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Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Brand Power of a Chocolate Chip Cookie - Doubletree by Hilton (TM)

A chocolate-chip cookie.
Image via Wikipedia
Among hotels the Doubletree by Hilton (TM) - I call it "The Doubletree" for short - is famous for giving you a warm chocolate chip cookie upon arrival. But inside that cookie is much more than gooey chocolate chips. Actually it holds an entire management philosophy that, studied closely, also gives you a clue about the power of brand when it's done right.

The recipe for a powerful brand is to combine all aspects of the business into one focused image that you want the customer to hold in their mind.

To create that image you have to unite:

1. A basic idea about what kind of value you want to provide. Over and above the product or service itself. At Doubletree that value is to make you feel like a valued part of a family even when you are away from home. Not everyone wants to be treated that way - there are those who prefer anonymity, or who want to be treated in a very formal, distanced way like a VIP at all times - but some people like that classy-yet-homey feel. For them, there is the Doubletree and the warm cookie.

2. A business strategy for how you will provide that value. In the case of Doubletree by they are aligned with Hilton, a hotel brand that has built a reputation for quality and attention to customer service while also being reassuringly "everywhere." By being part of the "Hilton family," Doubletree distinguishes itself as the special kind of place that it is - not claiming to be "all things to all people" but almost like a boutique kind of hotel.

3. Operational decisions. These are the tactical "how" decisions in which you put more resources into some things, while reducing or eliminating your investment in others. For example, at Doubletree there is a visibly big investment in breakfast as a foundational meal for the day. The way they lay it out and run it, feels very much like a family breakfast.  In fact food plays a big part of how the brand is carried out, and operationally that generosity makes itself felt day-to-day. Cookies are given out more than once, if you ask for them, and we have often been greeted with a "hello" basket of chocolates for being frequent guests.

4. Corporate culture in which every employee reinforces the basic idea. At the Doubletree, everyone from management-behind-the-scenes to the people who greet you at the front desk to those who work in the food service areas and even the people who clean the room - every single person remembers you personally, and many even greet you by name. That is an unbelievable achievement when you consider how many people pass through and interact with these individuals on a daily basis.

5. Consistency of approach. The Doubletree clearly runs their properties the same way, everywhere, and in a way that is consistent with family values. For example, they engage the customer to "conserve to preserve" (I hope I got that right) - reducing the amount of wash and waste they generate. Respect for self (the employee), respect for others (the guests and other employees), respect for the environment. Consistency.

So it may look like a simple chocolate chip cookie. But within the cookie there is so much more. A holistic approach that combines financial, human, technology, marketing, branding, public relations, operations, and more into an integrated whole that is larger than the individual parts.

A little cookie - a big brand.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!

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Note: This commentary is not an endorsement and is offered voluntarily for the purpose of research and critical discussion - it was not solicited. All opinions my own.
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