Branding for Us Little Guys

Some of the strategic hospitality marketing advisors found in newsletters and blogs seem to forget that small companies lack the resources enjoyed by big businesses. Small businesses are often fully engaged in day-to-day stuff with no spare time for new programs or introspection. One of those “Madison Avenue” marketing strategies that keeps coming up is ‘branding’.

Here is a link to a very complete definition of branding, and all its permutations. Wikipedia: Brand

Branding can be defined as the group of facts and practices which help define a company’s image in the minds of the public and consumers. Simply put: your brand is your ‘public image’.

Elements of Branding
Marketing elements like advertisements, logos, company colors, press releases, brochures, and social media presence are some of the obvious parts of branding. In hospitality marketing the property’s physical characteristics are part of your brand too. Among these brand elements I’d list your property’s physical appearance, phone manners, staff appearance and attitude, and guest services policies. These shape the consumer’s experience, so will effect public perception.

Features and Amenities:
Branding comes in at the property level as property owners make decisions about facility amenities (hot tub v.s. playground; tent sites v.s. RV sites etc.). “That’s the park with the [insert special feature here]”. “Big Rig Friendly”, “Pet Friendly”, and many other features can be part of your brand.

In the travel industry a key piece of who you are is WHERE you are located. In many cases location is the primary reason why consumers choose a property. Parks that are near major destinations will be branded as “that place near (major destination”).

Does Branding give you a pain in the backside?

Little Guy Branding
The small business person can benefit from some of the principles of branding, without sweating the major issues. Consistent use and repetition of your brand message creates awareness of it. Here are some useful branding principles for action:

1.) Be consistent with your color scheme and photos. Direct all the vendors who do your marketing stuff to use the same color combinations. Resist the tendency to re-invent yourself in each ad.

2.) Have a ‘catch phrase’ or ‘motto’ or ‘slogan’ that increases understanding. Use the same phrase all the time, in every ad, web page, brochure, and business card; on signs in the park, on registration slips, site maps…every thing. A recent favorite of mine: Orangeland RV Park–California’s Friendliest!

3.) Communicate honestly. Your branding must ring true to the casual observer, or it will not stick in the mind of the target audience. If you untruthfully ‘over-hype’ a feature it is like making a promise that you don’t keep. You don’t want to be branded as a liar.

If your business is small you have limited resources. You may not be able to sponsor the Olympics or do sky-writing at a ball game, but you CAN work to have a core vision of your brand, and use that as a guiding principle as you create things, direct employees and vendors, and communicate with your customers.

Other Resources:
Book: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. Al Ries, Jack Trout, 1987 (A Google Book too)