Donny's Big Idea: Branding

Branding was the big idea at last month's New York University International Hospitality Investment Conference. It made sense then that one of the conference highlights was a conversation with adman Donny Deutsch, who also hosts CNBC's “The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch.”

Interviewed by conference chairman and Loews Hotels honcho Jonathan Tisch, Deutsch applauded the hotel industry for its branding strategies but also offered his brand-building advice.

“Especially since Sept. 11th, we want sure things in the world, brands that have been there before,” Deutsch told the attendees. “Hilton has a regal name; Marriott, Starwood: people intrinsically want to vote for them.”

Yet, he finds fault with both ad agencies and hotel companies in the area of accountability. “It's interesting that even the most sophisticated clients and agencies haven't agreed on what's a win. If you have an agreed-upon measuring system, you'll never spend a dollar wrong.”

Calling brands a “set of shared values,” he cited Nike as a name that stands for a value system. “In the hospitality business, focusing on the rooms won't get you there; it's got to be something about your value system.”

This year's conference drew nearly 1,700 owners, operators, developers, brand managers and financial executives to New York's Marriott Marquis.

Another highlight of the conference was the presentation of the Lodging Hospitality Stephen W. Brener Silver Plate Award. Publisher Gary Dietz gave the honor to the 48th recipient, Stevan Porter, president, the Americas, for InterContinental Hotels Group. In his gracious acceptance remarks, Porter implored the attendees to become more involved — both personally and financially — in the industry's governmental affairs.

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