According to the Business Dictionary, branding aims to “establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers”. Your brand is not only what is expressed in the client-facing side of your business, but it also encompasses your guests’ complete experience – it defines the purpose of your company and is in everything you do.
What exactly is a brand?
It’s not just about having a recognizable name or logo to make you stand out in a crowded industry. Your brand is how customers perceive you when they connect with your business — both the impressions you can control and the ones you can’t.
If you think about it, all of us have brands too; we each have a name, style, tone of voice and we make different impressions on people.
Likewise, vacation rental businesses have names, listings, logos, colors, fonts, property styles, and reputations to manage that makeup who they are and affect how they’re perceived. Essentially, it’s how people feel and the gut feeling they get about our vacation rental properties and services.
And although you can’t fully control what potential guests think about you, you can have an impact on it by being consistent and extending your brand to every part of your business.
It all starts with establishing what that consistency is going to look like and the feeling you want it to evoke. If your properties have a rural charm, leading guests to feel like they’re going to get in touch with nature. Or if you target families, bright colors in your logo and pictures of kid-friendly areas in your property would play a huge part in your branding.
Importance of branding during the Coronavirus crisis
It’s more than ever to have a solid brand during these tough times. The way you position your vacation rental business and respond to the crisis will make a difference in determining how your business will be perceived in the long-term. And while it’s tempting to refrain from communicating to potential guests at all in order to mitigate risks of appearing insensitive during a time of crisis, opportunities for brands remain. Although travelers can’t (or are not ready to) book at the moment, they are window shopping and will remember the brands that stand out for them.
Why does your vacation rental business need a brand?
1. A brand helps you stand out from the crowd
It can’t be stressed enough: your vacation rental business isn’t the only one in your state – it might not even be the only one on your street! So the importance of defining your vacation rental brand primarily comes from the need to distinguish yourself from your direct competitors.
If you have a sleek, consistent and coherent brand across all content (we’re talking copy, photographs, videos, everything) on the channels you use, this becomes your identity and is what travelers use to differentiate between the market.
Guests are faced with endless options of vacation rentals in each particular place. What is more eye-catching: “Holiday apartments in Lisbon” or “The Lisboans” (The Old Beach)? Not only does your brand name communicate something unique to your audience, but it is also going to be what they remember and liked most about your site.
2. A brand sets expectations
Never forget that your brand also acts as a tool for communication. How you decide to present your vacation rental business from the very outset will help you identify your brand voice, message and to an extent, communicate some guest expectations.
Let’s imagine your vacation rental is called “Amazing Villas” – without any other information, the name in itself is going to generate some kind of idea about the vacation homes you are offering to your viewer.
But names don’t just have to be descriptive for you to have a strong brand. After all, Amazon has nothing to do with rivers, but it has grown to become the largest e-commerce retailer in the world, so it at least has the ‘largest in the world’ title in common.
The objective is just to have a great brand that evokes positive experiences and expectations, which leads to the next point…
3. A brand becomes self-explanatory
In the long term, your brand becomes a synonym for your business and vice versa. Setting out your brand objectives early on only helps prepare you for success in the future. To put it in Matt Landau’s words:
“there’s a reason McDonald’s uses giant yellow arches […]. It’s because a brand is the quickest way to explain what a business has to offer”.
If your vacation rental brand is recognizable, memorable and has a catchy name, you’re halfway there. If you have a logo that speaks for your business, even better. Both first-time and return guests alike will draw associations between your brand and what it means for them.
There are few people who see a bitten apple these days and don’t immediately think of the technology giant, or a tick and the slogan ‘just do it’ without thinking of Nike.
When branding is done well, it speaks volumes for the business.
4. A brand is the basis for your marketing
Defining your vacation rental brand isn’t as simple as choosing a name and a logo, there are many other factors to consider. It will involve having coherent color schemes, styles and design choices across your whole vacation rental site.
These choices will, in turn, play a huge role in the marketing of your property. Whether that’s in the creation of a special offer banner you upload as your Facebook cover photo, or a local newspaper advert, every piece of marketing material should aim to be consistent with your vacation rental website. After all, that is the first and best way travelers interact with your offering.
When you provide your guests with great customer service, an easy booking system, clear communication processes and a beautiful vacation rental, they’re more likely to return to your home time and time again. It’s also likely you’ll encourage word of mouth recommendations from your visitors to their friends, family members and so on.
Featuring reviews on your site also helps to reinforce the trust you’ve built with your guests and strengthens your online credibility, which in turn all adds to the overall brand ideology you have created.
How to build your vacation rental brand
Building your own brand essentially boils down to these simple 7 steps:
Analyze your target audience and your competitors
Pick your focus and personality
Choose your business name
Write your tagline or slogan
Choose colors and fonts that reflect your brand
Design your logo
Apply your branding across your business and evolve it as you grow.
Although you may revisit these steps when you’ve already launched your vacation rental business for a refresh, it’s crucial that you consider each step when you shape your branding.
Let’s start by setting the groundwork to go over the different ways about developing your brand.
1. Analyze your market
Before tweaking or getting started with your brand, it’s important to understand who you want to cater to and who you’re competing with.
You can start your research by:
Googling “vacation rental + (your location)” to analyze the direct and indirect competitors that come up. Make a note of the services they offer, logos, colors, pictures and how they describe their listings. Also review their social media accounts and see what their followers are saying about them.
Talk to past guests or friends who would be your target market and ask them what stands out about your property.
Search on Instagram or Facebook for similar accounts (even if they’re not a competitor), analyze their content (what they’re saying and communicating) and what their followers comment on.
Navigate through websites of other vacation rental businesses to get a feel for how potential customers would browse and book.
Make a note of:
Who your main local competitors are: the businesses that pop up on the first results in Google and listing sites.
Who your “lowest hanging fruit” potential guests are: the customers you can easily convince to book.
Interests and tone of voice of your potential guests: how they speak (formal/informal), what their interests are (e.g. yoga, wine, etc).
It’s crucial to do this research and be aware of this data because it will help you decide on what to focus on, how to position your brand and how to stand out from the competitors.
2. Define your brand’s focus and personality
Although you want to target all types of travelers and cater to anyone that wants to stay in your area, it’s important to focus on specific segments to build your brand.
Here are some exercises to help you define what to focus on and decide on what tone of voice to use:
Start with your positioning statement
A positioning statement is simply one or two lines that defines your business in the industry. It’s not really what you put on your website, listing or business card – it’s just a summary of what you want your business to represent. It’ll also help you answer all the questions that will come up while building your brand.
Your positioning statement would be something like:
Our [TYPE OF VACATION RENTAL] offer [SERVICES] for [TARGET AUDIENCE] to [VALUE PROPOSITION].
Unlike [COMPETITORS], we [KEY DIFFERENTIATORS].
e.g. Our Bali villas offer self-catering accommodation for travelers to find a home away from home while discovering a new culture. Unlike the other competitors, we offer personalized onsite cooking classes and local tours.
Your value proposition is the one thing that makes your business stand out. It can be as simple as having luxury bedsheets to offering special services. Think about it, find it, and make it part of your brand’s identity.
What words would you associate with your brand?
Another way of defining your brand’s personality is by looking at it as if it was a person. What would they be like and what kind of friends would they have?
This will help you think about how you’re going to be writing on social media, listing or website and how your images would be like.
A fun and very useful exercise is to pick 3-5 adjectives that describe the type of brand that might resonate with your audience. Here are a couple of list of traits to help you get started:
What metaphors or concepts describe your brand?
In addition to thinking about the words that describe your brand, you can also use metaphors or concepts to help you identify the individual qualities you want it to have.
It can be anything; an animal, a celebrity, a famous quote, anything as long as it makes you think of what you want your brand to portray.
For example, a beach house that targets families might choose elephants as a starting point: they’re beautiful creatures, focused, family-oriented and loyal. They love working in small groups.
If your vacation rental business was an animal, what animal would it be and what does it represent to you?
3. Choose a brand name
Although a brand is way more than just a name, your company name is one of the most important commitments you have to make when you’re getting started. Your name will impact your logo, domain (website address) and your marketing strategy.
Essentially, you want a brand name that’s hard to copy and harder to confuse with your competitors.
A good slogan is short, catchy and makes a strong first impression. You can use this on your website’s header, business card and on your social media accounts.
A great example is Airbnb’s tagline: “Belong Anywhere” – it says a lot with only two simple words. It gets travelers excited about traveling, exploring new and unfamiliar territories and at the same thing, feeling like you’ll be welcomed and safe wherever you go. It also goes hand in hand with what the company represents: Why stay in a hotel if you can find a great vacation rental that will give you a taste of place and make you feel like you belong.
Here are some ways to approach writing a slogan of your own:
Be blunt: “The World’s Most Luxurious Villas”
Turn it into a metaphor: “WTF: With The Family.”
Describe your guests’ mindsets: “Adventure Time.”
Describe what they’ll find: “Luxury, Location, and Convenience.”
Write a rhyme: “Don’t Fuss with The Bus.” (for a school bus rental)
Describe it literally: “Holiday rentals in Costa brava”
5. Choose colors and fonts that reflect your brand
Now that you have a business name and tagline, think about how you want to represent your brand visually with colors and font styles. This is especially important for when you start building your own vacation rental website.
Choosing your brand colors
Colors are important not only because of how it’s going to make your website look, but they will also evoke emotions and feelings on your potential guests. You’re going to want to use colors that represent your business concept and differentiate you from competitors.
There are a lot of studies about color psychology and although it isn’t an exact science, it’ll help you decide your brand colors:
Remember to think about how legible colored text might look over white and black backgrounds and how white and black text work over your brand colors.
Choosing your fonts
We recommend picking two fonts that will also look good on your website. Choose one for headings and titles and another for body text.
Just like your brand colors, keep in mind what those fonts represent and what feelings they evoke to users.
6. Design your logo
A logo is the face of your company and is shown almost everywhere your brand exists. So it’s important to create a unique and identifiable logo that can be easily scalable in all sizes. Most brands overlook the adaptability of their logos; it has to look great on a Facebook page, a little favicon on your browser and many other channels and devices.
7. Apply your branding across your business and evolve it as you grow.
Building a brand doesn’t end with creating a logo or slogan, it has to “live” and be consistent everywhere travelers interact with you, from the template you choose for your website to the automated messages you send before/after they check-in or out of your vacation rental.
You’ll continue to define and grow your brand as you get more bookings; the more travelers you expose your brand to, the more you’ll learn about the customers you’re attracting and how to deal with them.
Remember, you’re never going to be able to control how people perceive your brand but you can tug them in the right direction. Make an outstanding first impression, manage their expectations and build your reputation.
Building a brand that suits your vacation rental is possible with Lodgify’s completely customizable templates.
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