PoB Hotels

Opening The Door To Inspiration

PoB Hotels is a collection of the finest independent hotels dotted all over the British Isles. Think of PoB Hotels as the key and each one of their hotels as a door to new experiences. Each completely unique. Each hand-picked. Each the Pride of Britain.

In Conversation With...

KALINDI JUNEJA FIH CEO, PoB Hotels

DAVID GARDNER MANAGING PARTNER, 80 DAYS
KALINDI JUNEJA FIH CEO, PoB Hotels

DAVID GARDNER MANAGING PARTNER, 80 DAYS

THE CHALLENGE

Iconic British hospitality brand Pride of Britain Hotels approached 80 DAYS to help redevelop their brand as they took a new strategic direction under the leadership and vision of Chief Executive, Kalindi Juneja.

This is the story of their rebirth as PoB Hotels.

What was the rationale behind the redevelopment of the Pride of Britain Hotels brand?

Kalindi: Well, I knew from before I took over the role that it was a brand with a beautiful heritage. Lots of fantastic and tangible 'wins' that the brand had achieved over it's 40 years.

But equally, it was rather apparent that the brand would benefit from a refresh, a rebirth, to be more relevant to a wider audience and to remain relevant to it's current audience. And also, to enhance all of the digital tools at our disposal as the market moves on so quickly.

Of course it was important to recognise our member hotels as the biggest strength that the brand possessed, but we needed to have our own identity so that guests could have an affinity with us as a brand, as well as the hotels that we represent.

David: It was a really interesting challenge. The easiest thing for us to do would have been an identity development, a new look and feel that would have given it distinctiveness, but without any depth. 

So, we ended up in a situation where we had to essentially revitalise the brand, while repositioning it to attract new audiences as well as finding it a new name. An interesting melting pot of two strategic approaches in one. A fantastic starting point!

Kalindi: Absolutely and we had so much fun! 

How did volatile market conditions affect the project?

David: Well, we had to be mindful of the marketplace as we were still coming out of a pandemic and the world was changing. We didn't really know for certain how the industry was going to evolve.

Kalindi: You're right David. It was a very tricky time. From our member's perspective it was a golden time, because all of a sudden they had very high occupancy across the board, and our support is often needed more during the more challenging times. We all knew this bubble wasn't going to last indefinitely so, while challenging, it was imperative that we tackled the brand project when we did because it's given us that strength to tackle the market today, now that we're in more 'normal', or 'new normal', circumstances. 

Overall, the timing was good as it's very easy for brands like us to become obsolete. We needed to remain relevant, to move with the times, particularly from a digital perspective. 

This was a crucial foundational project, the beginning of everything. We all worked day and night to make it happen within the timeframe that we needed. We literally changed every touchpoint and honestly I did have some concerns that if the project was delayed, it might be too late for us. 

David: Absolutely. I felt from our perspective there was a stopwatch counting down to a missed opportunity. I think that collective nervousness was justified as we were doing something quite brave. Once you start considering changing or evolving the name, it magnifies the work exponentially. It was absolutely the right thing to do, but certainly not the easy path. We could have just changed the colours and the typeface, everyone would have been relatively happy, but strategically it wouldn't have given Kalindi what she needed to evolve the brand.

What were the risks involved in changing the brand and how did you manage these?

Kalindi: High risk, yes. There was some perhaps understandable hesitancy around change, matched with anticipation in the market around 'well, what are you going to do?'. It could go either way really and I certainly felt the huge sense of responsibility to every single member who had given their resources and trust in us as a brand. I felt responsible for the brand's heritage of 40 years and everyone who's come before me. We just couldn't afford to get this wrong.

In terms of how we managed the risk, there was a couple of things. Firstly, I kept questioning "why are we doing this, what's our main goal here?". That was to create a luxury consumer-facing brand, so that when a high-net-worth individual wants to plan a UK break, we should be the first place they come to.  

In addition, I'd already completed a deep dive marketing audit of the brand. I knew exactly where the revenue was coming from, our strengths and weaknesses, our competitors, the key trends and where the market was heading. That was invaluable as from the moment I first met with David, I knew exactly what we wanted to try and do. I made a huge priority list to cover every brand touchpoint; website, emails, signage, gift voucher solutions, absolutely everything. That all fed into a 3 to 5 and 10 year plan. 

All this meant that we were well-placed to make educated decisions, always questioning "how will that benefit the brand in the long term? And what does it look like in 5 or 10 years time?" We moved away from more short term wins to a longer term strategy.

And finally, I did go out to tender for everything we did, including the brand project, to a huge number of people to ensure that we made an informed choice on working with the right partner. I had a very strong feeling from day 1 that I wanted to work with David and 80 DAYS, but I didn't want to take that for granted. 

So, managing risk by always having our goal in mind, alongside proper planning and setting very clear objectives was what really kept me sane through the process! 

David: A perfect answer. The way you mitigate the risk is by doing your homework and Kalindi did hers so thoroughly. Really, the biggest risk of all would have been to do nothing. Something had to change.

At the end of the day with these big projects a decision has to be made as to whether something is right or wrong and Kalindi had to make that decision. 

I was often sitting alongside her, feeling a little nervous, but at the same time, the overwhelming feeling was one of confidence that we had the right solution because we'd done the homework and worked our way through the strategy. 

Kalindi: There was a number of sleepless nights in the run up to launch, that's for certain. Blood, sweat and tears have literally gone into this brand, but when we launched and it was so well-received and now, where we are today; I'm just grateful to everyone who has contributed to the process and given up their time and energy.

"Blood, sweat and tears have literally gone into this brand, but when we launched and it was so well-received and now, where we are today; I'm just grateful to everyone who has contributed to the process and given up their time and energy."

Kalindi Juneja

And how has the brand evolved?

Kalindi: Well the risk of getting it wrong, really highlighted the need to continually go back to a guest-driven approach. I kept questioning "what does the guest want?". We could have easily reverted to developing the brand based upon what members wanted and of course I want every single member to be happy and delighted, that's why I do what I do, but it was imperative that we became more of a consumer facing brand. That was the pivotal shift for us. We already had the industry reputation, but we really needed to build our consumer reputation. That was where our work with 80 DAYS was imperative - to truly understand what our guests really wanted.

And it's been really exciting seeing it all come to life. For the first time in our history we've recently published a new, 30-page, whitepaper that analysed attitudes towards the UK hotel market from over 3,000 high net worth individuals. It was fantastic to see so much of what we'd researched as part of the brand project affirmed in our findings. For example, one of the key learnings was the domestic market's desire for unique and personalised culinary experiences; it was the number 1 driver for decision making when evaluating UK breaks.

David: I remember throughout the process, we continued to reinforce the need for the brand to become more consumed focused. That was a breakthrough moment, turning everything around 180 degrees to see everything through the eyes of a guest. It absolutely changed the perception of the organisation and influenced how brave we could be. For example, the name we ended up choosing was a much more consumer facing brand, rather than something more industry and member focused. We had to cut through and make it super clear, super simple, differentiated and distinctive. That was such a critical part of this project; getting into that consumer mindset and it's not easy. We can't do it without external research, we're too closely involved!

How has the new brand been received?

Kalindi: So our last conference was a pivotal moment in my career with PoB Hotels so far because it was the first time we were actually able to show the results of all this hard work, what we'd achieved in concrete terms, and where we're now heading as a brand.

There was such excitement in the room. I was really pleased to hear from so many members who contacted us to say it was the best conference they'd attended. They left inspired and could really feel the energy and direction of the brand. 

So from a members perspective it was all very positive and that extended to the guests too; we've been inundated with positivity from our loyal guests. 

Our numbers are up, considerably, in every respect. We've grown our social channel following by over 450%, our email campaign open rates are now consistently over 40%, website users are up 80% and website referrals are up 90%.  

We've even had prospective new hotels approach us to tell us "we love what you've done with the brand, we'd love to be a part of the family". 

David: I think what's most impressive with this project from my perspective is how you've been gently disruptive, but in a very respectful way. I'm sure that's really helped to achieve stand-out performance.

Of course, we can't please everyone. The vast majority seem to love it but the rest are still talking about it and that's ok too! Being ignored is, of course, what we want to avoid!

How was your experience of working with David and 80 DAYS?

Kalindi: Honestly, we had so much fun. I'm a great believer that life's too short and that we need to have fun with what we're doing. I think there was such a beautiful balance of a considered approach, feeling constantly supported and the expertise and perspective from working across such a wide range of hospitality brands, big and small. I really enjoyed it.

Being able to bounce ideas off David was so helpful too. David's got a very considered approach and sometimes he'd say 'Oh yes, that's a great idea' but equally I knew when he didn't think an idea was right when he'd respond with 'oh let me go sleep on it'.

David: Oh no, am I that transparent? It was a real privilege to be a part of the project and I know that the entire team here enjoyed the process. It was a sad day when we finished! However, it's been wonderful to see Kalindi and her team really take the new brand and bring it to life. 

And, while this is predominantly a story about a rebrand, I think it's also one about strong leadership and the importance of vision, from Kalindi's side.

Kalindi: Thank you David. In this whole process, I really felt how much you cared and how invested you were. I remember your concern at how it would be received, the first time we introduced the new brand. And that's the hardest thing to do with a project like this; to present a brand in it's infancy, before you've really brought it to life. It's like an estate agent trying to sell a derelict property - not everyone can have the vision of what it could become. You show a logo, some early creative and hope that people will trust you and get on board with this journey that you're trying to begin. 

David: I remember that well, that weight of responsibility. Thankfully we got some incredible feedback that gave us a real sense that we were absolutely taking the right approach.

What's next for POB Hotels?

Kalindi: Well, as I mentioned, our new annual whitepaper has just launched and there's several reasons we decided to commission it. Fundamentally it's a great tool for our members to help them be forward thinking and evaluate what guests will want this year. It also shows the industry that PoB Hotels is a leading voice with valuable insight to share. If there's one thing we've learned over the last few years it's the value of sharing our knowledge for the wider industry's benefit. And finally, we want the consumer press to be able to write about it and better understand where our industry is headed.

David: It's wonderful, such valuable insight for hospitality businesses.

Kalindi: We've also just changed the identity of our annual book to be more of an ode to our online magazine, The Handle. Each year it will have a new theme and this year is all about food, eating sustainably, growing your own and eating in-season, alongside a collection of over 40 recipes and lots of information about our hotel members. It's going to be stocked in some pretty impressive places so the total reach for us should exceed 50 million, which is really exciting!

Overall, 2023 was a great year for us and of course we're celebrating some of our successes, but equally this is just the beginning. There is so much more to come!

Looking to rebrand your hotel, travel or hospitality business? We'd love to chat.

 

ITB Berlin / IHS Amsterdam

We're exhibiting at both ITB Berlin (5-7 March) and IHS Amsterdam (12-13 March).

Find out more about our participation here.
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