What is soft branding and how does it play a part in challenger brands?

BRIGADE BRIGADE, is an independent, woman-owned branding and design agency providing distinct creative solutions that re-energize tired brands and help savvy marketing teams take on the leaders in the category.

An innate part of being a challenger brand is that you see a market opportunity and go for it. An example of this is a soft brand strategy that Wyndham Hotels + Resorts activated for one of their hotel brands, the Trademark Collection.

If you are new to the term, and to quote ourselves… “A soft brand is an independent hotel that joins a chain while maintaining a strong sense of individuality and independence.” Demonstrating this strategy’s success, PR News Wire explains “Trademark Collection by Wyndham is the Company’s fastest-growing brand, and experienced a 19% growth in rooms year-over-year as of December 31, 2019. The growth comes at a time when soft brands have strong appeal for independent owners seeking the support of a branded partner as the travel industry prepares for recovery of domestic leisure travel. With Trademark Collection, hoteliers gain access to Wyndham’s 83 million Wyndham Rewards loyalty members and the company’s global distribution network, without having to sacrifice their properties’ own unique branding and identities.”

Brigade worked with Wyndham to create the soft-branded Trademark Collection and its supporting campaign. In this case, we considered the stand-alone identities of each hotel in the collection. Some were fanciful, while others were classic or modern — and we took them all into consideration when creating the Trademark identity.

For the look and feel, we leveraged simplistic typography that, while refined, could take a backseat as needed to the existing brands. Our goal was to create a system that unified all locations under the Trademark Collection brand, while allowing franchisees to express the unique personality of their properties. In addition to a logo and property lockups, we created on-premise collateral, advertisements, and digital and social assets.

When working with a branding firm on a soft brand, ensure they understand the vision of your challenger path and how to help you stay the course. Many branding firms lean heavily on graphic design, without backing decisions with brand strategy. You want a partner who understands the difference and can capitalize on both.


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