It may sound like an oxymoron, but the crux of Radisson Hotel Group’s complete restructuring of its hotel brands, explains Eric de Neef, executive vice president and global brand chief, comes down to "integrated differentiation".
Put more simply, de Neef says when working in an experience-led industry and helping run one of its largest hotel groups, having too diverse an offering can be counterproductive.
“One of the weaknesses of the past, for example, was that consumers didn’t link our different brands, like Club Carlson, with Radisson hotel loyalty programmes,” he describes. “By just having Radisson Rewards today, everybody gets that it is all the Radisson brand.”
It is this search for consistency that was at the heart of Radisson Hotel Group’s big rebrand at the beginning of the year, which saw almost all its properties come under the various Radisson brand names according to their spec: Radisson, Radisson Blu, Radisson Red.
Some brands, such as Country Inn & Suites, are still to be integrated, but it has been a huge undertaking that de Neef says has helped bring clarity and efficiency to Radisson’s global brand proposition.
It may not sound like a big thing, but Radisson hotels and business services are all now accessible on one multi-brand platform. This, according to de Neef, has been a game-changer in providing one point of entry for consumers, while allowing each hotel brand to retain its individual differences.
“We now have a brand with three commercial drivers: RadissonHotels.com, Radisson Meetings and Radisson Rewards—the same back-end across the brands," he lists. "The properties are then differentiated on the experience, to find the right answer for our customer. The experience will be different, for example, between a three-star and a five-star property.”
The reason for all this is to leverage the brand awareness of Radisson, de Neef says. It also makes things much easier from a marketing efficiency standpoint, because “every time you talk about Radisson, you help the entire family of brands, and all three commercial lines, because you’re always consistent in the way you deliver your message”.
From this new unified platform, de Neef says Radisson can now focus on its most important task, which is shifting from being a process-driven hotel brand to a guest experience brand.
“We obviously know that the Chinese or Indian traveller does not have the same expectations as a European one, so you have to be clever and adaptive with guest experience,” he says. “We now have much more flexibility in our brand standards because they’re now driven by experience and outcomes, instead of just having a list of features that you need to have in a room.”
The same flexibility is required in the group’s marketing efforts, and as such de Neef has set up Radisson’s global commercial steering committee, which meets quarterly to discuss which campaigns are resonating locally, regionally and globally.
Of course, technology is an ever larger part of the equation, but de Neef cautions against what he believes may be gimmicky offerings rather than smart applications of new technologies to drive better experience.
“We are in the hospitality industry, it’s a people business and it needs to be that way,” he states. “When I’m reading about other colleagues in the industry talking about welcoming and checking in guests with a robot, I think we’re on the wrong path.
“Technology and data can help you enhance the guest experience through better personalisation. I need to know who you are and what you’re expecting from us when you enter the building, so I can have quality time with you instead of a long administrative process to get your keys.”
To that end, de Neef said Radisson is experimenting with technology that would allow customers to book their specific hotel room as they do a seat on an airplane—how high the room is, a sea or city view, fresh fruit or chocolate and so on. He admits he was inspired by the airline system and doesn’t see why it can’t be transplanted to another experience-based sector like hotels.
“This is the kind of personalisation that’s critical in the guest experience,” he says.
As for Asia-Pacific specifically, de Neef says Radisson is now looking to push on and double its portfolio in the region. India and China are two clear growth markets, the latter not least because Radisson Hotel Group was purchased by China-based HNA Group in 2016.
With a unified platform offering hotel brands at each level of the market, de Neef says Radisson is now primed to succeed in the region.