Opinion: Hotel branding ludicrous

IT IS understandable that customers may be confused by the many different brands that have been introduced to the market during the last few years. However, when you look at the market today, our guests are more and more demanding and seeking a unique experience. They are also more knowledgeable and make their own decisions as to where they will spend their savings for the vacation they have been looking forward to.

To hoteliers, being just a five-star hotel is no longer enough to compete in today’s market. Brands and labels are created to inspire and attract the attention of our guests and customers. The challenge is how to get the message across.

In the case of Sofitel, which is hardly new to the market, the brand underwent repositioning in 2008, and the strategic decision at the time was to create two supplementary labels anchored to the core brand “Sofitel Luxury Hotels”. The two labels, as we refer to them within the organisation and in all our external communication, are Sofitel Legend and Sofitel So. Hotels carrying the Sofitel Legend or Sofitel So labels are still considered Sofitel brands; this is reflected not only in the name but also in the operating standards, the logos (they both carry the same font type of Sofitel core brand in the logo), distribution channels (they are all distributed on Sofitel.com), as well as the essence of French flair.

Sofitel So is a label that was first introduced in Mauritius in December 2010. The label carries with it all the Sofitel Luxury Hotels operating standards, with some embellishment unique to the label to target Sofitel Luxury Hotels guests who prefer a more ‘design boutique hotel’ experience. Each Sofitel So property has a signature French designer (example of one of the French flair elements that it shares with the core brand) – including Kenzo Takada (Mauritius) and Monsieur Christian Lacriox (Bangkok), and the design and concept of the hotel expresses the soul of the destination where the hotel is located. For our upcoming property in Singapore, the hotel’s name will be Sofitel So Singapore.

Sofitel Legend, on the other hand, caters to more traditional travellers who prefer old world charm and a palace experience. This element is unique to Sofitel Legend properties only. Similar to Sofitel So, the label offers service standards that are uniquely Sofitel, but take them a notch higher with services such as full butler service and the history of each Sofitel Legend property itself. The label was launched in 2009 with the introduction of Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, followed by Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam in 2011.

Sofitel’s communication strategy for this exercise is to base our key message around the brands’ core values, which all lead back to our link to France and highlight the uniqueness of each property depending on the labels they carry.

By Markland Blaiklock, senior vice president, Sofitel Asia-Pacific

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