensibilities of the contemporary global traveller. Individual and inspiring, each property within the collection offers a distinguished guest experience and an invitation to immerse oneself in the best a location can offer.”

Question 70:
“One of the world’s most recognised hotel brands with a global reputation for service, comfort and value.”

Question 71:
“[Brand] offers upscale home comfort for extended stay guests. Featuring residentially inspired suites with real kitchens and living rooms, free Wi-Fi and morning spread breakfast including omelet bar with your stay, 24-hour guest market and laundry.”

Question 72:
“This is an upper-moderate tier lifestyle hotel brand for the design conscious traveler. Each offers a convenient city location and a stylish, cosmopolitan feel. Urban in the best sense of the word, these hotels are ideal for both business and leisure travelers who want to really experience all the options of a city.”

Question 73:
“Discover an all-suite hotel offering stylish space and inspiring design, all at an affordable price. Connect, work or relax with free Wi-Fi and refreshing spaces that are open and bright. Meet and mingle in inviting lobbies and jump-start your day with a complimentary hot and healthy breakfast. Enjoy over [number] locations across [area]. Style and space. Beautifully priced.”

Question 74:
“At [Brand], our mission is to satisfy every guest, every time. In fact, we’ve made satisfaction a promise with our unconditional, 100% [Brand] Guarantee. No matter which of the more than [number] [Brand] properties you visit, you’ll find incredible value, friendly service, free breakfast and Internet, our clean and fresh [Brand] beds, and well-appointed rooms.”

Question 75:
“[Brand] creates opportunities to connect — to home, to colleagues, and to friends, both old and new. Whether stirring up some conversation in the [trademark] experienced with Microsoft or meeting up over complimentary breakfast in [Brand] club, [Brand] brings people together.”

Question 76:
“Timeless, chic design, cultural experiences and discovery moments are the elements that connect our hubs in destinations like [areas] and beyond. [Brand] awakens curiosity and stimulates thinking, inspiring guests to see things in a new way.”

Question 77:
“[Brand], adult only all inclusive resorts, create experiences where anything is possible, because everything guests need is included: luxury accommodations, authentic dining options, world-class entertainment and locally inspired activities.”

Question 78:
“You’ll never have to look far to get a great value because over [number] [Brand] deliver an affordable and convenient place to stay. Enjoy lots of amenities free of charge including wireless Internet hotspots and a premium movie channel. And best of all, you get a free continental breakfast to start your day off right.”

Question 79:
“[Brand] sets the standard in upscale, extended stay. By offering home-like comforts and quality bundled services, we remain a leader in customer satisfaction and performance. Spacious one- and two-bedroom suites plus deluxe studio suites, all with full kitchens, allow travelers to spread out and stay productive when on the road.”

Question 80:
“A clean, uncomplicated extended stay hotel choice offering convenience and good value.”

Question 81:
“Listening to our guests and treating them like neighbors is what we do best. We call it hometown hospitality and it comes complete with all the comforts of home like free high–speed internet access and complimentary breakfast at the [Brand] [trademark] at over [number] properties. Whether you’re traveling for a leisure getaway, a family vacation or on business, [Brand] has the right hotel for you.”

Question 82:
“[Brand] gives you all of the tools for success for one simple rate. Wired and wireless high-speed internet access, hot breakfast, printing, copying and faxing in the 24-hour business center, access to fitness center and whirlpool and much more are all included at no extra cost.”

Question 83:
“A non-standardised economy and design brand aimed at all those who are looking for “the best of the best”, [Brand] offers an all-inclusive package, with room rates including breakfast and internet access. Situated in the heart of cities and in other major centres of activity, each establishment has its own distinct personality and reflects a colourful, bright and energetic brand spirit with a hint of humour. Simplicity, interactivity, quality and conviviality are the brand’s core values.”

Question 84:
“[Brand] is a favorite for people who enjoy going on adventures with the entire family. They turn to [Brand] as a great place to stay and can always count on great value because we deliver the best of the basics.”

Question 8:
“This is the leading luxury hospitality collection in the world. It is comprised of a few select properties in major cosmopolitan cities and luxury resort destinations. Each location makes a strong reference to the local culture while retaining a distinctly [area] contemporary luxury feel.”

Question 86:
“Over [number] locations across [area] offer everything you need for a comfortable and productive stay at a great value. Modern rooms and suites, ample workspaces, and friendly and responsive staff.”

Question 87:
“Escape to where iconic design and contemporary luxury set the stage for exclusive and extraordinary experiences. [Brand] provides insider access in cities bustling with energy and intrigue as well as at exotic retreats and getaways.”

Question 88:
“[Brand] has operated in the [area] region for almost twenty years, establishing itself as a distinctive upscale collection of hotels and apartment hotels in key business and resort locations around the region. Each [Brand] hotel is anchored around ‘Discover a new authentic’ with the hotel connected closely to its local area through its design, welcome and partnerships.”

Question 89:
“[Brand] is bright, bold, fresh, uncomplicated, friendly and fun.”

Question 90:
“There are certain things you expect from your hotel: a bright comfortable room, free high-speed Internet access and a free hot breakfast**. At [Brand], you’ll get everything you expect to make your trip more relaxing and enjoyable, all at a great value.”

Question 91:
“At [Brand] you’ll get everything you need, when you need it. That’s because our on-demand services let you call the shots. You’ll enjoy a restaurant, room service, fitness center, 24-hour business center and a well-appointed room with soft bedding, large desk and ergonomic chair. All in an approachable atmosphere with affordable rates. “

Question 92:
“From legendary palaces and remote retreats to timeless modern classics, [Brand] enable the most discerning traveler to collect a world of unique, authentic and enriching experiences.”

Question 93:
“[Brand] delivers options that are designed around the way you travel. Options that can help you have a successful trip at over [number] hotels worldwide. Like dining choices that meet your needs. Completely connected environments featuring free Wi-Fi. And local information on our [trademark].”

Question 94:
“Natural light. Open spaces. Healthy options. With spacious guestrooms featuring fully equipped kitchens, spa-inspired bathrooms and the [trademark] bed, [Brand] has everything guests need to be productive on the road.”

Question 95:
“[Brand] is a select-service urban hotel brand with over [number] in many of the most cosmopolitan cities across [area] and [area] like [areas].”

Question 96:
“A modern, fresh and fun destination, [Brand] is a place where energy flows, personalities mingle, and opportunities abound. Lighting cities around the world with a social spark, [Brand] all share a sense of excitement that leaves guests amazed and abuzz.”

Question 97:
“A fresh, clean, uncomplicated hotel choice offering comfort, convenience and good value.”

Question 98:
“[Brand] is all the style and soul you’ll find at a boutique hotel, but way more affordable. Because if you have the guts to go out and explore the world – and we know you do – at least look good doing it. It’s just like home, but with a bartender.”

Question 99:
“The world’s first truly international hotel brand, [Brand] is located in more than [number] countries with local insight that comes from over [number] years of experience.”

Question 100:
“It all starts with a warm chocolate chip cookie, a simple touch that sets the tone to create a rewarding experience for a guest’s entire stay. [Brand] understands that doing the little things well can mean everything.”

Fearing for the Major Hotel Brands

Attempting to market and merchandise poorly differentiated products is an unattractive proposition for three reasons:

  • The products become commoditized, making price the dominant factor in a consumer’s decision process.
  • Hotel brands survive on fee revenues paid by the hotel owners. According to HVS, in 2014, the median franchise cost was 11.8% of rooms revenue. The fees ranged from a low of 3.3% for Best Western Premier, to 14.7% for Hilton’s Hampton Inn brand.
  • When combined with growing distribution costs due to intermediary share increases, high hotel brand fees layered over high online travel agency margins produce an unsustainable drag on hotel owner profitability.

The worst case scenario is that if guests do not understand or care about the brands, the hotel groups may unintentionally becoming the equivalent of online travel agencies to both consumers and hotel owners.

Many global hotel brands are quick to point out the success of their frequent traveler programs to justify an affiliation. However, these points-based programs bear very little resemblance to true guest loyalty. At the present time, hotel frequency programs are fundamentally tools for travelers to extract personal benefit from employer funded travel expenditures.

Those programs are currently powerful forces, but not nearly as powerful as great products paired with great branding.

At this point, the major hotel groups need to hope that the major online travel agencies and metasearch websites don’t get better with their own branding initiatives. If they do, retaining guest loyalty will become increasingly difficult.

Ultimately, that is where the ultimate battle will be fought.

About Robert Cole

Robert Cole is the founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting practice. He also authors the Views from a Corner Suite Blog and publishes the Travel Quote of the Day. Robert speaks regularly at major travel industry conferences, authors articles for leading travel industry publications, advises travel-related startups and the equity investment community. He is an evangelist for the global travel industry.