The latest annual forum took place last Wednesday, 2nd October, at Gaysorn Urban Resort, Bangkok, providing a large audience with a chance to learn a whole lot more about branding from a carefully selected panel of hotel branding experts.

Invited to share their thoughts on "Brands that Stick" were representatives of some leading brands whose own 'stickability' is beyond reproach – and which have recently entered the Bangkok hospitality market: Rosewood - represented by Leanne Reddie, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants - represented by Shane Jameson, and Standard International (Standard Hotels) - represented by Dr. James Mabey and Siam@ Siam Design Hotel – the very first design hotel in Thailand, represented by Nick Day. Wimintra Raj took the role of panel moderator of the discussion which at times became very lively as both panelists and audience members dueled back and forth with differing opinions.

When posed the question "Are brands really relevant in today's hotel market?", Rosewood Bangkok's Leanne Reddie said:

"If I've had wonderful experiences at a property and I haven't been to a new property, I'll rely on my experiences with a brand."

Siam@Siam's Nick day however suggested that:

"Marketing people care about brands more than their customers really care about them."

Shane from Kimpton added that:

"Emotional attachment is also really important as what that brand stands for is often an extension of what your values are and what you stand for."

Standard's Dr. James Mabey reiterated the sentiment:

"It (a brand) starts to become an expression of yourself and even helps to define who you are."

When's founder Wimintra Raj posed the question that many in the audience were looking for an answer to - "How do you build a unique brand?", each of the panelists had their own perspectives.

Leanne Reddie - "A brand has to be very true to what it wants to deliver. Is there a disconnect between what the marketing team is selling and what's actually being delivered?"

Dr. James Mabey - "The business model of hotels has shifted with this giant amalgamation of companies out there, and that has turned hotels now into a commodity. … To become different, you need to provide something different. You can't be everything to everybody, otherwise your brand will lack substance."

He continued - "It's only recently that people have started to realise that 'better' is not necessarily 'bigger' or 'more expensive', rather 'better' is 'what fits me better'."

Kimpton's Shane Jameson added, "… once you have that (your brand) in place, then your staff being aligned with that is essential."

When a brand is entering a new market, Dr. James Mabey suggested that "If you're a brand that is already unique that IS different, there should be a place for you in the market that you're entering. It shouldn't have to be a blood-bath trying to compete and seal business from other people. … Those people who are subsequently addicted to your brand will follow you wherever you go".

And when asked about the necessity of Brand Managers, Mabey continued, "Brand Managers often become 'Brand Police' and can sometimes stifle authenticity. The brand should be free to develop authenticity naturally."

This exciting event marked the fourth staging of the forum, and drew the largest gathering to date as the knowledge-sharing platform continues to extend its growing influence in the region.