Circos Brand Karma

Official Blog of Circos

What’s the purpose of your brand?

with one comment

I was on a panel with Karthik Siva at the Asia Luxury Travel Market in Shanghai where we discussed traditional vs. “new wave” branding.  Karthik is the visionary behind Global Brand Forum.  The panel was moderated by Siew Hoon Yeoh of Web-in-Travel (aka WIT), the conference where we launched Brand Karma last year.  Though he represented traditional marketing and I represented “new wave,” I found much in common with his thinking.

One such common perspective revolves around the purpose of a brand and its importance today.  Luxury brands have long understood the need to define a unique purpose and have been fulfilling it by manifesting features to not only justify their price point, but also to retain customers.

But what about non-luxury brands?  Does price trump all?

I don’t think so.  Some of the businesses that have filed for bankruptcy actually used price as a key differentiator (e.g. Mervyns) or resorted to using price as a tool to stimulate volume (e.g. General Motors, Eddie Bauer).

Hoteliers around the world are dropping prices.  At the same time, in the eyes of travelers, hotel stay experiences have become more generic.  I hear a lot more statements like “I can’t tell the differences between these hotels,” and “the rooms are all pretty much the same.”  I also see it on the trend graphs in Brand Karma.  If customers don’t feel passion for their product, hoteliers may have to use pricing as the strategy because it typically has an immediate impact of driving volume… at least for a while.  But that’s not sustainable in the long run.  Both General Motors and Eddie Bauer created products that customers didn’t want to buy… eventually even lower prices didn’t work because both brands failed to inspire or stand for something that consumers cared to spend any money on.

Hence hoteliers, if you haven’t already done so, now might be a good time to do a quick check up on your brand purpose.  You don’t need to hire a consultant to do this.  Just answer these questions honestly:

  1. Why does your brand exist?
  2. How is that relevant today?
  3. What are you and your staff doing to deliver on the brand promise?
  4. How is what you’re doing different from what your competitors are doing?
  5. Would your customers agree with your answers?

The answer to question 5 is critical, and the impact of a “no” or “I don’t know” could be devastating.  Check out AT&T’s change in its upgrade policy for the iPhone and also the site about consumer credit card rules for a sense of how things could evolve.

As a starting point, take a look at what’s been publicly expressed about your brand.  This will give you a pretty good idea, whether you agree or not, at how your guests really felt about their stay experiences.  Because their reviews are public, their words also shape potential customers’ impression of your brand when they research your brand — which has a direct impact on whether consumers book a room at your property or not.

Finally, even when not reviewing your brand, users express strong opinions about what ought to happen, echoing general consumer sentiments or raising expectations.  This may have a significant impact on the relevance of your offering.  For example, Gary Arndt recently tweeted something I’m sure many travelers think of:

  • “So many places say they have ‘internet’ but do not mention if it is free or if it is just a computer in a common area”
  • “I know free wifi is becoming the deal breaker for me and a lot of other people. Hotels should take note”

How influential will people like Gary Arndt be?  His tweet currently reaches over 72,000 followers.


One Response

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  1. If a few hotels will take heed and install a wireless router ($50 investment) my work will be done.

    Gary Arndt

    June 18, 2009 at 3:34 pm

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