Navigating branding in hospitality
Building a brand is about providing a unique and memorable experience from the food, drinks, service, lighting and music to the paper selected for the menus and the language used to describe a venue. Every element needs to be carefully considered when thinking about how it will tell your overall brand story.
At Commune Group, we maintain a strong identifiable brand by consistently working and focusing on the overall customer experience. Providing a great experience builds brand loyalty, and through brand loyalty comes the ability to grow and diversify.
PR and social media
You can’t hide behind PR and Instagrammable neon signs for too long – the consumer will always seek out a good product and that’s what they’ll remember. Hard work will put you in a good place where customers trust your product, which gives you the freedom to move between cuisines and unique offerings.
Introducing the umbrella brand Commune helped define our culture. It’s young, dynamic and inclusive. Our approach will always be about ‘having a crack’. The group’s identity is bound in this philosophy rather than a set of rules, and that’s how we continue to back ourselves with different concepts across hospitality.
Over the years, we have also used alliterative names to align with our branding from Tokyo Tina and Hanoi Hannah to our Australian Open pop-up restaurant Beijing Betty and the now-closed Saigon Sally. We felt this was a great way for the public to identify our brand across multiple cuisines, while staying true to our dynamic and playful persona.
Having a trusted brand can also help you move in a new direction. While we were known for high-volume, turntables, Asian-disco dining, we were able to build a completely different space and experience by opening Neptune wine bar.
While nailing branding in hospitality is important, there is a danger of overthinking and over-conceptualising your brand. Defining who you are too early can become problematic and act as a roadblock when you decide to take things in a new direction. My best piece of advice is to be malleable, to bend but not break and to work in a way that lets your branding evolve with demand and move with the times. There’s a difference between changing who you are and adapting.
You can’t please everyone. Identify your target market and build your brand with them in mind. When you try to please everyone, your product and experience will become vanilla.
Our brand has gone through an interesting time in hospitality and more specifically hospitality marketing. We first started Hanoi Hannah eight years ago when online publications had only just started gaining momentum. These days, the proliferation of the digital space and social media can definitely aid in building a strong brand identity. But it can be a slippery slope if you dive too far into the social media bubble – it can skew your perspective and can force you to deviate from your core brand values. It’s important to remember the reason why you started and that should always be your motivator and driving force.