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Why Boutique Hotels Need An Authentic Brand Story

Boutique hotels are everywhere! There are now tens of thousands of these stylish and fashionable locations to stay at around the world, but what makes any one of these ‘special’? Why would I part with my money to stay just there? What makes it stand out from the rest as unique in an increasingly crowded market place? Let’s investigate.

So, you check in, sleep, eat and then check out. Plain and simple. There is really nothing to write on social media about. Honestly – the hotel rating was as described. The room was clean and the bed was comfortable. The staff were efficient and very polite. All was as it should be. But somehow, there was a lack of spirit; it had no soul, no purpose. There was no magic and when guests visit boutique hotels they want magic. We crave new and beautiful experiences and we crave a special story.

It looks like the management had deliberately planned to deliver the minimum required to meet the specification and really nothing more. Room booked, credit card charged and a transaction took place. So what?

I’m a huge believer that every boutique hotel, in fact every business has a story to share. When we as marketers and leaders deliver the minimum required and deal only in transactions, we are disappointing our clients, we are selling ourselves short and all we can do is compete on price. Once we start competing on price alone, our cause is lost.

All human beings subconsciously mirror behaviours, so when we deal in transactions we become transactional brands. When we go above and beyond, people know it. When we are kind and generous, people respond…. they almost can’t help it. The inadequacy of the adequate isn’t just that it leaves guests feeling flat, it’s that it denies us the opportunity to do our best, most meaningful work.

Boutique hotels have a huge advantage over the mega brands like Hilton and Marriott; flexibility. They can be flexible with their marketing, dynamic with their communication and even quirky with their personality. We all know that the industry is super competitive and so boutique hotels need to differentiate themselves in order to survive and thrive. Just holding on to the ‘boutique is better’ mentality will likely not help to entice and keep savvy guests.

Some common stories that I see in boutique hotels: –

“We are better because we’re not the Hilton”
“Local and authentic cuisine”
“Sexy cocktails, cool staff and amazing spa days”
“Contemporary design”

All these stories communicate the same thing under a different name. The argument that small hotel brands are so much better than big hotel brands because they engage with guests in a more personal manner began in 1981 with the launch of Kimpton Hotels. But that was 35 years ago and it’s time for a new narrative.
Perhaps it is best to begin by asking why are we in this industry? Why this hotel? What is the true story behind this hotel? Every single person has a story. Are we unique, focused…. even personal? Think beyond a room and beyond a guest. What is it that you love about your hotel? Once you begin to answer these questions, you can narrow down the most important things to you and start writing your story. Let it touch the heart of your guests, not just tell a simple story. A great narrative has the power to increase the value of a boutique hotel 20 times over. It has the power to significantly increase direct bookings, if done well. The key is an authentic story that guests will be interested in and fall in love with.
The majority of stories are ego-centric; look at our amazing hotel, we’ve won so many awards ….and other messages that don’t relate to the guest. Of course this message is important, but not at the beginning. It’s important only after we get the guests attention.

As human beings we make emotional decisions. We like to think we make logical decisions but unfortunately we often don’t. What do you think makes us choose one hotel over the other? In fact what makes us choose one brand over the other? It all comes down to feelings, as a successful brand strategy makes us ‘feel’ something when we see a particular product.

Brand stories are incredibly powerful. Think of Airbnb’s ‘Belong Anywhere’ story. Think of Hotel Indigo and you will notice they have a dedicated page to their brand story and their slogan ‘Travel like an explorer. Stay like a local’. What about Moxy Brand from Marriott International? A new boutique hotel targeting millennials who want affordable, chic accommodation with cool communal facilities and an all-night bar.

In order to create your brand story you need to define your core message. What do I mean by that? You need to have the base – what is it that you stand for, why does your hotel exist? Get your team together and start brainstorming. Your core message needs to match your brand personality, then once you create your brand story you will need to decide on your tone of voice.

Hotels are in a perfect position to leverage a dreamlike kind of travel using storytelling. People get inspired by their friends and influencers on social media. Once you’ve truly created the rich, independent and personal story of who you are, then you can buy exposure with advertising tools like Facebook and/or Instagram Ads.

Your brand story needs to make the hotel memorable and differentiated. In a crowded space you need to stand out, and a compelling brand story can attract new guests and old guests too, who will share your story with their friends, because marketing is all about word of mouth.

If you need help with your hotel brand story, you can contact us today at [email protected].



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