St. Margaret’s hotel is located in North Oxford, United Kingdom. This means the hotel is 16 minutes’ walk to Oxford University and 15 minutes’ drive to Oxford International Airport. Various issues have been identified regarding this establishment that aim at enhancing its brand as a corporation. These include marketing efforts, competitors, market segmentation, targeting, positioning, and reputation. These issues not only build corporate brand when well managed but also build brand equity. The report and explores and discusses these issues while underpinning them with corporate brand management theories to build brand equity for the hotel.
INVESTIGATION, ANALYSIS, AND FINDINGS OF ST. MARGARET’S BRAND ISSUES
According to Lauer (2018), brand management practices play significant role in building the brand equity. Further, the author stresses that, brand management which is considered a function of marketing employs various techniques to enhance a brand or product’s perceived value over time. The reason why brand management builds brand equity is because it enables the price of products to increase while building loyal customers through positive association with the brand image (Keller and Swaminathan, 2020).
Brand identity, Values, Image, and Reputation
It is noted that the brand identity is not an element that comes into customers’ minds in a short period. Instead, companies work through various brand identity processes to establish a brand identity that customers can recall whenever they hear of the brand or company name. For instance, Iglesias et al. (2020) assert that brand identity consists of different visible elements of a brand including colour, logo, design, and even the brand name. These help potential clients identify and distinguish the brand in their minds. Keller and Swaminathan (2020) confirm that brand identity is different from the brand image. The brand image is about customers perceptions regarding a particular product or company. According to the investigations regarding St. Margaret’s Hotels identity, it is noted that the hotel’s logo is designed with colours which according to Iglesias et al. (2020) give the establishment clear identity of its appearance in the customers’ minds. The name St. Margaret gives the hotel the reputation of a place of peace where customers can come with their families and have peaceful moments even as they enjoy the services and the ambience of the establishment.
The management of a corporate brand is underpinned by the values of an establishment (Essamri et al., 2020). The investigations show that St. Margaret hotel values include delivering quality products and services, living integrity, financial performance, creating conducive environment for customers to have fun, and supporting community who are part of the firm’s stakeholders. These values are underpinned by corporate brand management theories. For instance, Donner and Fort (2018) note that the value-based brand theory aims at explaining the value-based corporations such as hotels whose intentions are to build long-term customer value. Further, the authors assert that a corporate’s success can only be achieved through the value that a company or a brand delivers to the clients. Fischer et al. (2019) support this argument by saying that, based on the value-based brand theory, customers are supreme and determines how a brand can bit its competitors. Therefore, it can be concluded that, in relation to this theory, the life blood for any company is the customer.
Moreover, St. Margaret’s reputation is of high level. This is according to the data gathered from the Booking.com, Google My Business, among other websites. The reviews from these websites reveal that the hotel offers comfort and luxury experience to its clients, thus gaining positive reviews that rate the hotel at 4.5 out of 5. It is an indication that the brand’s reputation is highly regarded not only in the UK but around the world.
Segmentation, Target Market, and Positioning
According to Camilleri (2018), segmentation, targeting, and positioning (STP) is a three step framework that explains how business establishments segment their market, target the customers, and then position the brand and the products offered by the company to various market segments that have been identified. According to the room prices at St. Margaret’s hotel, the brand offers room prices ranging from £100 to £200 (St. Margaret Hotel, 2022). Despite the pricing of the rooms looking somehow higher compared to the other hotels around Oxford, the establishment receives influx of clients both from the UK and beyond the borders. This means that the market segment for the hotel is upper middle class. Additionally, the hotel offers comfortable and luxurious services while maintaining high standards.
Moreover, the establishment offers two categories of rooms including single and family rooms. It is an indication that the target market for St. Margaret’s hotel is business travellers who visit the hotel for accommodation as they proceed with their business trips. That is why single rooms have been made available for such clients. Additionally, having single rooms at the hotel means that the firm also targets tourists whose mission is to explore Oxford. The hotel also has family rooms. The availability of family rooms indicates that St. Margaret also target individuals who travel with their families. The hotel has swimming pool and playground for kids. Such services position the brand into the family market. Parents can enjoy swimming services while their kids have fun at the kids’ playground. Therefore, with such services, it shows that the hotel targets business travellers, tourists who come to explore Oxford, and families.
When an establishment offers the right products and services to customers, it tries to communicate the brand meaning and what the brand stands for in the target market (Terech, 2018). St. Margaret offers kids playground, swimming pool, rooms for individuals and families. These services are meant to meet the needs of the customers, as well as their social and psychological aspects. This goes in line with corporate brand management theories such as the theory of brand loyalty. This theory explains how clients’ psychology relates with a particular brand. Yoshida et al. (2018) posit that, the theory of brand loyalty portrays three aspects of customers towards their inclination to a certain brand, which include emotional attachment, evaluation of a brand, as well as behavioural aspects.
The emotional attachment explains how customers attach themselves emotionally to a particular brand. It is about how the client likes the brand or dislikes the brand. If a client’s emotional attachment is positive, the customer becomes more inclined to purchasing and using the brand and they may never bother about checking or considering other brands (Atulkar, 2020). Therefore, if the customer finds that the brand suits their needs, they may not mind about the price. That is how companies develop brand equity. Considering the case of St Margaret’s hotel, the brand offers higher prices than most of its competitors but the customers especially families, tourists, and business travellers flock the hotel for its services including, food, accommodation, and recreational services. It is an indication that the hotel has positioned itself well by establishing brand equity to the community.
Analysis and Findings
Stakeholder Engagement and Overall Corporate Brand Equity
As noted before in the report, brand equity is not easy to achieve especially for companies that have not created their own customer base and established strong relationships with customers and especially the target market. That is why Nassar and Battour (2020) assert that, companies need to build strong bond of loyalty with their clients to realise brand equity. Building strong bond with customers is the most difficult aspect of brand equity. It is noted that nowadays customers have established psychological bond with particular brands and even feel more attached to them, hence making repeat purchases (Ahn and Back, 2018). The attachment makes them feel part of the fellow consumers’ community thus acting as brand ambassadors to those brands through their engagement in social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, among other online forums, as well as events. That is why Keller and Swaminathan (2020) say that a brand equity connection that seems to border on client’s evangelism is important and valuable.
However, with customers being part of the hotel’s stakeholders, the establishment seems inactive in engaging its customers. Consistent engagement with clients creates trust of customers to the brand but if the company does not engage them constantly, they may develop doubts and mistrust regarding the legitimacy of an establishment. According to the investigations done on St. Margret Hotel concerning stakeholder engagement, it is found that the company does not constantly engage its clients because the last post on the firm’s Facebook was done early in 2021. Even when doing their post on social media pages, the hotel does not follow the “comfort and luxury” theme as part of marketing and awareness creation. This slows down its marketing effort which is one of the issues identified with the brand.
The hotel’s Inconsistencies in stakeholder engagement and especially customer engagement seem to go against the provisions of the branding theory which is also identified as one of corporate brand management theories. The branding theory provides theoretical framework on crucial components of brand management. For instance, it is noted that the theory emphasises on companies making people aware of their brand or products (Melewar and Nguyen, 2014). However, considering St. Margaret case on the same issue, the company seems to fall short of this aspect despite having full social media profiles. Majority of both existing and potential customers would want to know more about a company and any new products and services that a firm is offering. That is why the branding theory claims that business establishments should provide people with the information that they want and in the right time in order for them to choose if to remain emotionally attached to the firm or not (Melewar and Nguyen, 2014). Further, the theory provides that, once a company establishes a good relationship with customers through constant engagement, there is high possibility for that company to gain competitive advantage in the market, hence constant growth (Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013).
Corporate brand management is more underpinned by the marketing methods that bring customers closer to the brand. However, in the contemporary world, marketing is done differently compared to how marketing was done before the advancement of technology. Still, there are companies that use traditional marketing methods together with the new marketing approaches. The contemporary marketing and traditional marketing take different approaches. For instance, Khurramov and Fayzieva (2020) assert that traditional marketing focal point is a firm’s product or service offered while modern marketing is more aligned to customers. This means modern marketing varies with the traditional marketing because it is more customer-oriented. Firms that adopt the current marketing strategies always ensure that their customers are satisfied with the products and services offered (Farwq et al., 2019). With the current marketing interventions, companies are able to address their clients’ unique wants and needs. More importantly, contemporary marketing strategies ensure that companies and customers have direct link where customers can share their experiences with the brand, raise issues regarding the brand and address their needs directly to companies (De Pelsmacker et al., 2018). That has been made possible due to the evolution of technology especially where social media platforms are used to link brands to consumers. (Farwq et al., 2019) argue that some of the most popular modern marketing strategies employed today include email marketing, internet advertisements (ads), e-commerce websites, and social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.
Therefore, marketing is one of St. Margaret’s current programmes. The company has invested heavily on digital marketing following De Pelsmacker et al., (2018) idea that digital presence holds the key to successful marketing strategies in the contemporary world. Despite the hotel not frequently making posts on its social media pages, it understands that embracing technology is the only way that it can stay competitive in the current digital world. The hotel has invested in a quality website that not only communicates the company’s features, products, and services but also facilitates online bookings. The reviews from the Trip Advisor, a platform that currently plays crucial role in influencing consumer decisions shows that St Margaret’s Hotel has largely been involved in providing quality services to its clients, hence gaining significant market share in the hotel industry.
Lerbinger (2018) asserts that corporate communication is essential because it is the perception in which a company creates brand identity and ensures that communication is maintained with the public. Corporate communication personnel are primarily tasked with building a firm’s image, maintaining communication with both internal and external audiences to ensure a positive reputation regarding a brand is maintained in the industry. In this case, corporate communication is another current programme that the establishment is undertaking. The company knows that, to build and maintain strong brand identity, there must be alignment of internal and external communication. Therefore, as noted by Cornelissen (2020), corporate communication does not only concern communicating with external audience but also internally. St. Margaret’s internal corporate communication involves communication from the hotel executives down to junior employees together with inter-departmental messages. Some examples that the hotel uses for internal corporate communication include internal newsletters, memorandums, knowledge management tools, and teams meetings.
On the other hand, external corporate communication is done through press releases, advertisements, posts through social media platforms, and press conferences. After the Covid 19 outbreak, hotels held press conferences to communicate with their clients regarding the measures that establishments have taken to mitigate the spread of the disease in and outside the establishments (Canhoto and Wei, 2021). Although it looked like mere press conferences, it was a way of maintaining the brands’ reputation and popularity by informing customers how well they were prepared to ensure customers are safe even as they visit these business establishments.
SUCCESSFUL BRAND MANAGEMENT TO BUILD BRAND EQUITY
It is noted that managing brands in today’s business environment which seems inter-connected and complex could be challenging. Keller and Swaminathan (2020) claim that brands are significantly affected by regulations, heightened competition, supply chain, as well as distribution issues. Therefore, for companies to manage these factors, corporate brand management practices should be embraced especially those that are more resilient, responsive, and growth-oriented (Iglesias et al., 2020). That is why Tufa and Melese (2021) claim that brand management practices should be adaptive and flexible, should leverage technology, align company structures, and be proactive.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Brand equity allows customers to attach their positive emotions to a brand. Once customers become inclined to a brand, they never bother considering the pricing of a company due to their trust in it. Therefore when customers see the brand, they assume it is okay with them and make quick decisions in purchasing products and services from that particular company. St. Margaret’s Hotel has established itself around Oxford and the world and clients who have sampled its products and services do not even think of considering the competitors despite the hotel charging slightly higher than its competitors. Some of the issues identified with the hotel include marketing efforts, competition, segmentation, positioning, and building of reputation, hence brand equity.
Although the brand has been using social media platforms to market itself, it is noted that the company has not been active in making real-time posts to engage its customers and inform them of the new products and services. Therefore it is recommended that the establishment constantly posts to its social media pages to inform and engage with the existing and potential clients. It is also recommended for the hotel to ensure that it provides its customers with e-scooters especially for the clients who would wish to explore the Oxford town. Besides, having that the hotel is located far from the station, there should be regular pick-ups for guests who want to visit the hotel instead of leaving them to find own means of coming to the hotel. Lastly, the hotel should establish a casino where tourists can have fun as they enjoy their stay in the establishment.
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