In the competitive world of vacation rentals, it’s essential for property managers to build a strong brand that sets them apart and that travellers can recognise. However, it can be extremely challenging to create and maintain brand consistency across tens, hundreds or thousands of properties.
Vacation rental branding goes far beyond having an original logo and a cool website. Your brand identifies you as unique; it distinguishes you from your competitors; it sets guest expectations and builds trust and loyalty among your community. Even though travellers crave authentic local experiences, they also want to engage with a brand – which makes consistency supremely important.
Here’s how the world’s largest property managers are tackling the brand consistency challenge, with inspiring examples of vacation rental branding through interior design, guest experience, establishing product lines and more.
One way to achieve brand consistency across a large portfolio of properties is through interior design. Property management companies who use the master lease model – renting empty spaces in multi-unit buildings – design and furnish all their apartments themselves. This allows them to create a recognisable style and achieve a high level of consistency in the way that their properties look and feel. The goal is for guests to step inside and immediately recognise the apartment as a part of the brand they know and love.
Stay Alfred, one of the world’s largest property managers with over 2,500 units in 33 US locations, works with furniture companies to build their own custom furniture. Their iconic green “quotation mark chair” acts as a sort of signature in all their spaces. “It’s the same sofa, the same chair, the same dining set, the same dishware, the same bed, the same linen, the same towels, the same amenities; all those pieces that go into our apartments are the same whether you’re in Boston, Seattle, San Diego, New Orleans…,” says Doug Truitt, Director of Distribution at Stay Alfred, whom we interviewed for the Secret Sauce Podcast.
Companies like Stay Alfred aim to combine the reliability of hotels with the comfort of vacation rentals. So for them, it’s fundamentally important to provide vacation rental amenities and have a recognisable design in all their serviced apartments at the same time.
Ordering custom-built furniture is not the only way to achieve consistency in the design of your short-term rental properties. Innovative interior design companies like Fülhaus offer all-in-one design packages that make it easy for property managers to furnish their apartments in a consistent way.
Fülhaus’s Haus-in-a-Box is a comprehensive solution to establishing a strong brand through design: they take care of everything from design to procurement, delivery, installation, staging, and photography. No wonder one of the short-term rental industry’s hottest VC-backed startups, Zeus chose to work with them!
Most vacation rental property managers work with many different owners and do not have control over the design of the properties they manage. Besides, uniqueness, personality and a “local touch” are the exact things that many travellers look for in rentals. So how do you achieve brand consistency with such a heterogenous pool of properties?
Some of the world’s largest property managers focus on providing a consistent guest experience.
“Each of our properties might be different. What we want to make sure, though, is that towards the guests we have a consistent brand in terms of the experience. So, you can expect that you have 24/7 somebody that you can call if something is not working well. You have Wi-Fi, you have a spotlessly clean apartment, hotel-quality linens and towels – all sorts of things that you would expect from a professional place. But it doesn’t mean that each property looks the same,” says Alex Limpert, CEO at GuestReady, a property management company with 2500 rentals.
This way, the overall experience of staying at a GuestReady apartment becomes a staple of the brand: a quality that guests recognise, expect and look forward to.
Other property managers have chosen to distinguish their properties in different ways.
Tom Archer, CEO at Altido – a company managing 1,700 properties across Europe that was established through joining 4 different brands – considers consistency a high priority. “In today’s market, [consistency] is really important but it’s a real challenge keeping a one-bed flat in Edinburgh, a 6-bed house in London and a villa in Tuscany consistent,” he says. “We want to provide the [same quality of] service whether it is a villa or a one-bed flat.”
Besides ensuring consistency of service, they’ve come up with another idea to tackle the challenge.
“We’re also looking at building out three different product lines so we will have three tiers of service: Altido Affordable, Altido Lifestyle and Altido Luxury,” he says.
This way, they’ll be setting expectations and providing their guests with a consistent brand experience within each tier.
Speaking of setting expectations – another massive property management company with over 17,500 rentals, Sykes Holiday Cottages has come up with their own solution.
Graham Donoghue, CEO at Sykes says that all their properties are unique – after all, their uniqueness is part of their charm. However, this makes it difficult to control the consistency of the guest experience.
“I think every property should be well-maintained and well-cleaned. And every property should have a minimum standard or facilities,” he says. “We do rate our properties in terms of grading. The higher the grading of the property, the more facilities. So if you go to a five-graded property in Cornwall, you should expect that when you go to a five-graded property in Scotland, it will have similar features. And so we spend a lot of time working with our owners to make sure they understand that.”
So in the case of Sykes, it’s their own rating system that gives travellers an idea of what they can expect. When they get the experience they expect and are used to, it reinforces the Sykes brand and inspires loyalty.
Each company has its own strengths, where the core of their brand can be found. For example, Lavanda, a property management company that has recently become a technology provider and pivoted to a B2B model, found its biggest strength in technology.
“Our brand is now much more of a tech brand, it’s about being an innovator, it’s about being a provider of really fantastic technology for all our partners and for our blue-chip customers,” says Fred Lerche-Lerchenborg, CEO at Lavanda.
Moral of the story: your company may change with time, you may shift your focus, but it’s never a bad time to redefine your brand and make sure you’re giving your customers the consistency they need to trust you.
In what other ways do you think a property management company can achieve brand consistency? Do you have any other good examples? Let us know!