How to Avoid Brand Confusion

Consumer research shows that providing too many choices confuses people and can reduce sales. Are 28 varieties of Tide detergent and 45 kinds of Lay’s potato chips necessary? Do we need a plum colored American Express card option? And what’s the difference between Diet Coke and Coke Zero? I’ve been asking around and nobody knows.

Is it a surprise we have brain fog at day’s end when you consider the multitude of choices we face?

How Hotels Create Brand Confusion
Hotel companies aren’t making things any easier by giving guests so many choices. This creates decision fatigue and leaves them feeling tired, mentally drained and more dissatisfied. It can also lead to poor decision-making and second-guessing. For instance, “Would I have been happier staying at the Renaissance than at the JW?”

So why are hotels introducing a landslide of new lodging concepts while not retiring their underperforming brands in equal measure?

New Kids On the Block
Hotels have decided that having a superabundance of brand concepts under their umbrella is the way to grow. This strategy is known as pluralistic brand architecture. Here are some newer hotel brands on the market:

Aloft – This Starwood brand is lower priced than a W, and features loft-style rooms outfitted with IKEA-like furniture, and a backyard for recreation.

Andaz – Hyatt’s brand to compete with W, promising a kaleidoscope of culture and the warmest welcome.

Ascend – Choice Hotels entering the boutique market, featuring hotels that capture a local flair and attract guests seeking a unique experience.

Edition – Marriott’s new lifestyle concept that aims to be the first global boutique hotel brand.

Element – Starwood’s environmentally friendly hotel brand, where drivers of hybrid cars get perks, and interiors are crafted with recycled materials.

Cambria Suites – Choice Hotel’s upscale concept that will compete with Marriott, Hilton and Starwood properties, but at lower rates.

Home2 – Hilton’s all suite brand of extended stay contemporary hotels.

Meet the Parents
Right now, Starwood features ten lodging products, including some “hybrid hotel brands”. Marriott has 16 brands. If Bill Marriott gave me a pop quiz on what differentiates all of these lodging products from one another, I’d break into a sweat.

Hilton’s website features Ten Distinct Hotel Brands Committed to Hospitality, which sounds great. But how do I quickly choose between 3 “full service” and 4 “focused service” Hilton brands? Sorting through the options takes effort, and that doesn’t account for the added time I’ll need to read online reviews or study the benefits I might reap from a loyalty program.

Going Global Gets More Confusing
American hotel chains are pushing into the Far East and when they take their brands abroad, they can change. Marriott Courtyard for example has 22 Asian locations that feature room rates lower than American properties, but unlike the U.S. where food is grab and go, Asian Courtyards have sit down restaurants and room service.

The Bottom Line
There are costs to having too many choices, and dangers from straying from your niche and brand promises.

Think about the inconvenience you create for hotel guests when you expect them to sort through many options. Case in point, choosing between a Holiday Inn and a Holiday Inn Express is an unwanted proposition.

I suggest you get to know your guests better than anyone else, and communicate your key attributes clearly across all platforms.

Consider the competitive edge you’ll gain by keeping things simple and limiting choices. Your ideal customer will flock to your front door because you’ve presented them with a clear, linear path, and helped them make their reservation with confidence.

How far do you think companies can go to satisfy varying consumer needs for price, value, and service/product attributes before they start to confuse people and negatively impact their sales?

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