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Stay Where They Stand for Something

How cool!

Talk about turning an ordinary stay into a total experience.

Hotels - the smart ones at least - are doing this in creative and fun ways.

This is not about splashing on some marketing veneer with a catchy name here, and a nice gimmick there.

This is about being seriously "all in" on brand.

And, it is paying off in big profits. Profits which are checking out of the old line Hiltons, Marriotts and Holiday Inns.

Take Graduate Hotels.

Who doesn't want a little feel of that ol' college experience? And, college towns? Well, they are just a bit more hip and make us all feel invigorated when we visit.

So, why not build a hotel brand around this unique experience? Start by putting your new hotels in the really engaging college towns like Athens, GA; Madison, WI; Ann Arbor, MI and Charlottesville, VA.

Then, have everything - and I mean everything - in the hotel be tied to that college and that four- year magical experience.

Absolute brilliance.

Ben Weprin who started Graduate Hotels may not consider himself a strategic brand master. But, he certainly is one in my book.

Ben talks about how "college towns are rich with history and culture and are just filled with activities."

So, Ben - prior to opening his hotels in each of these targeted academic locales - spends a lot of time getting to know the true essence of the college and the town.

Ben goes to their games. "No better way to feel the spirit of any college."

Ben hangs out in the bookstores and coffee shops. "Visiting these homegrown stores will give you a sense of place."

Ben checks out their concerts. "Legendary groups got their start in college towns, like the B-52's who became famous after playing at the University of Georgia."

Now, that is doing your authentic brand homework - taking the time to really embrace the ethos of the place and the people.

And, here is Ben's real genius. He allows each Graduate Hotel to go along with the distinct brand flow in that college town.

He does not try and superimpose a "cookie-cutter" approach. Smart. People today are rejecting chains in all categories - they want personal, authentic, and distinctive.

Ben - in his brand wisdom - lets the college town image lead and he works hard to have his hotels interpret and deliver the consistent college brand in their own unique way.

That's called a strategic brand alliance - working with the latent power of a strong brand that already exist to benefit your new entry. A formula for success.


Ben didn't miss a thing. In this "people believe people" world, the staff at Ben's hotels totally reflect the Graduate Hotel brand. Most of the employees are students. And, they let you know they are students and that they are proud of their Graduate Hotel.

A+ for authenticity. A+ for credibility.

The bar has been raised - in almost every category. People don't just want a utilitarian product offering anymore - they want the complete experience. Be creative, purposeful and comprehensive in how you deliver your 360º experience. It will pay off.

So, when you are planning your next alumni weekend visit, go for the complete Rah Rah U experience and stay at a Graduate Hotel.

It will take you back and you'll once again be saying: "Wow, if I could only do those four years all over again!"

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