Light Shines on Branding at IHG Conference

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After introducing the term “brandhearted” at last year’s annual conference in Las Vegas, InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Richard Solomons took it a step further in April when he hired Larry Light as IHG’s chief branding officer.

Yesterday in Orlando at the 2012 IHG Americas Investors and Leadership Conference, Light outlined a new path to better define its 10 U.S. hotel brands that would ultimately drive more revenue.

“Let’s face the fact that for each of our brands, our brand variation in the quality of the guest experience is greater than our competitors,” Light told a crowd of nearly 5,000 IHG owners, operators and employees. “We are inconsistent when it comes to delivering a consistent brand experience. We are too flexible when it comes to brand standards.

“Standards are not restraints, they are reassurances. When we compromise our standards, we compromise our values.”

Light, the former chief marketing officer for McDonald’s who’s written the book on brand revitalization (“Six Rules for Brand Revitaliation”), described how IHG would reach the goal set by Solomons to make IHG’s brands the first choice among guests and owners.

The first step, he said, was to improve and clarify the vision of each brand. “These brand visions are our guiding stars,” he said. Beyond that was creating the brand frameworks, the “boundaries to limit us — our guardrails to make sure we stay on track.”

Finally, and most important, was the “freedom within that framework,” he said. “Our goal is to deliver results. To be most effective we must customize, localize, personalize within the framework.” If not, the “global standardization of our marketing will have all the distinctiveness of homogenized milk.”

If done correctly, Light explained, better brands would lead to brand preference, improved guest satisfaction and a willingness to recommend. Those things all add up to more profitability, as guests’ expenditures increase and price sensitivity decreases.

It sounds so simple. Better brands equal more money. Check back Monday for a detailed look at IHG’s plans for all of its brands and other news from the conference.

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