Branding – The Soul of your Spa Business


Everyone has brands they know and love.

Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Lexus, McDonalds, KFC and Burger King all are great brands in their own right. Brands we all recognise and in some way or another have an emotional connection with, be it positive or negative. But do we really understand why we love (or hate) these brands? It’s not simply the products they sell. This is only one part of the brand experience. A brand is really a reflection of the heart and soul, the core, the DNA of a company.

Sometimes we can get lost when trying to understand branding and how to apply it. It just seems like something more conceptual than practical. If you have this problem, try to think of a brand like a person. Afterall, if the aim of your brand is to have an emotional connection with your followers – which it is – it makes sense to try to build your brand by considering it in terms of human characteristics.

Let’s take a look at brand George Clooney. On the surface, he’s a handsome man, with great hair and nice eyes. That’s like his company logo. George’s job is acting in movies. That’s like his company’s product. But George is also an activist on peace, hunger and human rights issues like those that have occurred in the Darfur region of Sudan. So, at his core, deep in his soul, the brand of George Clooney is really about fighting for the rights of those who can’t fight for themselves. If we were to try to define ‘Brand Clooney’ in one word, it might be ‘Classy’. He’s a classy guy in the way he dresses and looks and he’s also a classy guy in the way he fights to help others. Or maybe George is the epitome of a ‘Gentleman’? Either words would probably fit nicely with Brand George.

Now, what about your brand? What can you do to ensure your brand is more than just a shiny product or a luxurious massage? It’s not as hard as you may think. All you need to do is follow these three basic steps. The key is making sure you are honest with yourself as you go through each step.

Step 1 – Define Your Core

Step 2 – Determine your Value Proposition

Step 3 – Communicate your Brand Proposition

Define your Core

What do you really care about? What is important to you? Deep down in your soul, what do you believe in? This is what defining your core is all about. As discussed above with George, sometimes it helps to identify a celebrity who best personifies what you want your brand to be. If your brand was a person, who would you be? If trust is your single most important brand attribute, you might choose Oprah Winfrey. If you want your brand to be seen as fun, you might choose Zoe Deschanel from the New Girl TV show. If it’s class you want to portray, maybe it’s back to good ol’ George Clooney.

Once you have your celebrity benchmark in place, you can easily refer back to that in every decision you make that would affect your brand. Let’s say you decided your spa is going to be bit fun, funky and cool. Great. Our friend Zoe personifies these attitudes well. And now you need to choose which brand of tea to serve in your ‘fun’ spa. Twinings is a famous tea brand but is perceived as a bit staid and boring and maybe even too mainstream. If you wanted your spa to have more of luxury and heritage vibe, you might choose a brand like Mariage Freres, a French brand that’s been around since 1854. But what would Zoe choose? Maybe a brand like T2 , with blends like Gorgeous Geisha and Cheery Bomb, would be a better choice. Simple as that.

Determine your Value Proposition

In simple terms, your Value Proposition is a list of benefits that you can offer to your guests.

The two most basic types of benefits are Functional and Emotional. A functional benefit is one that provides a practical or functional utility. For example, the functional benefit of a Ferrari is that it can go really, really fast. An emotional benefit, in contrast, is all about how you feel when you interact with or purchase the brand. Sticking with the car brands, a Volkswagen Beetle would probably engender a feeling of fun.

Depending on your treatment menu, your Value Proposition might include Functional Benefits like internationally trained therapists, muscle relaxation, healthier skin, etc. In your spa you can also offer your guests Emotional Benefits. Comfort and safety, warmth, spiritual enlightenment are all examples of Emotional Benefits that you can provide for your guests. Emotional Benefits ultimately create a stronger connection with your brand than Functional Benefits. So, make a list of all the possible benefits you can offer to your guests. Some will be more obvious than others. Some will apply to all guests, others only to some of your guests.

Communicate your Brand Proposition

Your Brand Proposition is those elements of your Value Proposition (ie: benefits) that you chose to tell the world about. Think of your Brand Proposition as the most crucial benefits you offer. These are the ones that really help define who you are to those who don’t yet know you. You might call them your USP – Unique Selling Proposition.

Clean, hygienic facilities might be a Functional Benefit you offer your guests. This is obviously an important benefit. However, it’s also almost a minimum requirement for any quality spa. Chances are, all your competitors are offering the same benefit, whether they say it out loud or not. So, there’s nothing really unique or compelling about this benefit. Therefore, although it is certainly an element in your Value Proposition, it is not part of your Brand Proposition. Simply speaking, you don’t want to spend time and money on telling the world that your spa is clean and hygienic when it’s already assumed.

Having said that, if there is a spate of incidences of guests getting sick in your local spa market, or of the Health Department closing down some spas due to breaches of health and safety, all of a sudden, the benefit of an hygienic facility becomes very compelling. It should now be part of your Brand Proposition.

Stay True to You

Once you’ve followed these three steps and got your Core, Value Proposition and Brand Proposition sorted out, it’s simply a matter of staying true to who you are.

Of course, you probably want as many people as possible to connect with your brand, but more important than the quantity of those that connect is the quality. If you’re all about ‘fun and funky’, you don’t really want to attract ‘safe and boring’ guests. You want guest who connect with you at your core. These guests will be with you through good times and bad, peaks and troughs, highs and lows rather than just follow the next spa trend. The people will also become true brand advocates and ultimately bring you far more marketing value than any paid advertising campaign. Engagement with your brand is the key.

Branding is beautifully simple. It’s just about being true to who you are as a company and an individual. With so many external pressures on us, it’s sometimes hard to just be ourselves. The same is true for brands.

In the end, just as with people, it’s the brands that really know who they are and stay true to their core that endure.


Further Reading:

Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy  by Martin Lindstrom

The Brand Management Checklist: Proven Tools and Techniques for Creating Winning Brands by Brad VanAuken (2002-07-01) by Brad Vanauken