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Brand Positioning Case Study: ibis Hotels

Category : branding, campaigns

17

I was traveling in Europe last week visiting customers and partners and staying in a variety of hotels as it was a multi-country trip. Two of the legs of the trip were in Belgium and the Netherlands where I had the opportunity to stay at a couple of the hotels in the ibis Hotel chain. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert in hotel management or hotel marketing but there were some features of these hotels that caught my eye and made me think of a couple very important characteristics of a well-done branding campaign.

Thus, here is a small case study from my experience last week.

I’ve stayed in the ibis hotels a few times on previous trips to Europe and twice on this trip so my sampling for this study is not large. But, I have seen some similarities across the chain that led me to want to highlight them.

The picture to the left is a small stand-up display card located in both of my rooms. The message is letting me know that whatever the problem I may encounter, they will resolve it in 15 minutes or less or the room is on them. Their Quality Assurance page on their website shows the same message in English. In the Netherlands, I didn’t have a problem but there was a minor issue needing resolution. To me it was not urgent and would not have affected my stay, but an out-of-breathe employee was at my door with a resolution in under 15 minutes. He smiled and let me know he had it done in 12. But, the best part – he was proud of it and you could see that.

Other similar displays touching on their level of service were posted throughout the hotel and for each I could probably drum up an example of an employee backing up the guarantee. The advertisements and messaging were created in a main headquarters somewhere – but the execution and strengthening of the message on a daily basis is being carried out by the employees. This leads us to a very key point – a campaign or branding message is nothing without the proper execution of the customer facing employees.

As Marketers we brainstorm creative deliveries of key company brand characteristics but sometimes overlook the importance of making sure everyone understands what we’re trying to accomplish and say. Here are a few key steps in assuring all front line employees can back up your go-to-market efforts:

  • Training: It doesn’t take too long to get key personnel in a room or on a webinar and present a few slides on your branding or campaign effort. The last thing you want is for them to hear of the campaign from a customer. If the customer feels a disconnect between the campaign or message and the employee to which they’re talking, the whole thing has a lot less weight in the customer’s eyes.
  • Give Campaign Material a Dry Run: You’ve got the perfect graphics, presentations, advertisements, brochures, slogans, and imagery ready to roll, but why not take a step back and release it internally first. Yes, you may not hear exactly what you want, but the impressions and feedback from your internal co-workers can help fine tune the materials for the customer.
  • Step Into the Interaction: I’ve made it a habit to travel with salespeople and present our positioning to customers and partners – or watch them do it. How comfortable are they with what they’re presenting? How is it being received by the customer? What questions are generated? It’s not that I don’t trust the feedback if I’m not present, but there is nothing like seeing it real-time.

Again, I’m not a hotel brand expert but the key message is the same across many industries – Employees need to reinforce brand positioning. Any disconnect will trigger a lack of confidence with the customer. I was curious if there was other content floating around about similar topics and there is quite a bit. Here were a few that caught my eye:

Any thoughts from you on this? Any positive or negative engagements with hotel brands you want to share?

Comments (17)

[...] Brand Positioning Case Study: ibis Hotels I was traveling in Europe last week visiting customers and partners and staying in a variety of hotels as it was a multi-country trip. Two of the legs of the trip were in Belgium and the Netherlands… [...]

Pat- I have to agree that the main ingredient for a service based business is the front line employees. I can’t count the number of times a server, front desk associate or sales clerk was unaware of current promotions, offers or marketing that brought me in their door.

That disconnect can lead to bad experiences for the customer, no matter how “cool”, catchy or creative the marketing materials and message.

On a bigger note, it’s GREAT to have you posting again.

Thanks, Aaron! It’s great to be writing and discussing again.

Pat,

That second bullet point—give campaign material a dry run—is a great one. (Wonder if Gap wishes they’d done a little dry run before last year’s logo fiasco?) I don’t think enough companies realize that internal opinions could save them a lot of external trouble… if only they’d trust their people enough to listen carefully to those opinions.

An outsider’s eye is great too, and most of the big companies, at least, realize that… but the people who are “on the ground” are deep into the way the company really functions day-to-day. They have a heck of a lot to say. The top folks just have to be willing to hear it from them.

Nice post!

Regards,

Kelly

Kelly,

Thanks for the comment. I’ve been a part of marketing groups in the past that think they have all the answers and understand the customer better than anyone else. But, I think one of the functions of a marketing team is to keep evolving our understanding by learning from those around us – and that includes internal employees. Gathering, utilizing, and filtering their feedback is key.

Thanks,
Pat

Ibis as a brand comes to life because Ibis as a company has gotten its story straight — so straight, so interesting, a satisfied customer can repeat it to the world! Your three points are good ideas for helping other companies accomplish the same thing.

Pat, glad to see you’re actively blogging again! This post is a good example of finding the marketing lessons, for good and bad, wherever we interact with a company. (When you’re immersed in marketing, you just kind of look at the world differently, don’t you?)

Hey Barrett,

You’re right – working in marketing (and blogging about it) definitely causes me to analyze more how other brands are interacting with me. It’s a fun perspective to see it from that angle as well as a consumer.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

-Pat

Pat,

Having that card in a hotel room is a nice touch, certainly worth the cost of printing them up.

Having their customers notice that the hotel staff is honoring the campaign is very good and inexpensive marketing.

And having their customers discuss this positive performance online is a priceless marketing advantage!

As someone else said, welcome back! I found you blog a few years ago – we’re a trade show display provider, and your article on trade show ROI caught my eye. I started following you then – and am pleasantly surprised to notice some new articles appearing again. Please keep them coming.

Hi Pat

Simply liked your Post. The experience which you had shared about your European trip was quite impressive. Well, I also keep searching such similarities while going for outdoor trip.

Pat,
nice article… again!
but brand positioning in hotel industrie isn’t so simple…

Yeah Ive stayed there before! Great article by the way…

There is nothing worse than having a load of marketing material telling you thing and having front line employees offer a completely different service.

Being I’ve stayed at 4 star hotels in the States where the A/C didn’t work, and the staff was atrocious, I always appreciate Europe’s hospitality. Ibis is a good chain, but I’ve found it even in the lesser priced chains like Mercure too.

Hi Patrick,

Great example of a big corporate articulating a measurable promise and having it backed up by the face of the brand (the front line). Hats off to Ibis, and the hotel managers that inspire this performance in their team.

[...] addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true};I recently wrote about an experience I had in Europe staying at Ibis hotels. I was impressed with their marketing of their services and the backing of that brand marketing by [...]

[...] Brand Positioning Case Study: ibis Hotels, which starts off with a first-hand account like Melanie’s, but then does something very different.  Melanie offers two very important things: she embeds a video so we can learn more about the hotel’s service and she connects us to another blogger who, like Melanie, describes the hotel service from a consumer’s point-of-view.  That’s always good to have: to see that we are not alone and to find patterns and categories.  So far, so good.   [...]

Patrick, well said. Brand positioning is definitely key. So many of our clients think that there is some magic marketing bullet, but it is really a culmination of many things. This is paramount.