Hotel groups are putting the power of branding to work, both to differentiate one hotel brand from another, and to distinguish each brand so that it has its own special, unique appeal.
No one knows that better than CEO Andrew Cosslett of InterContinental Hotels Group, owner of such leading hotel brands as InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and Hotel Indigo.
Cosslett says hotels recovering from the weakened worldwide economy now need to rely on "brand strength."
In an interview with Fortune magazine, Cosslett says InterContinental differentiates their hotels by using psychographics. "You try to identify groups of people who think the same, and then offer them brands and products that they really buy into," he says. "We're trying to pull our brands apart, one from the other."
Holiday Inn is a good example of that. In 2007, the chain embarked on a campaign to "contemporize," informing franchisees that if they didn't meet minimum standards by the end of this year, they could risk losing the right to use the famous name.
Cosslett says "Holiday Inn is an icon of the industry. We're bringing it up to date. A lot of that is about the physical property, because the brand is very clear in its position about being authentic and real."
InterContinental, on the other hand, "is for the internationally minded person," says Cosslett. "They have an outlook on life that is more cosmopolitan. They like to have special knowledge of a place or culture wherever they are, even if they're an American traveling in America."
Hotel Indigo, launched by InterContinental in 2004, is widely regarded as the first of the boutique hotel brands that are now commonplace among major hotel chains. InterContinental says "Each Hotel Indigo property is unique and designed to reflect the local culture, character and geography of the surrounding area while brand hallmarks ensure consistent and reliable service from location to location."
As with other global hotel brands, InterContinental has found fertile ground in China. For its Chinese properties, InterContinental may change the way it delivers its product, but not the fundamental concept of differentiation.
Cosslett cites the example of Holiday Inn Express, known in the United States for its trademark cinnamon rolls, a big hit at breakfast. Cosslett says Holiday Inn Express uses the same concept of a signature food, but in China, congee (a rice porridge) is substituted for cinnamon rolls. "The local delivery is different, but the need stays the same," says Cosslett.
For InterContinental, it's all about branding.