Raise the Bar on Your Brand

Saturday 6th May 2017

Building a brand is crucial to any hotel marketing strategy. But how do marketeers move the brand forward as the business grows; sub-branding or fractured branding, which is best for you?


It’s vital to establish a strong brand for your hotel if you want to move forward towards success. A brand that represents both what is on offer and what a customer will receive during a visit or a stay is critical. But once a brand is in place how is this developed, and what path should you choose for your hotel without losing focus?

There are two clear paths available to growing businesses; sub-branding or fractured branding. Both of these methods allow a business to move forward, whilst maintaining a cohesive message throughout. Each has a particular strength and suits a certain type of growth.

Sub-branding is known as the monolithic approach, and requires a very strong overarching brand which has already developed brand loyalty amongst its customers. The sub-brands utilise the equity of the core brand, resulting in customers, guests and visitors buying, first and foremost, into the brand, and secondly, the hotel, restaurant or spa.

There are some hugely successful international businesses using sub-branding exceptionally well, such as Google, Apple and even the BBC. In the travel industry a key player that uses this model is Virgin. Richard Branson created a well trusted and highly thought of brand in Virgin, before going on to use this trusted symbol, and the promises that come along with it, to create other very successful businesses. The result has been fantastic. Customers have invested their trust in these new Virgin businesses, trusting they would receive the affordable luxury the core brand conveys.

Fractured branding works in a very different way and is a pluralistic method of breaking down your brand while still retaining it, and its promises, across your business model. With this method, the actual brand can be hidden and the individual hotel offering is central.

Fragmentation offers the ability for each offering, each hotel, to be viewed individually. This allows you to market each property to a specific target audience and facilitate each offering to have its own unique story and personality.

The driver behind choosing a path does not come only as a result of considering what outcome your business wants to achieve. It should also stem from an analysis of what your brand and business is already, and what it will offer moving forward.

A key motivating factor in heading down the sub-branding route is a desire to look bigger and expand on an already established and trusted brand. Businesses forming part of one central brand have the gravitas of those under the same umbrella, making them appear larger and giving the impression of having a strong history and grounding.

With a fragmented brand, each hotel is given the appearance of exclusivity. It's made to feel more than a spin-off of the main brand.

Phil Roberts, Middleweight Designer, Journey

There is also the importance and economic stability of brand loyalty and what this equates to. Taking the example of Tesco, you see a business that began as a supermarket and has gone on to branch out into banking, insurance, clothing lines, and the list goes on. But it is the overall branding that has made these ventures successful.

The inevitable link between the brand’s businesses enables people to continue their own relationship with the brand in multiple situations. Consumers have bought into the brand. Tesco supermarket shoppers want to get their fuel from Tesco because they trust the brand, and know it will remunerate them for their loyalty.

We may then wonder why would you embark on segmenting a brand? Logistically it makes less sense, it creates more workload, and developing the brand loyalty is harder. However, the key to this approach is individuality and the ability to personalise each offering.

With a fragmented brand, each hotel is given the appearance of exclusivity. It’s made to feel more than a spin-off of the main brand. Each offering, whether it be a hotel, restaurant or spa is personalised and given it’s own story.

A good time to head down this path is when a new offering will not strengthen the existing brand. This doesn’t mean the new aspect is poorer; in fact it could be quite the opposite. For example a new, state of the art spa, may not go hand in hand with the hotel’s existing affordable offering or appeal to the core clientele. If this is the case, fracture the brand – avoid alienating your existing customer base while also being able to appeal to the new market. If you plan to go a different way with a new aspect of your business, for example you want a new hotel restaurant to appeal to local people, fracturing the brand and distancing the new department from existing assumptions can allow you to move forward.

There could also be cause to take this route if your hotels or businesses have a particular historical background or a special unique nature to them. As marketers we would advise the promotion and focus on individuality when there is a fascinating story to tell or a rich heritage.

It’s vital to remember each of these routes has their pros and cons depending on what your offering is, how you want to market your business and what you hope that outcome will be.