Cornell study highlights the critical importance of brand consistency

By: Christopher Anderson, professor

When travelers are searching for a hotel in a particular destination, their internet search gives them a page of hotel listings—and they’ll probably choose to book one of the hotels that appear on that search page. The question is, how do they choose? As I explain here, the answer increasingly is, the hotel brand’s reputation for consistency.

The hotels on a search page have essentially just one shot at attracting a traveler’s attention in terms of the booking decision. For this reason, I conducted a study using an immense collection of reviews supplied by ReviewPRO. The study indicates that a hotel’s brand reputation is a critical element in the booking decision. The study, “Indexing Hotel Brand Reputation,” has been posted at no charge by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research.

To get a sense of how guests view a hotel, we analyzed over 30 million reviews of more than 30,000 branded hotels posted to 47 review sites between January 1, 2016, and March 31, 2018. We categorized the hotels according to the six segments analyzed in STR’s chain scale report, and then we set up a ranking using ReviewPro’s Global Review Index™ (GRI), which is an industry-standard online reputation benchmark derived from online reviews.

What we found is that consistency within a brand is increasingly important, as compared to location and reputation across a chain scale. At the same time, we learned that variability in reputation across a brand is relatively high, compared to reputation across chain scales.

With this focus on the brand, it’s important to note that we are talking about the reputation of the brand as represented in the reviews posted on such sites as the OTAs, Google, and TripAdvisor, and compiled by ReviewPRO. The variation in brand reputation that is depicted in this study is found in those reviews. This finding points to the increasing importance of consistency in delivering on guests’ expectations in the hotels across the brand.

In closing, I must emphasize that reputation is a subjective assessment of whether a hotel has fulfilled guest expectations. The fact remains, however, that those subjective assessments are written up and discussed in the many reviews found on hotel search sites. With the growing influence of brands in the reputation equation, execution on brand promises has never been more important.