The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Branding Agencies
By Jordan Hollander
Last updated April 26, 2023
7 min read
Wondering how your hotel can stand out among the competition? Or maybe you’re launching a new property and need to build a brand identity. Such a creative, complex process is likely outside the scope of your on-site team, so you might be wondering where to turn. For many hotels, working with an external branding agency can be a great way to create a brand identity and launch it into the world. A hotel branding agency can help you craft a brand that articulates your brand values, helps to build relationships with guests, and ultimately drives increased ADR and RevPAR. A brand that’s unique, memorable, and compelling can attract potential guests to your website and keep your hotel in mind for future stays. It all starts with finding the right agency partner, so, in this article, we’ll explain what hotel branding agencies do, introduce some top agencies known for their work with hotels, and share how you can find a good fit for your property.
Why Do Hotels Typically Tap Branding Agencies?
You might be wondering, what’s hotel branding in the first place? Having a hotel brand doesn’t mean your hotel is part of a chain or has multiple locations; even standalone, independent hotels can have brands. A brand identity involves your logo, your colors, and the overall aesthetic of your property, but your brand also represents your hotel values and priorities. Your brand can help your hotel stand out from the competition: visually, with a distinctive logo and design, and also conceptually, since guests might find a deeper connection with the values your hotel embodies. For example, if your hotel is family-friendly and offers a variety of activities for kids, your brand identity might include bright colors, imagery that shows families having fun, and a tagline that mentions something about family vacations. This brand identity will help your hotel connect with your target market (families with young kids) while also signaling a potential mismatch to guests who may not be the right fit for your property (couples looking for a romantic getaway). The bottom line is that your hotel’s brand tells the story of what kind of experience your hotel provides.
Understanding Hotel Branding Agencies
Now that you understand hotel branding, what does an agency do? Hotel branding agencies create brand identities, refresh existing brands, launch brands, and execute campaigns and creative work across brand touchpoints on an ongoing basis. Some agencies specialize in brand strategy, which includes work like naming, positioning, and creating brand guidelines. Other agencies specialize in visual design, like crafting logos, typography, icons, fonts, and graphics. Many agencies do both, and it’s common to find agencies that also handle marketing strategies like PR, social media, website creation, and digital advertising. Hotel branding agencies often work with certain niches or types of hotels; some agencies are known for their work with luxury hotels, while other agencies might specialize in a specific geographic area, like the Caribbean or west coast ski resorts.
Benefits of Using a Hotel Branding Agency
As a hotelier, what can you gain from working with a branding agency? Hotels that invest in branding can realize four main benefits:
Increased brand recognition: With a beautiful logo, website, and photo gallery, your hotel will not only attract more eyeballs but also remain top of mind into the future. A compelling brand identity makes your hotel easily recognizable and memorable.
Competitive advantage: A strong brand can be a competitive advantage, especially if your compset includes hotels with minimal or stale branding. Branding can be even more of an advantage to new hotels: launching with a compelling brand identity can get your hotel on the map faster and help you gain traction in the pre-opening and ramp periods.
Consistent brand messaging: Guests visit dozens of different websites throughout their booking journey, and, even after they book, they’ll encounter several brand touchpoints, including your hotel website, signage, decor, in-room amenities, and more. Consistent messaging throughout these touchpoints will lead to a more cohesive experience.
Improved guest experience: A branding agency can also help your hotel elevate the guest experience from beginning to end. Your agency can provide expertise on mapping your guest service touchpoints, creating digital operations guides, and selecting amenities or partnerships in line with your brand values.
How to Choose the Right Hotel Branding Agency
Starting the search for a branding agency can be intimidating since there are many great agencies that work with hotels. The first step is to identify your hotel’s needs: do you already have a good logo and brand identity, but you need help getting it out into the world? Are you starting from scratch? Or perhaps you want to refresh your existing brand? With these goals in mind, you can research potential agencies to create a shortlist of firms that have done similar projects in the past. Agencies’ websites provide a wealth of information; you can browse case studies and client rosters to get a sense for the type of work an agency does best. Once you have your shortlist, set up consultation calls where you can meet the agency’s team and learn more about the services they provide. Finding an agency that aligns with your hotel’s personality and values can help your working relationship get off to the right start. Make sure to ask questions about the scope of work, budget, and timeline so you can compare your options before selecting the best fit.
What is the Difference Between a Hotel Branding Agency and a Hotel Digital Marketing Agency?
A hotel branding agency and a hotel digital marketing agency are two different types of agencies that provide different services.
A hotel branding agency is focused on creating and managing a hotel's brand identity, including its brand strategy, visual identity, messaging, and overall brand story. They can also help with brand guidelines, graphic design, and rebranding efforts. The goal of a branding agency is to create a strong brand identity that resonates with the hotel's target audience and differentiates it from competitors in the market.
On the other hand, a hotel digital marketing agency is focused on promoting a hotel's brand and increasing its online visibility through various digital marketing channels, including social media, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, email marketing, and more. The goal of a digital marketing agency is to drive more traffic to the hotel's website, increase direct bookings, and ultimately increase revenue.
While there may be some overlap in services provided by branding and digital marketing agencies, their primary focus is different. A branding agency is focused on creating and managing a hotel's brand identity, while a digital marketing agency is focused on promoting the hotel's brand through various online marketing channels. Both types of agencies can work together to develop a comprehensive branding and marketing strategy for a hotel.
Top Hotel Branding Agencies
Where do you start on your search for a branding agency? Draw inspiration from some of the industry’s leading branding agencies. These five agencies have worked with some of the world’s most distinctive hotels and hospitality businesses and turned them into iconic brands.
Spherical is a full-service agency that offers not only branding and creative services, but also social media management, content creation, performance marketing, and website design. Founded by Adam Wallace, Spherical is based in New York City and has worked with dozens of luxury brands and independent hotels, including Four Seasons, Rosewood, EDITION, Equinox Hotels, and Canyon Ranch. For Rosewood, Spherical designed and launched a brand campaign that garnered 23 million impressions and doubled booking volume compared to the prior year.
The Brand Consultancy doesn’t only work with hotels, but they have quite a few exciting success stories with hotel clients. Led by CEO Diane Beecher, this firm has been around for over three decades but remains on the cutting edge of technology and trends. Notable hospitality clients include Marriott, Tru by Hilton, WoodSpring Hotels, Sage Hospitality, and Great Wolf Lodge. The Brand Consultancy led the rebranding of Value Place to WoodSpring, including creating a new logo and visual identity, and the resulted in a 21% increase in RevPAR. The EVP of WoodSpring noted, “Their team is top notch, working tirelessly on your behalf. I have partnered with them for eight + years with two different companies. Their work is nothing short of fantastic. Our new hotels command significant rate premium over our predecessor brand.”
NYC-based Sideways is known for their hospitality-focused branding services. The firm, led by CEO Tim Murphy, has worked with clients that range from luxury resorts to fast-casual restaurants, including Moxy, Freehand Hotels, The Boutique Lifestyle Leaders Association magazine “Stay Boutique,” and Sweetgreen. Sideways offers branding services – brand strategy, identity, and expression – as well as marketing expertise, content strategy, and website development.
Hospitality is the bread and butter of Longitude°, a modern branding agency that specializes in boutique hotels and restaurants. Longitude° was founded in 2010 by Dustin Myers, who leads the creative side of the agency, and strategy-focused partner Jeremy Wells is a frequent speaker at industry events at conferences as well as the author of the book Future Hospitality. Their team offers a wide variety of services, including concept development, brand strategy, and visual design, and past clients include Teton Valley Resort, Marea Sol Santa Cruz, and 21c Museum Hotel, St. Louis.
The hospitality arm of Once Upon a Time offers a full suite of services, including branding, website development, and graphic design, for hotels of all shapes and sizes. Notable clients include Gurney’s Resorts, Sixty Hotels, and Yotel. Once Upon a Time transformed the brand identity of Gurney’s Montauk after a multimillion dollar renovation as well as the company’s expansion to a second property. The agency also handled Gurney’s photo and video asset direction, collateral, website design, and signage, giving the properties a consistent look and feel on all brand touchpoints.
A hotel branding agency can take your hotel’s identity from blah to brilliant by crafting thoughtful and compelling logos, visuals, and stories that communicate your hotel’s values to the world. While at first branding might not seem directly connected to property goals like increasing occupancy or ADR, hotels with strong brands can benefit from better brand recognition, stand out from their compsets, and achieve better guest satisfaction and RevPAR. Finding a branding agency that works for your hotel is possible by defining your branding goals and researching agencies that have worked on similar projects. With the right brand partner at your side, your hotel can tell its story to the world.
In today's highly competitive hospitality industry, it is essential for even independent hotels to develop differentiated brands that break through to consumers and prospective guests. This is because consumers are increasingly turning to social media and online resources to research and book their travel accommodations, and a well-defined hotel brand can help to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Hospitality brands that invest in brand strategy, website design, graphic design, and messaging can create a strong brand identity that resonates with their target audience. By optimizing their website for search engine optimization (SEO), hotels can improve their online visibility and increase bookings.
Effective branding and marketing strategies can also help hotels to differentiate themselves from competitors in real estate hotspots like New York and Miami. Boutique hotels and luxury hotels, in particular, can benefit from a strong brand identity and marketing campaigns that highlight their unique guest experiences.
Partnering with a hotel marketing agency can be a smart move for hoteliers looking to develop their brand story and marketing solutions. A branding agency can help with brand development, visual identity, brand guidelines, and rebranding efforts. A social media marketing agency can assist with social media management, influencer marketing, email marketing, PPC, and direct bookings.
Case studies have shown that effective hotel branding and marketing can lead to increased bookings and revenue growth. For example, Marriott has won awards for its full-service marketing services, including its innovative signage and marketing campaigns.
Developing a differentiated hotel brand is crucial for success in the hospitality industry. With the right branding and marketing strategies, hotels can stand out in a crowded marketplace, increase bookings and revenue, and provide a memorable guest experience.