Tess Mattisson, Senior Director of European Marketing for Choice Hotels International, oversees 400+ hotels and multiple franchise brands across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa regions: she has picked up a thing or two on hotel brand management in franchising.
Moving Beyond: Your Brand and Butter
Traditional brand names and logos are moving to a more mobile, personalized approach for franchisees. It starts with scalability – measuring and learning from new investments – and then taking those investments to the whole business.
Scalability boils down to the services offered, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach anymore. Therefore, different service challenges apply to different franchisees. Choice Hotels is taking note by tailoring tools and services to each franchisee in their respective communities. Franchisees are internal customers, and these internal customers have needs and expectations that need to be addressed. For example, the attribution modeling used to determine ROI of content marketing. With a greater market awareness and personalized approach, building the right brand for franchisees is key today.
What are the choice hotels brands?
Ordering up: Your Service Delivery
At Choice Hotels, Mattisson emphasizes building up a center of excellence to execute service delivery. Applying this to a digital context means hiring 10 experts in the field to gather insights on marketing and applying those insights to Choice’s 6’800 hotels around the world.
In a brand context, the key challenge for service delivery lies once again lies in scalability; there are limitations when it comes to tailor-making an offering. So, instead of using the one-size-fits-all approach, doing it right with a unique offering instead addresses the challenge.
Another area that can’t be scaled up is the Property Management System on the European continent. As no European country is the same, each market requires its own PMS. So, Choice is there to provide those services in an efficient and effective way.
On the other hand, some areas fit easily into the scalability mould: voice technologies like Google’s Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. As of late 2018, Choice put together a pilot project with Google Assistant; the project centered on allowing guests to book a room through the popular voice command software. Mattisson is very proud of the strides Choice has taken in its long-term investment technology strategy. With Choice’s size, these types of investments are feasible and necessary.
Delivering on the promise: Tech Techniques & Brand Impressions
Traditional brand marketing says what a hotel brand is, does, and provides. Now, hotels no longer own their brands in this traditional sense; hoteliers’ brands belong to every single guest that interacts in the hotels – they are the co-creators.
To be an effective brand in 2019, hoteliers must act on the dreaming, planning, booking, and experiencing phases of guest travel. Hoteliers’ brand promise made to guests stands at the center of these phases. Not all hotels have the tech tools that the brand is promising, but guests are expecting that. So, introduce the tool in the right markets and adapt as necessary.
Recognizing & Redeeming: Your Loyalty Program
Mattisson doesn’t like the word loyalty. She asserts that we’re only loyal in life to ourselves. The information we get changes; we’re not as loyal as we think we are. Recognition and redemption are driving the loyalty force.
Mattisson centers on the idea that when a guest stays at a hotel, they deserve to be recognized right away on their return. Their previous information should have been stored and protected, then reapplied to ensure preferences are respected and remembered. In this way, the stay is made frictionless.
The days of staying a night, collecting points, and redeeming on another night’s stay are over. Currently, we are moving towards applying points to household and consumer goods purchases. Disruptors are driving the hotel industry to stay on its toes when it comes to these types of recognition & redemption tasks – even if it means changing the whole business model.
Sharing: Final Thoughts
Mattisson urges hoteliers to think differently: what are you doing to distinguish yourself? Thinking differently requires practice and precision though; it’s not just jumping at an opportunity. Whether it’s a technical launch or adding a new business product, there’s a lots of thinking and investing that goes into that decision. Hotels that challenge the current business model will survive; those that don’t will die. Mattisson draws the example of booking over mobile phones – in 2000, it was unthinkable then, but today it’s the norm.