Matt Landau
  • Founder, VRMB

Doubling Down On Your Hospitality Brand in 2023

If you do one thing thing this year, double down on your hospitality brand.

Your hospitality brand is your unique style of taking care of guests (both internally with your team and outwardly with guests) and it's the single most valuable asset *fully in your control* that deserves attention, resources, and in some cases serious course corrections. Remember, Quality Branded IP stands the test of time.

I just got back from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic staying at LMejias LMejias property Fixie Lofts who has done a model job of doubling down on their hospitality brand from scratch (they restored the building from the ground-up).

But you don't need to restore a historic building to double down on your hospitality brand in 2023. Your hospitality brand is the sum of the things you (and your teammates) do, say, and think both when interacting with guests and internally or alone. This sum is your brand! Here are some tips and deep-dive threads to provide inspiration...
  • Inject "lifestyle brand" vibes into a new photography or trade influencers for them to take lifestyle branding pics (Thread)
  • Add a new budget line item to hospitality gestures, arguably the best branding you can buy (Thread)
  • Convey "Character" more with property owner stories, "thinking like a local" snippets, and newsletter launches (Thread)
  • Incentivize your team to freestyle (Thread)
Some of you are already doubling down on these things: do more of it! Others aren't giving their hospitality brand enough attention...time to get serious!

2023 will probably bring more change to the STR industry than any year prior but those who are building quality branded IP are best positioned to ride the wave on their terms.
 
Thank you Matt!

It is not always about financial muscle, but about character.

Our nearest competitor is a chain of high end villas, where butlers serve you breakfast.
We could not compete with that level of hospitality.

So we focused on being genuine, on a "less is more" approach. Humble, simple, small but tasteful.

Our space was built from local natural materials, instead of marble from Italy.

A Fodor's editor stayed in both spaces, and revealed to us "What do I care about a German piano from XIX? The place looks like a museum".

Their project is owned by a wealthy industrial local family. We are a couple of creators who used to travel independently, and so are our guests.

This is just to say that you don't need expensive amenities or a German piano to show style.

When L'Officiel Paris, the quintessential luxury magazine, featured our space, I realized that there's a new luxury that does not rely on marbled floors.

However, we have just started and still need to implement lots of MK gestures.
 
I guess my issue with branding is that it feels like a marshmallow. It's a little hard to get a real concept of, and I can't quite put a finger on something concrete. And then how do you express it? Develop a set of words that are used repeatedly to portray a concept? Offer reviews that support the concept? Branding feels borderless to me and changeable. I know I'm missing the point, but I'm just not sure what it is!
 
I guess my issue with branding is that it feels like a marshmallow. It's a little hard to get a real concept of, and I can't quite put a finger on something concrete. And then how do you express it? Develop a set of words that are used repeatedly to portray a concept? Offer reviews that support the concept? Branding feels borderless to me and changeable. I know I'm missing the point, but I'm just not sure what it is!
Branding is everything you do to accomplish two things:

1) Strongly define yourself within the minds of your customers and prospective customers - What are you about? What customers do you serve? How do you serve them?

2) Differentiate you from your competition (and any and everything else), such that no one would mistake you for another entity, or not recognize you in a future encounter. Put another way, are you distinctive and memorable? And how can you make yourself more so?

You're quite correct when you say branding is borderless. It can and should encompass everything that you do.

It's not just words. Part of our brand is that we take great care of our guests. And we go so far as to state that in our marketing "We take great care of our guests!" There's nothing ambiguous about that. But then we also actually do that. Especially if they need us. It's so much more than just words. It informs and affects everything we do, and how we do it. For example, our homes are better prepped and equipped than the norm in our area. And if there's anything a customer needs or wants, we never say "We don't do that," we simply get it done. That's all part of our brand.

Branding is changeable? I suppose that this is true as well... one can change their branding, but it's not a good idea unless there is something wrong with it in the first place. For branding to help make you memorable, it has to be consistent. This allows the messages that convey your branding, and ultimately you (your business) to become familiar, remembered and recognizable.

Branding is NOT like your underwear! It shouldn't be changed frequently!
 
Our brand- Sea Ranch Abalone Bay is defined by
  • location: oceanfront home on CAs rugged north coast that also includes redwoods for when the seas become boring.
    Decor reflects the blues and greens of the sea, natural fibers and materials where possible
  • architectural style- Sea Ranch is its own style developed from theThird Bay Area Tradition-
    To put a specific branding pin on that I intentionally hired one of the original architects to upgrade our house and add a fancy garage.
    Our library boasts Sea Ranch history, architectural, and design books
  • the red abalone, a dying specie of mollusk, the reason we bought the place to dive for abalone that has since been decimated by climate change, over harvesting, and invasion of purple urchin.
    This is something I need to embrace more- even though the niche of divers that we originally catered to is no longer viable. The information I have about diving, the red abalone (diving for it, recipes, efforts to revive the specie) are a close second in SEO only to my landing page
Our style is Luxe for the family- I needed something that would endure our grandkids and dogs... as well as those of our guests but have a sense of subtle luxury. So we have "curated" (sadly a word that is now becoming overused and perhaps ultimately meaningless) our amenities to meet those expectations.

Branded items in the house: coasters, grocery bags, bath product bottles, all messages (welcome, save water etc.)

Currently in the works- I'm working with the illustrator of a recent book about abalone to replicate a drawing from the book, but superimposed on a nautical map of Sonoma County (our specific location) rather than the entire state.
 
Our brand- Sea Ranch Abalone Bay is defined by
  • location: oceanfront home on CAs rugged north coast that also includes redwoods for when the seas become boring.
    Decor reflects the blues and greens of the sea, natural fibers and materials where possible
  • architectural style- Sea Ranch is its own style developed from theThird Bay Area Tradition-
    To put a specific branding pin on that I intentionally hired one of the original architects to upgrade our house and add a fancy garage.
    Our library boasts Sea Ranch history, architectural, and design books
  • the red abalone, a dying specie of mollusk, the reason we bought the place to dive for abalone that has since been decimated by climate change, over harvesting, and invasion of purple urchin.
    This is something I need to embrace more- even though the niche of divers that we originally catered to is no longer viable. The information I have about diving, the red abalone (diving for it, recipes, efforts to revive the specie) are a close second in SEO only to my landing page
Our style is Luxe for the family- I needed something that would endure our grandkids and dogs... as well as those of our guests but have a sense of subtle luxury. So we have "curated" (sadly a word that is now becoming overused and perhaps ultimately meaningless) our amenities to meet those expectations.

Branded items in the house: coasters, grocery bags, bath product bottles, all messages (welcome, save water etc.)

Currently in the works- I'm working with the illustrator of a recent book about abalone to replicate a drawing from the book, but superimposed on a nautical map of Sonoma County (our specific location) rather than the entire state.
An added thought on branding. Of course the first thought is all about the guest. But then on the second thought...it's also about your place within a community- is your brand a valued one or one that becomes a thorn in your neighborhood's side?

For the good (I hope) or the bad (as one someone who has the audacity to be successful as an independent owner in a very closed to others HOA), it appears my brand is now recognized, praised by my guests, demonized by those few who would like to see all STRs shrivel up and blow away on the sea breezes that encircle our community.
 
I guess my issue with branding is that it feels like a marshmallow. It's a little hard to get a real concept of, and I can't quite put a finger on something concrete. And then how do you express it? Develop a set of words that are used repeatedly to portray a concept? Offer reviews that support the concept? Branding feels borderless to me and changeable. I know I'm missing the point, but I'm just not sure what it is!
Debi, thanks for making this point. And at the risk of fueling your argument LOL I wanted to share that your issue was also me/mine after saying the word branding more times than I care to admit over the years. What does it even mean anymore?!?!?

One part of that puzzle is that branding as a category is vague and hard to put a finger on -- unlike SEO where everything is quantifiable, a brand encapsulates all touchpoints you get from interacting with a person or company. Hospitality is the new branding/marketing in a sense (full discussion here).

But my big turning point was when I stopped thinking about all the superficial/technical branding stuff (logo, color scheme, style guide, monogrammed towels...etc.) and started thinking about that person or company's story:
  • Who are they?
  • Are they passionate?
  • Do I resonate with them -- do they make me feel in some way?
In this sense, one can be doing great branding without ANY of the stuff mentioned above.

I believe articulating your own original story in a way that resonates with others is much more valuable to think about and invest in. Please be sure to read the chapter on Storytelling in the trends report and share your thoughts :)
 

About the author

Joined
Last seen
Top