Reader Soapbox

17 August 2004
Reader Soapbox

This year, I stayed at the "five-star de luxe" Hilton Hurghada Long Beach Resort in Egypt.

As a diving enthusiast, I have years of budget living under my belt. But this year, on my annual trip to diving Mecca (the Red Sea), I was finally able to afford some long sought-after luxury. So I signed up for a top-level service from a top-level brand, and awaited the wow factor.

Let me paint the not-so-pretty picture I found. Greeted by a wealth of scaffolding, I saw a bright red "Long Beach" sign on one side of the hotel, divorced from the "Hilton" sign on the other.

It seemed all too clear that an existing hotel had been adorned with one of the most famous brands in the world.

But a lick of paint, an external sign and stickers on every window panel do not a Hilton hotel make.

This was just a typical hotel resort complex, with typical local plumbing and tiling, and ordinary quality and standards.

My only wow was at how they could justify the five-star rating on a global scale.

Brand value, consistency and perception are goals which every retailer and brand owner strives to achieve. But how many truly succeed?

As a consultant focused on delivering value and experience to the customers of brand owners, I am left wondering whether clients really understand the true meaning and scale of owning a global brand.

Was it the food, the staff, or the standard of the room? If it had been just one or two aspects that fell short, then you could conceivably still have had an overall "Hilton" experience. But this hotel was on the wrong level.

Brands need to meet and exceed customer expectations.

If this hotel is to remain a Hilton, then it needs to reduce expectations - be the first two-star Hilton, say - because otherwise, what is the scale?

If that was a five-star Hilton, then I've stayed in 15-star Hiltons in Britain.

It sounds obvious, but putting a Ferrari badge on a Skoda doesn't make it a Ferrari. The whole point of a reputed (international) brand is that you are paying for the consistency of an assured brand experience in its entirety, not just visual signage.

Brands create expectations, especially large international brands, and when they aren't met, the consumer can't help but feel cheated.

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