For the most part, brands are a crutch. Let’s face it; you sign a franchise agreement to offset inherent weaknesses, i.e., shortfalls in design, story and care. Like it’s supposed to be some sort of magic potion to make it all better. Unfortunately, most brand names don’t help much, especially in a world filled with so many choices. Once you remove the chain’s smokescreen, you’re either good enough, or your not.
The world’s best hotels, by any measure, are remarkable in and of themselves. They provide guests more than a comfortable place to stay…they make people feel special…no, extraordinary. And, with few exceptions, these properties are not branded.
The few brands which seem to make it work have learned to either abandon the cookie cutter approach (and even a common name), and make each experience truly unique, perhaps even providing a collection of independent properties. Or, much like Southwest Airlines, they produce the experience so cost efficiently that they can be the price leader in any segment (Marriott has done a splendid job at this for years). However, as you probably know, either scenario is very difficult to achieve and as a result extremely risky.
So, if you’re planning a new project, develop a theme you can be the best at….and use the brand money to recruit better help. That combination should pay-off and put you well ahead of most.