Untitled Document

WIT Day One - Independents vs Brands. Who do you think wins?

Posted on 19 Oct 2010 at 14:09 pm by Bojan Tercon
There's nothing better than seeing two teams duke it out, trying to win the argument.  This time the debate was between the power of brands, or is it better to go small and independent?
In the INDEPENDENT corner we had Robert Hornman, Managing Director of WORLDHOTELS, Nick Downing, Director of Operations for Ativa Hospitality and Patrick Andres, Vice President-Asia Pacific from Sabre Hospitality Solutions.
Independent hotels can take charge of distribution and marketing and with that can connect better to consumers.  They don't focus on the masses and don't pretend to be everything for everyone.  In today's world speed is important, and independents can definitely change faster than large branded monoliths.  Besides, they're more creative, imaginative and bold.
Brands provide a cookie cutter experience which is not what today's consumers are looking for.  They want value, flexibility and a unique product which only small companies can deliver.
Thankfully, the internet is proving to be a great equalizer in this match, giving the advantage to independents.
And can anyone really dispute that small means charming, clear and charismatic?
OK brands, what kind of counter-arguments can you come up with?
Fighting for the BRANDS team, we had John Northen, Area Vice President, South East Asia for Marriott International, Inc., Frank Trampert, (former) EVP, Revenue Generation - Asia Pacific for Carlson Hotels Worldwide and Ian Wilson, Regional Vice President-Asia & General Manager of The Fairmont Singapore.
Brands rule!  70% of hotels today are branded.  Consumers trust brands because they provide better and consistent services for them which is hugely appreciated.  They can save you money due to their size, and everyone wants to be affiliated with a great brand.
Let's just look at what Google comes up with when you search for branded hotels vs independent properties.  As an example, when you google Fairmont Hotels you come up with 56 million results, while with any other independent hotel, the number of results is going to be much smaller.  It's easier to find branded info online!
Brands also have a strong global culture and strong loyalty amongst its customers.
But let's not only focus on customers.  Brands enable employees to a global carrier.  Independents unfortunately don't have the same recognition level.  Chain affiliated hotels have less volatile performance than independent hotels and brands will often provide a vote of confidence for a project.  In addition, from an investors perspective, brands can capitalize markets in the long term.
Is there any surprise that independent hotels are joining strong global brands?  Because branding works!  And brands add value for consumers, employees and owners.
So who wins?  Judging according to the loudness of the applause, the independents took home the trophy.
And what did they win?  Non-branded bottles of wine, for the branded ones were way too expensive.