October 19, 2009

A New aloft Hotel


Charlotte locals may have noticed a new building perched atop Ballantyne Corporate Place. aloft (always spelled with a lowercase a) is a mid-size business boutique hotel created by Starwood Hotels & Resorts that promises swanky accommodations, high-tech conveniences, and a vibrant social atmosphere at affordable nightly rates.

The Charlotte location is just one of nearly 40 openings planned for the end of this year. The chain even has a presence in the virtual world, opening a ‘Second Life’ location in 2008.

So what’s so special about another hotel populating the crowded Ballantyne skyline? While any brand expanding so rapidly during a recession deserves a closer look, aloft is particularly intriguing because it is employing several brand strategies to capture the hearts and wallets of today’s savvy travelers.

First, the aloft brand has been introduced as ‘a vision of W Hotels’. The high-end W chain, of course, is known for its urban-inspired luxury and social atmosphere. In using W as an endorsement rather than as part of the brand itself, aloft can borrow some of the equity of its upscale relative without tying itself so closely to the brand that it can’t eventually stand on its own. This also protects the W brand from the need to compete with aloft’s competitive pricing. The endorsement serves its purpose as a simple and immediate way to reassure new customers that the accommodations will be, as the website suggests, ‘style at a steal.’

Additionally, aloft hotels have chosen to brand several of their amenities. Each establishment features a W XYZ® bar, a Re:charge® fitness center, and a Re:fuel® food and beverage area. These individual brands within the establishment not only serve to accommodate customers, but have the potential to gain their own equity at each location. Customers can rely on a consistent experience every time. By building strong amenity brands within the hotel, aloft is using every angle of the customer experience to drive loyalty and ultimately, repeat business.

Last, but certainly not least, the aloft name itself deserves credit, as it retains a high end tone while still coming across as approachable and attainable. In part inspired by the loft-like 9 foot ceilings found in each room, the name also alludes to the hotel being a step-above-the-rest at this price point.

It will be interesting to watch hotels over the next several months to see if other chains attempt to recreate what Starwood has done with aloft. From a brand perspective, they seem to be doing everything right. Combining that with competitive pricing and product that is relevant for this generation’s weary travelers may be what helps aloft excel through a tough economic time.

Contributed by: Maghan Cook

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