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The Buzz About Brand

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The "bed wars" are officially over. The New York Times says so. You can walk the streets more safely at night knowing that the battle of the bedspreads has come to a halt. Even hotel owners and executives concede it has ended.

Most frequent travelers have noticed something since 1999. Perhaps you have noticed the Heavenly Bed by Westin or the 300-thread-count sheets at the Marriott or Hilton Hotels' recent $1 billion effort that included its branded signature bed and accessories.

Did you stop to ponder why? Why were hotel chains investing in upgrading their bedding? And why were hotels selling bedding and accessories, anyway?

The Gettys Group, an interior-design company specializing in the hospitality industry, confessed that customers had not clamored for new beds. So where did the idea come from?

Urban legend has it that the bed wars were conjured up by hotel marketing departments eager to distinguish themselves from their competitors. By some standards, the hotel industry sells a commodity: a room is a product that many people purchase based on price alone.

How do you transform a commodity into a product or service? How do you move from commodity to brand?

One way to move away from commodity is to stop selling by price alone. The buzz these days is about brand. What is a brand?

Janelle Barlow, CEO of Branded Customer Service, explains that a brand is a promise consistently delivered to a defined marketplace. A brand is a promise of an experience. The promise of the Coca-Cola brand is to refresh a thirsty world. When you drink a Coke, you are certain of one kind of experience. When you drink green tea, you are certain of a different kind of experience.

The bed wars were a marketing technique designed to move hotel rooms from commodity to brand—to make a hotel stay an "experience." When you stayed at a Westin, you were promised the experience of a Heavenly Bed. As a result, Marriott sold $10 million in bedding accessories to customers in one year so customers could re-create that heavenly experience in their own homes.

The bed wars have been one of the few truly win-win situations in today's world. The wars led to a bedding revolution in the way people sleep away from home—and at home. Along the way, hotels found that a room with a better night's sleep could attract a higher rate.

The journey from commodity to brand is a journey every 21st century traveler needs to make. Branding is the future of marketing.

Branding is something that you do with a customer. Selling is something you do to a customer. How can you engage your customers? How can you make the process interactive?

Branding is about them, not you. It's about how what you do makes their lives better. Powerful brands make powerful promises to the people they care about. The business of American Express is credit. But that's not what its brand promises. The American Express brand promises status.

Branding builds memories. Branding must be about more than what you do. It's not about how good your product is or how long you have been in business. It's about how your product or your years of experience will help a customer do something he or she wants or needs to do.

Hence, here are the marketing lessons we can learn from the bed wars:
  1. How can you conjure up a strategy to differentiate yourself or your company from your competition? In today's world, those who differentiate win. How can you conjure up a strategy so that you and your client, customer, patient, guest, or member win?

  2. How can you give more value? It's rarely about price; it's about the value that we deliver for the price. When the value of a night's sleep went up, so did the price.

  3. How can you make your product or service an experience? Think of the jewelry store with the to-die-for coffee machine, the dentist who offers hand massages while patients are in "the chair."

  4. How can you take control of your market? The decision to be a brand is a decision to take control. What is your brand promise?

  5. How can you consistently deliver on your promise?
The bed wars are over, but your war may be just beginning. What will your winning strategy look like? What is your brand promise?

We don't yet know, but it is likely it will be dreamt about on a heavenly bed with great thread count and matching accessories.

About the Author:

Leslie G. Ungar, president of Electric Impulse, Inc., helps you improve individual and company performance. She is an expert in helping you find your competitive edge to improve your bottom line. She can be reached at
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Popular tags:

 promises  hotels  customers  hospitality industry  New York Times  beds  beverages

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