Sandeep Walia Area vice president Marriott International
Every experience or innovation that we introduce in our luxury hotels is brand driven
1. How important is brand to your company?
I believe that the strength of our company comes from the diversity and combination of our brands as they help guests/ consumers make choices. The brand differentiation and brand experience is a key focus for our company. With a new lens on luxury and courtside seats to the fast-evolving expectations and aspirations of the global traveller we are obsessed about creating strong brands that will elevate travel with highly contextualized, nuanced brand experiences that signal the future of luxury. We are so privileged at Marriott International in Europe to be able to offer luxury hotels under eight hallmarks that cater to a new affluent traveller, no matter if their priority is staying at the best address in town, immersing themselves in the destination, or focusing on the wellbeing. Every experience and innovation that we introduce in our hotels is brand driven.
2. How does the brand help you to run your business and make decisions?
We see luxury travel experiences as a launch pad for self-actualization, with bucket lists evolving from where you want to go and what you want to see to who you can be. Our guests are seeking out experiences that help them express who they are, so their approach to luxury continues to be less formal, entirely more personal, and defined more by their interests and mind-set than their geography and demographic. And they want more than just to trust a hotel brand. They want to align with a company’s brand pillars, more consciously than before, that advocates for their priorities. This is why we are focused on making sure that we set each brand apart by highlighting nuanced differences and leaning into specific brand touch points and product cues. This impacts our business decisions, the partnerships that we establish in our hotels but also audiences that we target.
3. In your opinion, what are the errors of brand management that should be avoided?
Brand management is one of my passion points and I have been following many luxury brands’ strategies and have seen their ups and downs. The most important factor is to ensure that the brand is distinctive enough to stand out from the competitors. It all starts with determining the right value proposition. The process requires careful definition of the strongest selling point and the target audience. Misunderstanding leads to a misrepresented brand, which negatively affects the image, the customer experience, and in result the bottom line.
Another one would be inconsistency, which has always been a branding misstep. Especially now in the era of content marketing and digital branding being consistent with the messaging and on-brand experiences is a key to success. The most successful brands deliver on their promise consistently. They paint a picture in the mind of consumers on what they expect from a product, service, and quality standpoint.
4. What advice would you give to other companies regarding brand management?
In an increasingly globalized and connected world the modern consumers, especially in the luxury travel space, are looking for authenticity, customization and on-brand service. This coincides with a collective, increased dependency on technology, the “millennial state of mind” and the behaviour characteristics of uneasiness, urgency, and uniqueness that are increasingly permeating across all generations. The brands should be working on providing the services on demand, connectivity to cater the notion that anything is available, anytime and anywhere.
5. Which company do you admire for its brand management?
Since many years, I have been admiring Hermes for its passion to cultivate the heritage, uniqueness and consistency. To me this brand is an icon in the world of luxury. It all starts with the quality of the product, its craftsmanship, eye for detail and continues through the professional service at each of their boutiques and storytelling. The brand knows no compromises, is consistent and loyal to its philosophy, which makes it unique.