You know how it goes. You started a hostel, b&b, or small hotel business ten years ago. At the time, you created a quick logo for your property. Maybe you based it on your favorite piece of artwork. Or maybe your niece made it for you. But ten years down the road, the old logo isn’t working any more. It’s time to get with the times and give your property a new look.
Branding is an important part of marketing any hotel property. Consumers (and guests) tend to like brands they feel better reflect their own self-image—that is to say, they like brands that embody how they see themselves. It’s important to craft a compelling brand that is attractive to the widest group of people possible. This is why we see so many auto, travel, and beer ads that just show pictures of young pretty people running around in groups having a good time. You don’t even have to mention the auto, destination, or booze you’re trying to market. People still respond well to these ads, because everyone wants to be happy, healthy, surrounded by friends, and doing fun things.
I bring up this example to demonstrate that guests respond to the way your brand makes them feel, not necessarily to the “message” of your marketing. If your brand is stuffy, stilted, or boring, then this is not going to appeal to a travel audience that likes fun adventures and new places. However, if your brand is so wild and colorful that it is hard to understand, (or, dare I say, comes off as trashy), then this also turns people off.
It’s important to balance fun and professionalism. These two things can be captured with your choice of fonts, colors, and images.
So I asked our own resident branding expert Richard Sanderson to give me his top three tips hoteliers should follow when re-branding their properties. Richard is responsible for all the branding here at cloudbeds.com—from logos and colors, to fonts and animations. Here is what he said:
#1) Keep images simple.
Stay away from complex illustrations. This can sometimes be a hard thing to resist. Let’s say that you own a winery, and your bottles of wine have beautiful paintings from the Renaissance on them. They may look good on bottles, but they don’t look good in a company logo, or as a website background tile. It can also be compelling to include a “seal” or “crest” within your logo, giving off the illusion that your property has history. But these complex images don’t work well on the Internet, or on small business cards and brochures (remember, your logo needs to be printable too). Instead, they can confuse guests. Guests need to be able to glance at your logo and instantly “get” it. People make decisions about whether or not they like your brand within 50 milliseconds of appearing on your website. That is .05 seconds! You don’t have the time to impress them with art and a long motto all tied up in a seal.
Take a look at these logos from big brand hotels. No, you might not print them off and stick them to your wall. No, critics in 1,000 years won’t be having scholastic arguments about their artistic appeal. But they all share one thing in common—they are simple. The are conceptual. They are distinctive, and they each make you feel a certain way.
Look at these logos. Which brands represented are up-scale? Which ones are mid-scale? How do their logos reflect the demographic they wish to attract? A general rule of thumb is that up-scale properties have simpler logos, and mid- to low-end properties have more “fancy” logos. In this example, we see Hilton and Marriott on the left, which are more up-scale North American brands. Both logos are flat. The Hilton font is so simple that it looks like a “pause” symbol with two straight lines and a swoosh (excuse my highly technical term here). The Marriott “M” is similar; it has two straight lines and a swoosh. They are iconic and easy on the eyes.
The other two logos are much more fancy, and represent mid-range hotels. The Comfort Inn logo (#3) has four different colors (or, two colors, each with an additional shade, depending on how you look at it). It has four different swooshes—no, I take that back—it has has seven different swooshes, if you count the white ones in the middle. On top of it all, it has a drop-shadow behind it. It’s not only trying to represent a brand, but it’s trying to look like something; a setting sun. It’s just trying to do way too much.
The Best Western logo is actually brand new. You remember the traditional crown logo Best Western has used for decades, right? Well, this blue circle is their new logo. They did right by getting rid of their crown. It was way too complicated. We only identified with it because we have known it for so long. However, this new logo is not attractive. Compare the blue background circle to Marriott and Hilton. The Best Western circle has a gradient across its face–it changes color. It has a white highlight on one side, and a faint glow on the other. They also chose a poor font for the typeface. The font chosen has curves everywhere. The “B” looks fat. The “W” has two straight edges, and two curvy ones. It’s messy and complicated. Both the Comfort Inn and Best Western logos give off a “less refined” vibe to better reflect their target demographic (which is exactly what they want). And with that aim in mind, they are successful logos. They appeal to the correct audience.
#2) Use a clear, readable typeface.
Fonts are lots of fun. But it’s easy to get carried away. If you explore free online font databases like dafont.com, you’ll see very creative fonts by talented artists that mimic handwriting, or look like spooky Halloween blood, or look like each vowel is made from fairy wings. These fonts are undoubtedly creative, but they are not clear. It’s important that guests quickly understand what your property is all about in the .05 seconds they have to judge it. If they spend all that time trying to work out your property’s name because you used a font that looks like entwined tree branches, they will walk away with a worse opinion than they should.
This is where balancing creativity and professionalism comes in. Yes, those kinds of fonts are creative, and they do make guests feel a certain way. But they are also obstacles for many readers. Instead, choose fonts that are more legible, but have distinct characteristics that can still express individuality.
“Use serif fonts for a more upscale feel,” says Richard, “and use sans-serif fonts for a modern, upbeat feel.”
Fonts like Jokerman, Comic Sans, and Papyrus are easy to get because they come with every Windows installation. But they instantly make the reader feel like you’re unprofessional, or that your marketing team is working out of a garage with a dot matrix printer. Instead, opt for fonts like Futura, Helvetica, or Open Sans, which all have character, but are more professional.
#3) Use only 2 colors (3 colors, max).
Guests are jarred when they get to your website and have to squint through a rainbow of colors. A basic rule of web and logo design is to restrict the number of colors you use. It’s possible to create a branded palette with 3, 4, or 5 colors, but it’s much more difficult to get them all to work together to create something cohesive. Instead, restrict your brand’s color scheme to two colors, or try three if you’re being adventurous.
Need help? Websites like Adobe Color CC (formerly Adobe Kuler) can help you pick out colors that work well with one another. To keep things simple, use the Monochromatic or Triad colors rules to restrict your color choices. If you’re not feeling very creative, pick a pre-made color theme from Adobe’s Explore section.
So, you now understand the ins and outs of logo design and branding. But you need help. After all, not everyone can crack open Photoshop and knock out an award-winning logo in a few minutes.
And that’s ok. Your expertise is in hospitality—I get that. Thankfully, there are some great resources you can use to find talent that can craft a new logo for you.
Starting at $300, you can get designs from 10 or more different freelance graphic designers, and then simply pick the one you like best. You control the entire process. Tell the designers what you are looking for, which fonts to use, what colors to use, and where the logo will be used, and the designers will compete for your business. After you find a logo you like, it’s yours. You own the copyright and you can use it any way you wish.
Fivver is much cheaper, but results are a bit hit and miss. I have used this service personally. Sometimes it takes a few tries, working with different artists, until you find one you like. I was ultimately pleased with the result after about a week of working with different artists, and it only cost me around $20 to get a killer logo.
Freelance works much like Fivver, but the pool of graphic designers tend to be a little more polished, which means you pay a bit more. It’s a good medium between 99designs and Fivver.
Re-branding your hotel, inn, or hostel property can be a stressful and emotional experience. After all, you’ve spent ten years or so with your last logo, and sometimes it can be sad to say goodbye. It’s not always a good idea to re-brand, but when you feel like it is, I hope this short guide gives you the tools you need to get it done.