Should Lilypad’s Hotels Be Marketed Under the Corporate Brand or Their Own Brands?

LILYPAD HOTELS and Resorts could certainly create some connections among its brands; the business rationale for doing so is evident. However, Andre needs to proceed with caution: It’s critical that any linkages don’t compromise the value of the individual offerings. A plan to emphasize the corporate brand over the property brands might very well backfire. The implicit promise from each property is that no other hotel in the area will offer guests the same sort of culturally grounded travel experience. But how credible can that one of-a-kind claim be if La Plaza’s “handwoven” bathrobes are made in China and stamped with the Lilypad logo? Once you start making branding choices that don’t ring true or that otherwise detract from the customer experience, you’ve gone too far. Lilypad’s brands are quite distinct in customers’ minds – that’s their greatest strength. So instead of making signifi cant and observable changes in the rooms themselves, Lilypad’s management team should emphasize changes behind the scenes to help boost the company’s cross-sell numbers. The soft endorsements Lilypad is already doing (putting its name on coat hangers, for instance) may still infl uence customers’ behavior over time. But the company should also make better use of other resources – specifically, the internet and various players in the travel industry. By linking the individual properties’ websites to the corporate one, for instance, Lilypad would be able to give customers more information about the hotels. It might even engender a community of “brand fans.” And by forging stronger relationships with travel agents and the trade press, Lilypad would be able to tell the corporate story more comprehensively than it has in the past. What’s clear, though, is that Andre and his team haven’t found the right balance between the company’s two approaches to brand management. Lilypad has been espousing a strong bottom-up approach: Managers at individual properties have used their own marketing methods. This seems to be working – Lilypad properties are on a best-of list in a travel magazine, so someone is doing something right. Now Lilypad’s VP of sales and marketing is nudging the CEO toward a top-down approach in which all brand promises fl ow from corporate. But this is likely to fail without a clear corporate brand strategy, which the company sorely lacks. Andre will need to position the Lilypad name broadly enough to encompass all the company’s diverse properties. Obviously, he should start with the current brand promise and key in on the fact that Lilypad is not trying to “out-luxe” its rivals. Rather, it is offering distinctive cultural experiences with decidedly local points of view. True, each property will do this differently – but each must meet overall expectations that customers will get something that’s one of a kind. Lilypad must also understand its target market better. Only certain types of business travelers will want and need the same things as typical leisure travelers. Andre could take a closer look at competitors’ branding strategies – although in many cases it would be an apples-to-oranges comparison. A company like Abercrombie & Kent emphasizes unique, high - end travel experiences,

That’s twenty-fi rst-century brand management in a nutshell. They also need to remember that being part of a large corporate structure shouldn’t require Lilypad’s already successful properties to make any sacrifices. Customers. The top team was then able to make a strong business case for new branding investments – which have resulted in significant increases in sales and cross-property usage. he thought about the brand once a year. he thought about it once a day. they need to be clear about what it represents. At one point. which casts the individual brands in sentimental. niche and focused. Take the Virgin brand: It’s not exclusively about airlines or beverages or broadband . “I think we need to do things differently. offering its hotel guests expert-led tours of the Egyptian pyramids or the chance to play a game of polo with a professional. At most companies. Andre is thinking about Lilypad as the best little secret in hotel management. It’s evident from the unfocused way Andre and others talk about the Lilypad brand that they don’t have a clear sense of the customer. To get more clarity about whether the company should be. which frames the corporate brand in terms of execution and operations. and quality recognition. emotional terms. Instead of approaching this branding matter as a name-change question. how Lilypad positions itself vis-à-vis its customers will have a huge bearing on its future as a brand. Andre and his colleagues need to systematically examine the corporate brand through a couple of important lenses: customers and culture. But by the end of the case study. service. So when someone from sales and marketing drops by and says. and what will future customers look like?” Market research can help. say. Andre is becoming embroiled in the subjective and emotional topic of company names and identities. the individual properties are characterized as feeding people’s desires and aspirations. the brand is an immensely valuable asset. By the time his tenure was over. there to leverage long-term business strategy. If Andre and his colleagues want to emphasize the corporate brand. He and his colleagues aren’t objectively considering the brand as a powerful asset. Andre should start with the current brand promise and key in on the fact that Lilypad is not trying to “out-luxe” its rivals. At Lilypad. Ultimately.” the chief executive is put in a diffi cult position. five years later. but also touts “expertise” as part of its brand. which frankly makes them not that different from a lot of organizations – particularly midsize businesses seeking McDonald’s or Disney levels of name.too. it’s critical to ask. Should Lilypad’s Hotels Be Marketed Under the Corporate Brand or Their Own Brands? A FORMER C EO of British Airways once told me that when he first joined the airline. Great brands are single-minded about what makes them different from others. but often CEOs have had little formal training in this area. “Who are Lilypad’s current customers. The tool uncovered how value was generated at different properties by determining the optimal relationship between customer-satisfaction scores and customer-experience attributes. They are looking at brand management in a surface way. Interbrand created a value-based modeling tool for a global hotel company that was trying to answer brand questions similar to Lilypad’s.

Otherwise he won’t just have a not-invented here problem. sales and acquisitions. each property manager is a warlord in charge of his own fi efdom. the result will be. design. at best.connections. It will require the orchestration of everyone who in some way touches the Lilypad customer – people in billing. they will also create certain expectations among customers. Culture. Andre will also need to get buy-in from the senior leaguers across these different constituencies.If Lilypad’s senior managers increase the role of the corporate brand. . deeply unhappy customers. The brand attribute shared by these disparate business lines is Virgin’s commitment to serving customers. That’s one of the fi rst things Andre’s going to have to change if he wants to build a global brand – and I think he recognizes how diffi cult that will be. a wasted name-change investment – and at worst. and so on. And if the business isn’t aligned to deliver on those expectations. he’ll have a not-executed-here problem. At Lilypad.

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