Point of Difference: Ace Hotel

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Co-branding is not a new phenomenon and has existed in the hospitality industry now for a while, not only as a strategy to be competitively different, but also as way to leverage the benefits of each brands' equity, appeal and status.

This month, we hear Simon Gerard's point of view about the success that US boutique hotel chain Ace Hotel has generated through its co-branding initiatives, and how smaller independent boutique hotels can create their own co-branding projects with a lower-scale investment.  Simon is the content director for Linkbuildr in Vancouver, an inbound marketing agency providing branding through online relationships, social media management, SEO, content marketing and link development. 

Simon Gerard: The power of co-branding
When it comes to co-branding in the world of boutique hotels, Ace Hotel is king. Not only have they built an authentic brand around their name, they have successfully leveraged it through collaborations with other complementary brands in the world of design, fashion and art. Through proper brand alignment, their co-branding projects get exposure and resonate with their target market of "culture enthusiasts", as Ace Hotel co-founder Alex Calderwood puts it.  Through the social world of culture, fashion, art and design magazines and blogs, Ace Hotel has been able to successfully reach their target market where very few hospitality brands will make an appearance.

A co-branding example is with Incase, a California-based bag and case brand, known for their collaborations, letting their products be the canvas for artists or collaborated designs. It has produced quality items that Ace Hotel's target market would actually want to buy. With each item sold, it carries the shared story of both brands with it. The shared 'halo effect' of each brand's value and appeal gained, in addition to the sharing each brand's fans and followers, is far greater than just selling some nice promotional items.

The co-branded project is shared with With Incase's 72,000+ Facebook fans/17,000+ Twitter followers and Ace Hotel's 17,000+ Facebook fans/24,000+ Twitter followers. A Google search (limited to the past year) for their last collection released last fall for Mac products, displays over 10,000 results. While we can't count them to be all about the Ace/Incase collaboration, a good portion will be, from blog posts, magazine articles, mentions to online stores listing the items. Then any piece of content source created around the project is shared with their followers, which is in turn shared by them.

This reaction is something you'll see with very few traditional advertisements. Brand value is built through content, mentions and links, something traditional advertising can rarely achieve. And unlike fleeting promotions, banner or print ads, this kind of brand value is authentic and sustainable. In today's world of social, doing something different, as opposed to saying you're different, is the best way to get people talking.

What Ace Hotel has achieved maybe out of reach for other boutique hotels, unless you have a significant upfront investment at your disposal.  However, there are other cost-effective ways for smaller boutique hotel brands looking to grow in the same way. Do something that makes a story worth talking about for either yourself (your hotel blog) or someone else (their blog). Not every hotel has the ability launch a line of bags and accessories, so starting with an interesting event is a good start at co-branding. For example organising an art exhibition with a local gallery or artist, a small private concert with an upcoming local band or DJ. Or find a designer, artist or boutique store that would like to have their products, furniture or paintings in some public spaces like your lobby or maybe in a few bedrooms. This will connect your hotel with another brand and give both parties involved something to talk about, as well as both parties' followers.  While it does take up time and energy, both parties do benefit, which can help absorb costs and provide more value and appeal than doing independent brand promotion.

Simon Gerard is content director at Linkbuildr



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