Q&A: Karelle Lamouche, Accor Hotels Group

Accor Hotels Group is launching its first TV campaign in the UK to promote its overhauled ibis budget hotel brand. Marketing Week spoke to UK marketing director Karelle Lamouche about maintaining differentiation within the portfolio, loyalty and being a challenger brand in the competitive UK market.

An image from the new print campaign for the ibis brand

Marketing Week (MW): Now that the All Seasons, ibis and Etap hotel brands are all under the ibis umbrella brand, how will you differentiate each brand’s positioning?

Karelle Lamouche (KL): “We had three brands in the economy market – All Seasons, ibis and Etap, but ibis is the strongest brand and the number one budget hotel brand around the world. We wanted to bring the other two brands together to benefit from the strength of ibis. It’s imperative to us to keep the three brands [ibis Styles, ibis and ibis Budget] very different but they will benefit from the visibility of ibis.

What it enables us to do is to get elasticity in our brand positioning. What we didn’t want was to have one ibis brand that would be stretched across three different segments.

MW: The Accor Group has a loyalty programme across all its brands, will the ibis brand family be a part of this or have its own programme to boost awareness and drive loyalty?

KL: Ibis is already part of the Accor scheme so the three ibis brands will be fully integrated as part of that. But I think that one loyalty element that is very important in the whole mix of the rebranding of ibis is that it’s not just about a communication campaign, signage or advertising, but that we’ve touched on all aspects of the marketing mix and the experience. We’ve invested massively into our bedding – it’s unique in our industry and it’s the first time that a hotel brand has created its own bed range based on understanding the science of sleep across the world.
We’re also launching the ibis.com portal to give the opportunity for ibis guests that want to go there instead of the individual brand pages. But if they want to stay loyal to one of these three brands they can.

MW: Accor Group launched sustainability programme Planet 21 last year – is this something that will become more part of the group’s marketing and communications?

KL: Something we’ve always been guilty of within Accor is that we will act but we don’t talk a lot about it. For us its at the heart of our policy and Accor has been very committed towards sustainability. By the end of next year ibis will be ISO:14001 accredited, and it’s there if we go back to the development of these three brands – the pillows for example at ibis are made from recycled plastic bottles and the mattresses from recycled foam.

Planet 21 has enabled us to start engaging with clients, with experts and internally with our employees, so clearly it’s something moving forwards that we will expand.

MW: What kind of uplift in revenue do you expect to come from this new brand strategy?

KL: There’s going to be two main objectives. Clearly we’re expecting to see occupancy rates increase and market share increase – the other element is guest satisfaction, and obviously that’s our first priority.

It’s also an opportunity to reach more franchisees – we have expansion plans in the UK and that should help us grow.

MW: The economy hotel market is very competitive – what are the challenges and pressures you face in the UK?

KL: It’s a very very competitive market and a unique market. It’s unique for us because we tend to be market leader [in other regions]. It all depends on how close you can get to your customers and answer their expectations. You don’t need to have 200 hotels to become a leader or a brand of choice so our whole objective is to become brand of choice.

MW: If you’re market leader in a lot of countries but not in the UK, does that change the way you approach marketing strategy here?

KL: Absolutely. Firstly, regardless of whether you’re a [market] leader or not you don’t communicate around the world in the same way. You need to take into account the local culture, whether you’re a challenger or not.

What is different is that when you have low awareness, you need to approach and represent your brand in a different light. If you look at this campaign, BETC Paris has developed the whole campaign and BETC London has adapted the print version for UK. It’s the same in other regions.

MW: Following this ad campaign what is the next branding project for Accor Group and Ibis?

KL: Our next project is food and beverage. We’re going to be rethinking food and beverage within our sector. All our hotels are full service which is a point of difference for us – all have a food offering but it’s too early at this stage to talk more about the project, however.

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