Basic approach to position a Hotel Brand

  • How would your marketing strategy differ for launching and promoting a luxury city centre business hotel as a brand vis-a-vis a Destination spa? (LinkedIn question by: L. Aruna Dhir)

There are many angles to be looked into before we can really give a proper answer. However, in brief, the answer lies in the basic positioning and differentiation approach that would define the core strategy. The approach should be as follows:

  1. Where’s the property located? Is it within easy city limits or a bit on the secluded outskirts of the city? If it’s within city limits, “City Centre” business Hotel branding sounds good, while for a far-off location the “Destination Spa” would sound good. Premium destination Spa perhaps would have more appeal with an accommodation added in, if it’s located out of city – since possibility of promoting as “Spa and Resort” would have long term attraction.
  2. What’s the core benefit / value of your product for customers? Is it more towards the hassle-free stay / conference / meetings / banquets? Then positioning within the “City Centre Hotel” market would make good sense. Otherwise, if your core benefit / value on offer is “Leisure and Relaxation”, then it would make more sense in positioning it within the Leisure resort / Spa domain.
  3. What are the possibility of “packaging” the product and increasing its value? Once the above 2 fundamentals are decided, you’ll get a very clear cut core positioning of your product, which will define the next stage – strategy to promote in each case. However, it’s also important to note that it’s not the end of the other option , whichever position you choose. For example:
  • Once you have promoted / established your hotel as a Business Center, you can extend / branch out to the other offering as a part of the 24 hour package; e.g. Conference /Business, Dining, Pub, Spa, Relax… each at different time of the day. It also allows you to promote the Spa separately, and then adding up this sub-brand as a “total hospitality experience”
  • In case of promoting it as a Leisure Resort cum Destination Spa, you can take a similar approach too! Therein, to promote Conference /Banquet / Business products, you can just add: “Our weekend get-away package can also include your business seminars / conferences”

Therefore to answer the question in one sentence:

  • Marketing strategy in each of the cases quoted above differs in the basic orientation and approach one wishes to take in defining the core benefits and values of the brand, vis-a-vis competition (as pointed above).

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What Montblanc could do for “Gandhi”

Recently, Montblanc stirred a controversy in India, while launching the $25,000 worth limited-edition commemorative fountain pen in honor of Gandhi to mark the 140th anniversary of the birth of the Mahatma.

The decision to turn a man – who shunned foreign-made products and pushed simple living to new extremes – virtually into a “brand ambassador”, left some Indians puzzled and others angry. One group filed a lawsuit in India to try and halt distribution of the pen.

What went wrong? The BrandChannel labeled this move as “long on imagination but short on basics”. Montblanc intended to symbolize each element of the design as Gandhi’s life and achievements: e.g. The top of the cap and cone are inspired by the spindle which Gandhi used to spin cotton – one of the symbols of Indian independence.

Personally I feel that by doing this, Montblanc has overlooked 2 vital issues:

  1. Brand creation is not only about symbols related to a good idea – Just by gilding some of the symbols from the freedom movement, as well as imprinting Gandhi on the nib, doesn’t create a “Gandhi” brand! Even though the spindle, white and orange color, etc. do associate with Gandhi, doesn’t exclusively belong to the person or the personality of Gandhi fully. Rather these elements represent the freedom movement he inspired and led. Perhaps if there was a decision to commemorate Indian Freedom movement, these symbols would have been closer associations.
  2. Brand personality cannot be created without some basic values representing the brand – Even though the limited and mass editions were designed with some symbolic associations, they failed to capture the essence of Gandhian values, namely Simplicity, Satyagraha (resistance through mass civil disobedience), Swadeshi (self-sufficiency), Ahimsa (Non-Violence) and Swaraj (self-rule). What’s a brand without any values associated with it? Consider these: By replacing cotton thread with gold,saffron color with a saffron mandarin garnet and the white color with white gold, Montblanc has unknowingly demonstrated that they did not even understand Gandhi’s primary values of simplicity and opulence.

What could have Montblanc done to address its primary objective of raising its brand profile in a 1 billion populated country? There are plenty if ways it could have recreated Gandhi’s values. Some of the ideas could be:

  • Creating a simple pen design closer to Gandhi’s own pen design – by using mass affordable materials – e.g. Bamboo (??), Brass, Wood, Lacquer, etc.
  • Innovative ways of using the thread – not gold, but cotton – strengthened and restored by additional materials
  • Using Bamboo nibs perhaps?
  • Using a hand-woven cotton case for housing / packing the pen
  • Handcrafted pens for and from the masses – e.g. a design developed for mass production by the very people who love Gandhi in the land of Gandhi. (This would incidentally have given Montblanc a lot of exposure and increased its reputation in India)
  • Creating a limited edition out of the various prototypes that would have been developed to mass produce pens as described above

Yes, one final issue however lies in doing so – i.e. probable dilution of “premium-luxury” brand value. Well… this could be restored if Montblanc followed the above strategy for a year or two in some ways, and then released a design closer to the current one, but much toned-down in material and opulence, and with increased dose of donations (from the sale) to charity organizations and Non-Violence movements worldwide.

How to measure ROI on branding and image advertising

  • How do you measure ROI on your branding and image advertising? Please describe the tools, and formulas you are currently using to measure ROI on your offline advertising. LinkedIn question by: David Jacobstein

Let us understand the perspectives on this first. We need to understand what do we actually mean by ROI:

(a) did we literally mean mean to say Return On (our) Investment?

(b) Or did we just use it colloquially to mean just “Returns” from or “Effectiveness” of our branding and image advertising?

In case it’s (a), we must understand that ROI from Branding and Image Advertising usually is not realized immediately. Usually we can see the change after 2-5 years of doing the activity – even though exceptions could be found esp. in case of brands launching new/ innovative products or ideas (eg. Apple, thanks to it’s products since iPod). More often we see that a flurry of innovative product campaigns from “branded house” brands (eg. Samsung), improves Return on (Communication) Investments over short term. In case of the other extreme – ie. the House of Brands (eg. P&G) – there’s more propensity to equate ROI to the Sales growth – even though the dollars might have been spent in branding or image advertising.

In case it’s (b), then we need to question the very basis of of our activity, which will give us answers. What motivated us to do the activity? What are the objectives of the campaign? Are we trying to increase visibility? brand recall? point-of-sale recall? change attitudes? or preferences? develop new habits? change negative to positive? developing a personality for the brand? etc. etc. – the list could fill up many lines here! If we have your objectives laid down, then we would definitely have some reference points to those objectives – eg. in case of brand recall, we might start off with 25% current spontaneous recall that need to be increased to 40% with 5% flexibility. In this case, a “before-after” comparison would give the ROI indications. Similarly, if we perhaps plan to do an image campaign to increase total awareness (aided + unaided), and implement thru extensive outdoor visibility, we might consider “before-after” method again to ascertain ROI.

Therefore, to answer the question:

In general, every image advertising / branding campaigns aim to strengthen / improve upon the rational and emotional values associated with the brand. These values are usually identified and graded through an elaborate process of qualitative and quantitative research tools. Once done, key improvement areas are identified for a branding / image campaign and suggestions given for probable communication solutions. Additionally reference points for these values are created for comparison – empirically or numerically. Once the campaign is developed, it’s pre-tested to see if it addresses the concern areas identified by research. If yes, then the campaign is launched, and a second exercise is done thru the same elaborate process, after concluding the campaign. If the results match the objectives, the campaign is said to be “effective” or labelled as “successful”, giving good ROI.

A note of caution however; if the ROI=Sales growth, some campaigns might sometimes give excellent results, even though the results could hide sensitive factors or problems that might chip off brand value in the long-run, resulting in brand failures.

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How to measure emotional value of products and use it for pricing

  • I have been always debating that one of the major part of pricing any product also includes the Intuitive/Emotional/Convenience pricing. I am finding different manners to measure it and then put it into product pricing. Would love to listen to all of you about various ways that you use to incorporate it. LinkedIn Question by: Tushar Vashnavi

In the simplest possible way you can do the following:

  1. Identify brands u r competing with and do a price analysis, keeping all other factors (ingridients, features, technology, etc.) same. Chances are that these brands are able to charge more, due to advertising (building emotional value) or services (adding rational value)
  2. Identify the emotional and rational values being offered by these competitors. Simplest ways to do this is to have a qualitative study among your target customers and validating with a dipstick quantitative survey (~100 respondents)
  3. Using these value factors, test out your brand’s / product’s comparative position among the brands – on a 5-7 point scale. eg brand between brand A and brand B which one you feel offer more convenience? Probably you can do it as a part of the validating exercise stated above.
  4. Finally, depending on your choice of differentiating value vis-a-vis your competition, you can set a differentiating price, again comparing with your competition.

Lastly, many of us have a tendency to “assume” or have a “gut-feel” about putting a price based on an Intuitive/Emotional/Convenience factor, which is good! But even then, it’s always better to have a reality check through at least step 3 mentioned above, so that you’re sound in your judgement.

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