In our branding series, The Key 3: Building Your Brand From What You’ve Got, we’re taking a look at the three cornerstones of vacation rental brands—your approach to guests, your location, and your property’s signature vibe—and showing you how to leverage these to create a recognizable, relatable brand that calls to your ideal guests.
Your brand starts with you.
More specifically, your brand starts with the relationship you’ve created with your guests.
Even if you’ve only been hosting for a short amount of time, you should already know a little bit about your approach to hosting and what demographic of travelers your rental best suits.
In this post, we’ll ask questions that help you determine these factors and use your findings to start building your brand. At the end, we’ll check back in with Layla & Mark, our fictitious vacation rental hosts in Newport, Rhode Island, and demonstrate how we used their personalities as a building block for their brand.
Who are your ideal guests?
Wally Olins, cofounder of Wolff Olins and considered the godfather of modern branding, says that branding “is about belonging: belonging to a tribe, to a religion, to a family.”
We’re not saying that your vacation rentals should seem as much a part of your guests’ lives as their religion—but effective branding will target your ideal guest and make them feel like your vacation rental, above all others, is where they belong.
Every element of your brand, from your tone of voice to your web design, should be created with your ideal guest in mind.
When defining your target audience, don’t stop at “families” or “couples.” Dig deeper by asking yourself why guests visit and what they expect from their stay.
How do you define your host/guest relationship?
From concierge-style to friendly and accessible, hosting approaches are as unique as the individual. So long as yours is satisfying your guests, there’s no wrong option.
But in order to attract the audience that will most appreciate your approach, it needs to be reflected in your branding—especially in any branded communications you use to engage or inform guests.
Use your own hosting personality to inform the choices you make—like types of social media posts, tone of your brand voice, and elements of your web design—in order to create a big picture brand that’s true to you.
To define your approach, ask yourself what guests most appreciate about your hosting style, and what elements of your own personality shine through in your hosting.
What do you offer guests that sets you apart?
Are you in-the-know about all the secret attractions in your location? Do you make it a point to furnish your home with only the finest appointments? Can guests book you for a tour during their stay? These extra perks can go a long way in defining your brand.
Figuring out what sets you apart is the first step in creating an image for yourself that puts you above the competition. Guests will be more enthusiastic about booking an adventure cabin than a plain old cabin. They’ll also be more excited about being hosted by a local beach guru than by a run-of-the-mill local.
You are one of the most important parts of your brand; don’t be afraid to boast your best attributes.
Layla & Mark’s Host Approach
Let’s check in with Layla and Mark about their hosting personalities.
Mark, a lifelong Rhode Island resident and history junkie, loves sharing his knowledge about the town’s Gilded Age mansions. Leyla’s favorite part of owning vacation rentals is meeting new people—when possible, she likes to greet her guests in person and prides herself on her thorough communication.
Their cottages are best enjoyed by couples and small families that want to experience town like locals. The majority of their guests stay with them to visit the beaches and historical sights, while many also visit for events and festivals.
Here’s how we would define their approach to guests—the first cornerstone of their brand.
Layla and Mark’s brand should convey approachability, warmth and a genuine passion for the local area. Copy and communications should reflect Layla’s friendliness, and social media channels should document Mark’s rich knowledge of the local area and invite engagement and dialogue from past or potential guests. Design should be clean and accessible and nod to the historic spirit of the area (to be defined more specifically in the second cornerstone).
In our next post, we’ll focus on the second cornerstone of your brand: the location of your rentals—specifically what your rentals offer that your neighbors’ doesn’t.