How to identify the right lifestyle brand partner
Seeking sustainable business success and profitability; a new “consumer power of attraction”; something unique that completely stands out from the crowded market of hotel brands?
Choosing the right hotel brand is no longer just about choosing which logo to put on the property and which design standards and product features to follow. It goes beyond a “one size fits all” product proposition and is about service and experiences. The power of the brand is no longer only in the hands of the owner but with the consumer who has more power of influence.
Contributed by Emanuel Schreiner, Founder, RVS Hospitality, Graz, Austria
Travelers’ preferences continue to evolve and they seek more personalization, authenticity, recognition and unforgettable and lasting experiences in hotel stays. Due to COVID-19, the hospitality industry has been challenged as consumer needs and desires continue to evolve and as a result hoteliers must adapt and respond by developing new concepts and experiences. engaging and innovative to create love beyond reason so customers come back for more.
So, by creating entirely new hotel experiences, branded experiences are a coveted solution to take your hotel to the next level, set it apart from the competition and drive bookings.
More recently, hotel owners are considering partnering with alternative niche brands that can offer higher levels of differentiation to stand out in a competitive hotel market. There are certain mutual benefits for a hotelier and an established lifestyle brand that does not have roots in hospitality – we call them non-hotel brands. First and foremost, it increases market share and therefore increases a company’s revenue streams. Beyond this, collaborating with like-minded brands provides guests with value-added services, enhances a property’s overall identity and market positioning, and creates an original experience in a highly competitive market.
For an independent, smaller or new hotel property, it is certainly more difficult to become a brand in its own right. I would suggest that a co-branding collaboration with a carefully selected lifestyle brand would add another level of benefit, like finding a sports brand for a lounge at a ski resort or dive center as part of a an island resort.
For a non-hotel brand, the benefits are also attractive. Adding a licensed business to the portfolio will generate additional revenue streams. By developing a three-dimensional customer experience, it allows the brand itself to get closer to its target group, adding new touchpoints, as well as helping it achieve a wider market share.
Collaborations between hospitality brands and luxury lifestyle brands generate a joint effort to stand out from the crowd, engage with the consumer in a new way and gain a larger market share.
Take the recent opening of the latest Hôtel Cheval Blanc in Paris, which includes a Spa Dior (both brands are owned by conglomerate LVMH), or Swiss medical wellness operator Chenot, which has partnered with hotel brand One&Only. from Kerzner International. Nobu started as a single restaurant in 1987, then grew into a restaurant brand in the mid-1990s and later evolved into a hotel brand with currently 13 properties in operation and 12 more in the global pipeline.
We have seen fashion houses successfully enter the luxury hotel market with their own branded hotels, including Palazzo Fendi in Rome and Armani hotels in Dubai and Milan. On a smaller scale, you can find tea rooms designed by Laura Ashley in some British hotels. The next sector to emerge in hospitality is automotive. Porsche Design in partnership with Steigenberger Hotels, Aston Martin and Lamborghini are also set to enter the hospitality and residence market.
Already, a number of non-hotel brands are cooperating with property developers for residential projects in major cities around the world. According to a 2021 Savills report, the top destinations for branded residences are the United Arab Emirates (Dubai), followed by the United States (Miami, New York) and Thailand (Phuket, Bangkok). London-based YOO, for example, has moved from branded real estate to its own hotel label.
The selection process
The successful partnership between the hotelier and the lifestyle brand is based on a shared vision, common values, clear objectives and aligned revenue and profit expectations.
There are a number of considerations for identifying a brand to work with, from positioning to successful execution. These include:
What type of lifestyle does the location of the hotel appeal to? The location and amenities of your property will determine which brands you approach. It must make sense. For example, if you’re a ski resort in the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, working with a high-end skiwear brand would make perfect sense.
Share a similar target group. It’s important to find a brand that shares a similar, not necessarily identical, target audience. As luxury becomes more accessible to a wider audience, there is opportunity to widen the network and diversify among the wider luxury audience.
Do the brand values and philosophy complement the hotel’s brand promise? Particular attention should be paid to the ability of the hotel operator to translate the DNA of the partner brand into personalized service and hospitality experiences. A successful joint venture is the right balance between offering customers a new experience that is both original and familiar.
Ask if it will be a happy marriage. A collaboration of this nature is a long-term one. Thus, a hotelier must communicate from the start to establish whether the fundamentals are shared across a similar brand culture. The merging of two worlds must be done thoroughly and meaningfully.
It is people who create magic. Trust and appoint specialists who create bespoke service concepts and white label brand experiences for luxury brands.
Take the time to do it right. Collaborating on this scale will undoubtedly be part of a long-term corporate vision and strategy. Therefore, it is essential to develop a new product that will last the period of time. Take the time to deepen your relationships, do market research and develop a quality product.
Once the research and assessments confirm the feasibility of the partnership and the bespoke service concept has been developed, the alliance is finally ready to move forward and contract negotiation is the next crucial consideration.
First, hotel owners need to establish what type of management contract to implement for their own operations. There are many options and no one contract will fit all. However, there are some considerations to take into account.
Generally, there are three very distinct actors when it comes to branded hotels: the owner, the management company and the brand.
As a hotelier, you must ensure that your business meets the standards and quality levels that guests expect from the chosen partner brand, as the hotel will essentially become an extension of that brand.
As such, hoteliers will need to consider whether this can be provided on their own or whether they need to engage a third-party (white label) operator who can create and deliver the level of service expected by brand audiences.
Co-branded and branded hotels and residences are a trend that will continue to grow and we will see new lifestyle brands making their mark on the hospitality industry. For hoteliers looking for this joint venture, choosing the right brand and creating a tailored brand experience will be key to a successful partnership.