Branding Basics for Boutique Hotels

Boutique hotels can be considered the new kid of the block. Although they’ve been in existence for several decades, operating under the banner of ‘independent’ hotels, it’s only recently that the world has exploded in its fascination for boutique hotels.Today, more than ever, travelers are looking beyond the usual frills and fancy that are offered up in the name of hotel stays. They want a more intimate, more unique experience that brings them closer to the community the hotel is located in. In such a scenario, boutique hotels stand in direct opposition to their flashier, empire-like counterparts – the chain hotels.But, despite their general appeal, boutique hotels have to make the same effort, and sometimes more, to establish their brand. Without a strong identity to guide them, it’s all too easy to lose themselves in the crowd.Why Branding?Brands can no longer be faceless entities for the consumer. We live in the age of information where the customer has access to all kinds of resources to facilitate his buying decision. These days, brands have a life and existence of their own, and customers interface with these identities on a daily basis.Take yourself. What comes to mind when someone says the word “Marriott?” You’ll immediately conjure up an image of something intensely luxurious and opulent. Large foyers, gilded ceilings, soft-spoken yet crisply smart waiters, silver tureens and state of the art facilities. Why does your brain associate all this with one simple word?That’s the magic of a brand. And the value of building it.Think about the concept of identity, like your name, or who you are. All those things that go into making ‘you’ are also the things that set you apart from the rest of humanity. The same goes for a brand. It is an entity that is distinct from other entities in the same industry. In business-speak, this is called differentiation.So, what differentiates one hotel from the other and why should we even engage in differentiation? The answers to these questions are altogether simple. Danny Meyer, the CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), states that ‘recognition’ is the primary reason why guests wish to return to the same hotel.Recognition only stems from uniqueness, and if you want to cultivate a battalion of loyal consumers, you’d better engage quickly. The reason why boutique hotels have been on the rise in the last decade is because the modern traveler does not want a monolithic experience that he will get in any typical chain hotel. They want a uniquely curated experience that they can fondly remember, and if they get that, they will come back to you.That brings us to the next aspect – what differentiates one hotel from the other? Experience differentiates. All that your guests are exposed to, that they feel, that they’re touched by when they interact with the tangible aspects of your brand constitutes its ‘experience’.A strong brand is that which stands completely apart from its competitors. Think about it: A thousand others are vying for the consumer’s attention, essentially promising core hospitality services. Mergers and acquisitions have made it even more confusing for the customer today.The world’s 10 largest hotel chains now offer a combined 113 brands at various price points, 31 of which didn’t exist a decade ago. This makes differentiation more important. IBISWorld also pegs the boutique hotel industry at 7 billion as of June 2017; rising at a CAGR of 4.8%.Therefore, the essence of your brand needs to be different, and it needs to percolate down to all aspects of the brand – from your design, to service, to logo and so on. Let’s now run you through the standard elements that make up a brand.Brand ElementsAs things stand, the boutique hotel is distinguished from other hotel sectors by its uniqueness, personalized service, authenticity, quirky, aesthetic elements of surprise, and enhanced customer experiences that extend beyond the hotel space.We’ll start with the basic, longstanding suggestions for brand building before getting specific.Logo: This is the sign and signifier of your brand. It’s also one of the most integral parts of the brand experience, since it fosters recognition and familiarity. Good logo design is always driven by strategy unless you want people to get the wrong message. Testing your logo before finalising it is always a good idea.Tagline, and Brand Message: Construct a strong tagline and underline key attributes of your brand, which you then use to add to your brand essence. Highlighting this without being too invasive is necessary.Percolation: Your brand identity needs to show through in all aspects of the hotel experience. This distinction will appear from the way you answer phone calls to the way your staff greets people. All communication, offline and online, needs to consistently portray a message that contributes to the brand essence.Design: This does not simply extend to logo and communication design. Of course, you need to be consistent with all your creatives and colour schemes, but we’re also referring to architectural and décor-based elements, which have to carry the brand identity on their shoulders.Promise and Delivery: This is perhaps the most important. While boldness and in some cases, cockiness may be appreciated, don’t promise things that you cannot deliver. Customers shy away from such farcical engagements. For example, if your hotel is a budget hotel, then adding features that don’t exist or putting up fake pictures are extremely bad practices that you need to avoid at all costs.Boutique Hotels, Take Note… While branding guidelines may remain the same more or less across the board, boutique hotels may not always enjoy the flow of cash that bigger chains do. But, despite your tight budget, it is inadvisable to compromise on your branding efforts, or you might end up in a penny wise pound foolish situation.Phase out your expenses, by all means. Prioritize certain elements of branding over the others, but don’t ignore them completely. You don’t have to go for the most expensive options, but you must consider the most effective onesHere are a few more suggestions that boutique hotels should keep in mind before getting started with their branding efforts.

Do not be inconsistent. I understand that boutique hotels are all about personalisation, but that can be reflected in the services you offer. The brand essence needs to be unique and reinforced as such. Too many logo and design changes are also a hindrance when it comes to establishing a recognizable identity.

Segmentation: The best thing about boutique hotels is that it really is a place for everyone. From those who’re seeking comfort to the rugged backpacker, everyone can find what he wants here. And your hotel should strongly communicate that. Customize different packages for different kinds of travelers – businessmen, couples, families, etc. – and let it also reflect in your rates.

Networking: This is one of the strongest strategies for the hospitality world. Networking generates more referrals, and increases legitimacy drastically. Having a good, symbiotic relationship with the locals and the environment will be an invaluable help.

Brand Extension: Apart from your core services, you can engage in outsourcing a little. Toiletries, cutlery, linens, can all be sourced from others but branded for your benefit. Or you can indulge in co-branding, where you may tie-up with spas, décor companies and so on. This not only boosts your presences, but also gets you subsidised goods in the process. You can also invest in experiences beyond the hotel space, like customised nature walks, workshops, and more. However, choose your partners with care. They should not convey messages that are dissonant with your brand’s tone, essence, and image.

Show Restraint: Do not overemphasize, or be too wordy with your communication, unless the format demands it. You may have a lot to say, but consider presenting it in a manner that isn’t always text heavy, like videos, infographics, or newsletters.

While these are only a few suggestions when it comes to the incredibly vast field of brand building, they are an effective starting line for you. In an industry that is so full of players, brand identity and experience will be key differentiators that need careful attention and cultivation. So, get started, and build a brand that you will be proud of one day.

What to Consider When Getting Renters Insurance

How to Get the best deal before moving into an apartmentWhen moving into a new apartment, an often overlooked or undervalued step is obtaining renters insurance. While landlords themselves are insured, their policy only covers the building itself. Therefore, the responsibility of insuring your belongings and protecting yourself from a potential lawsuit lies with you the tenant. Renters insurance is designed to cover those belongings and personal liabilities in your new apartment or home.The good news is, policies are often inexpensive, usually going for less than $20 a month, a small price to pay to cover thousands of dollars worth of valuables. That may include a TV and stereo, clothes, or computer. The policies themselves protect against damage caused by thunderstorms, tornadoes, fire and smoke, and burglary or theft. Some may also cover medical and legal expenses, in case someone else is injured inside the apartment.There are quite a few companies that offer tenant insurance, but with so many options available, how does one decide what company to select? While it may seem like an extra pre-move headache, choosing the right policy is actually a simple process, if one remembers a few tips.Estimate the Total Value of Personal ItemsWhen getting started, the company will ask for a total estimate of everything the renter owns. This includes electronics and appliances, clothes, books, and even home furnishings. The monthly rate will likely depend on that total estimate. Make a list of everything owned, and if possible, figure out their worth. If possible, take pictures of the more valuable items.Take Advantage of DiscountsIf you have an automobile that you currently insure, make sure you mention it during the renters insurance quote process. Many companies will offer discounts for having multiple policies with them.Many companies offer discounts for having household safety features such as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, or security system, deadbolt locks, peepholes etc. Tenants may also get a lower rate by opting for a higher deductible. Senior citizens and military service members are usually eligible for additional discounted rates.Know The AreaIf the apartment is in a flood or earthquake prone zone, one may want to consider getting extra coverage against certain natural disasters. Some landlords may require a tenant to pay extra, due to the building’s location. It may cost more, but it is worth it in the long run, as opposed to having to replace everything out of pocket.Roommate PoliciesMost policies only cover the liability and contents of the individual that holds the Renters Insurance policy. Check with an agent to make sure the policy includes a roommate before you assume that your roommate’s possessions are covered by your policy. If apartment renters insurance covers roommates, consider splitting the bill like any other monthly expense, i.e. utilities, cable, or Internet.

In Search of Peace

Pious, a poor Brahmin is a resident of Pride Street where most of the inhabitants pass their time in flaunting their wealth by throwing big parties on various occasions like marriages, anniversaries, Christmas, etc.Soul, a new resident in the street, is renovating an old bungalow lavishly and immediately after renovation, he brags about its grandeur. Some of the wealthiest people of the locality are enraged because of his showmanship. Pious has free access to everybodys’ house for performing religious rituals on the above mentioned occasions so it is only natural he attends Souls’ house inauguration ceremony.Soul is a very pride man; he starts showing off the decoration, furniture and aesthetic beauty of his bungalow to his guests. He boasts about the Italian marbles, Moroccan artworks and Belgian glass he has used to furnish his house.Vainglory, a neighbor of Soul comments, “I do not see any big deal about this bungalow. You come to my house and see how well furnished my bungalow is with all imported marbles, well decorated furniture, costly tapestries and dazzling wax-lighting in the sconces. I have decorated my house with the Mona Lisa art works and other paintings by Vinci each costing about half a million dollar. I do not see anything like that in your bungalow.”"I am not interested in arguing with you, but it is a matter of fact that no one in this street has this type of sprawling well-decorated bungalow,” Soul retaliates.”What are you saying? You have no idea about my billion dollar business empire across the globe.” Vainglory replies sarcastically.Seeing this bickering, Pious intervenes and tries to pacify Soul.Soul stares at him, “You Lazarus, who do you think you are? Just because you have read a couple of religious books you does not mean you can teach me anything.Pious feels very insulted and upset by Souls rude behavior and walks away with tears in his eyes. Reasonable, a close associate of Pious follows him immediately.”Why are you so upset with the haughtiness of these boasting people? They do not know that wealth comes through Gods’ grace, and if they continue to be profane to others, they will lose their prosperity within no time. This world is full of the treacherous and braggarts. They are not able to understand the significance of inner-self which derives from wisdom, knowledge, religion and devotion. They will never know the charismatic values of these traits as they always sink into a slough of vanity and richness. You are a learned person and good person with a habit of helping others. Remember God is always with honest people and so ignore them,” Reasonable pacifies.”I feel, this street has lost its serenity now. When I started living here, there were many wise people like you, but the situation has changed. People flourish in their business day by day and with the increase of wealth, they compete with one another and flaunt their richness. I am thinking of relocating to the Celestial City,” said Pious.”Is there any place like Celestial City?” Reasonable asked.”I had a dream a couple of nights back which I have been wanting to tell you about, and have been waiting for the right moment. I saw that God was calling me to the Celestial City which is situated on a hilltop surrounded by green fields and a river of Life. He wants me to devote my life to religious activities.” Pious responded.”I do not want you to leave this place. I will lose a great friend.” said Reasonable unhappily.”I have to leave, please do not prevent me with your love-band. I know I am one of your close associates, but if you truly wish me well, please allow me to stay afloat, enjoy the Gods’ blessings and chant his name round the clock. The present environment is not good enough and I can not stay here anymore.”"OK, if you stick to your decision, I will come with you and be a part of your journey to peace.” declared Reasonable.”You have a responsibility to your family to carry on – a charming wife and two children. You are young too. You can not leave them in the lurch and be my companion. It would not be correct for you to accompany me”, said Pious in an attempt to convince Reasonable, who reluctantly agrees.Pious starts his journey. At sunset, he arrives near a sealed closed door and knocks at it but receives no reply. Again, he knocks, with more effort, and the door opens. Pious finds a very beautiful man dressed in white attire with a smile on his face.He asks Pious, “What do you want, my child?”Pious replies, “I am a pilgrim to the Celestial City and am exhausted by the tedious journey I have made from Pride Street. It is almost dark now. I am hungry and thirsty; I need food, water and a nap.”
The white-attired man opens the gate and invites Pious into what turns out to be the Kings’ palace. He offers him water and fruits. Then he calls his daughter Passion to take care of Pious. Passion is a very beautiful lady draped in a white Sari.”Where do you come from?” Passion enquires.”I was a resident of Pride Street and have left in search of peace and wish to reside in the Celestial City,” Pious replies.Passion shows him around the inside of the palace. He is bewildered to see the aesthetically beautiful palace, its big rooms lit with many candles, the gorgeous furniture, golden utensils and flower vases. After that, Pious is asked to sit in the guest room and Passion brings him some wine and corn. After refreshment, he rests until dinner is served in the evening. Pious is revived by the nourishing dinner. The next morning he feels much refreshed.Passion offers him fresh fruits and juice as breakfast after which he expresses his wish to start his journey to Celestial City. Passion and her father agree and bid him adieu.After two days, he reaches a beautiful place which is surrounded by greenery, trees, plants and flowers. He finds some small huts there. People completely dressed in white stroll from their huts and usher him into a big room. Pious is able to hear the sound of hymns. He enquires of a white dressed man and learns that this is Celestial City. Pious approaches another white dressed person and learns that he is a preacher and the chief monk; Evangelist.Evangelist enquires, “Where do you come from? What is your name and what do you want from this place?”Pious replies, “I am a poor Brahmin from Pride Street. I left my home in search of eternal peace, and with great difficulty, I have come here. I am mesmerized by the beauties of this place and I would like to stay here for the balance of my life.”From his discussions with Evangelist, Pious understands the depth of the head monks’ religious knowledge and notices how everyone respects and accepts him as their mentor.Evangelist tells Pious, “I appreciate your efforts to reach here. But, once here, you have to surrender your body and soul to God for his use. You have to obey all His wishes. which are to serve mankind, animals, and the trees. You have to spend a religious life here. Everything here is routine and when your mission for peace is over, you will become a preacher like me.”Then Evangelist takes him to a hut. Three monks are sitting on the floor in the hut and seem to be busy in their studies. The hut is surrounded by colorful flowers of different fragrance. There are many rooms in the hut and it is comparatively bigger than other huts. Newcomers are initially trained here and are sent to the conventicle for meditations and prayers when they are proficient in the knowledge and other rituals.Evangelist advises Pious to finish his rituals, and to put on his new white clothes and go to the prayer room. Once Pious enters the prayer room, Evangelist nods for him to sit in front of the idols of the various Gods.Evangelist instructs him to drink a glass of coconut water which tastes strange to Pious. He then starts chanting hymns nearly for an hour until he begins to feel mesmerized and starts feeling the touch of true life. Evangelist tells him to open his eyes and to concentrate on chanting the hymns with him. Pious realizes that this is a process of purification of flesh and soul.During the course of his religious sessions, Pious is introduced to many other monks in this celestial place. One monk named Glad takes a keen interest in Pious’ entrance into the religious world. One day, Pious finds some difficulty in meditation in the prayer hall as his mind is distracted with mundane thoughts.Glad sees this and asks, “What is wrong? You are bit puzzled today. Feel free to discuss what is disturbing you and perhaps I can help you.”"Somehow, I am not able to concentrate on the mediation. In fact, out of all daily routines, I find meditation the toughest activity.” Pious politely replies.Glad explains, “But, I say it is one of the easiest exercises if you know the technique. Imagine the serene face of God Brahma and think of him. You will find some difficultly in the beginning. But, after regular practice, you will be able to overcome it within a month. You think of his face, close your eyes and remain in the same position for a few minutes. Relax all parts of your body, sit upright and continue chanting hymns. If you continue this practice for quite some time, you will get into eternal peace automatically, and you can even remain in meditation for hours. At present, learn the basics only and try to concentrate on the particular exercise which I have just taught you.”Pious follows his instructions and continues meditation. After an hour, he finds himself rejuvenated.Next day, Glad calls him and asks him about his progress.”It is quite fascinating”, Pious replies.Glad then recounts the following testimony, “I came here almost twenty years ago when I was in my mid thirties. Like you, I had become frustrated with the hatred, jealousy, quarreling and nepotism of those who lived around me. I was leading the life of a hedonist over there. I was like atheist who never turned to God to thank him for what he had given to me in life. I flatly refused my spouses’ request to accompany her on any pilgrimage; she was of course a very righteous lady. The motto of my life was to earn as much as I could through my business. My wife had two beautiful babies whom I used to play with in my free time. We were a happy family, but every story has its twists and turns.One day communal riots erupted in our city named Savage. I had no racial feeling but since I belong to a minority community, the furious mob of the other community destroyed my shops and gutted my factories. Within no time, all my assets turned to ashes. They shattered my house and set it on fire. Each member of my family was burnt to death and I arrived home to find everything was gone. I was shattered and surrendered to the thought of committing suicide. But, my servant, who was with me for many years, foiled my suicide attempt. After losing everything, I came to this place and Evangelist consoled me with his loving words.”He says, “My dear child, ups and downs are usual in life, and they are like time and tide, neither obeys anyones’ instructions. Now you have to regain your courage and strengthen yourself to complete the journey of life.”Pious asks Glad, “It must have been difficult to adjust to the atmosphere of this place, its serenity and spirituality? You must have faced lot of mental distractions.”Glad replies, “Yes, it was difficult in the beginning, especially the meditation because of the mental traumas which were still fresh. But, by Evangelists’ inspiration, I regained my confidence and concentrated on spirituality.”Pious is pleased with the talks and ideologies expressed by Glad. He also gains confidence and uses it to follow the rules of this holy place.After one year, Pious is fully conversant with the sects of this holy place and he learns many techniques from Evangelist and acquires a lot of knowledge. He is overwhelmed with the sanctity of the Celestial City and feels that his life is blessed with the peace rendered by the Almighty. One fine morning he asks Evangelist about Glad but Evangelist overlooks his question with an innocent smile on his face. But, upon his vigorous pursuance, Evangelist replies, “There is no person by name Glad. You have met the person who is none other than the Almighty. Since, you have lived a righteous life on the earth He revealed Himself unto your soul.”With these words, Evangelist disappears and Pious can not see him anymore. He finds that he has gone down into steep mountain pass where no one dares to go. Immediately after Evangelists’ shadow disappears, Pious sees a flash of rainbow lighting in the sky. He falls upon his knees and offers prayers with all his heart and soul to show reverence to this Holy person.He returns to his hut with a grief stricken heart because now on he will be deprived of receiving the Gospel of Evangelist. However, he decides to follow the teachings he learned from him and become a preacher of religious doctrines. He understands this is the path by which he can not only relieve the distress of others, but will ultimately allow him to achieve the eternal peace he is searching for.