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Given the dearth of hotel marketing over the past two years, many customers don’t have a good impression of what each property stands for or what their unique value is. Hence, it’s time for all of us to evolve by finding a new niche within the seismically shifted hospitality ecosystem.

mogelonskys While you most likely don’t have time to go back to college to complete an undergraduate degree in evolutionary biology, it would still be beneficial to know how the mechanisms of evolution work because they have profound business applications.

Specific to the hotel world is a lurking problem we’ve reported on well before the pandemic that didn’t truly reveal itself until rough times found us.

There are too many new brands in the hospitality space, all vying to operate in ever-more minute traveler niches.

The notion of ‘meaningful’ branding in our contemporary hospitality landscape is a dilemma that we’ve encountered many times when working with developers as consultants tasked with characterizing the target audience for a new property or reinventing a current hotel.

On the one hand, a property with a highly specified purpose – such as, ‘offering a serene, close-to-home and wellness-focused respite for upper upscale leisure travelers’ – helps you to zoom in on a well-defined customer mindset and then focus your limited marketing dollars on only this ‘base’. And yet, working within a pinprick of segmentation like this can also alienate vast swaths of other demographics that might otherwise give your hotel a try.

From a finance perspective, the introduction of all these new brands within a family of brands in recent years makes total sense, as it allows owners to continue capitalizing within a given region but without direct consumer cannibalism. The public-facing side of this justification is that these new product launches are designed to ‘fit a specific role’ or meet the needs for a previously underserved market segment – evolutionary biology transmogrified through marketing jargon.

On the other hand, this is nonsense.

The more particular an animal’s diet becomes, the harder it is to get food and the more likely that species is to go extinct. For a current example, look no further than comparing hyenas to pandas. No knock against the cuddly bears but a diet almost exclusively of bamboo – and a literal ton of it needed each week for survival – is exceedingly inopportune compared to the voracious appetites of these African scavengers who consume pretty much everything. This is not to say that a panda cannot endure, only that within a less adaptable food pyramid there will naturally be fewer pandas.

Apply this thinking to hotel branding…

… and you can see that everything is fine for these niche sub-brands until the next economic downturn when resources become scarce. In such bare times, a property’s survivability depends on its ability to appeal to multiple demographics so that any one of those can pick up the slack when the others falter.

Those hotels that have spent all of the near-past salad days of roughly 2010 to 2019 gearing their messaging toward a highly discriminating audience are the worst prepared because they don’t know how to hunt any other prey. You can still try to be a panda in lean times, but only a few will make it alive. There’s always room for hyenas, though.

Getting back to the titular question: should your hotel brand fit a specific purpose?

In a broad sense, no. But it’s never that simple. You still need to have a strong base of support from one particular market segment in order to make the marketing process as seamless and cost-effective as possible.

Despite whatever customer data platform (CDP) you are setting up to more effectively integrate all the various touchpoints with the market, finding the balance between specificity and ambiguity is still more an art than a science nowadays. In the post-pandemic era, you should dedicate the upcoming budget season to your branding, sales proposition and product messaging.

  • What are your core segments?
  • Do those passively halo onto other markets?
  • Where do you focus your FF&E to more effectively appeal to a large swath of travelers yet still be meaningful to a core demographic?

These are serious questions, and now is the time to address them.

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About the Author
Together, Larry and Adam Mogelonsky represent one of the world’s most published writing teams in hospitality, with over a decade’s worth of material online. As the partners of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice, Larry focuses on asset management, sales and operations while Adam specializes in hotel technology and marketing. Their experience encompasses properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service.