Macdonald Hotels & Resorts
Burnishing a British Brand of Hospitality
Macdonald Hotels & Resorts is Great Britain’s largest privately-owned hotel group.
The brand, established in 1990 by Donald Macdonald, has grown rapidly from two properties to become the operator of 45 hotels in the UK and 10 resorts in the UK, Spain, and Portugal employing more than 4,000 staff.
The product of an unashamedly opportunistic growth strategy,
the Group’s impressive expansion hadn’t come without a cost:
a somewhat inconsistent portfolio of hotels and resulting confusion about what the Macdonald brand actually stands for.
In early 2016, Donald Macdonald was referred to Luxury Branding by Ian Douglas from Sol Kerzner’s private office in London and shortly after, we were engaged to help the Group focus and articulate a clearer brand proposition and to identify potential for releasing additional value from its extensive portfolio of land-based assets.
Working closely with a project steering group chaired by
Ruaridh Macdonald, the founder’s son and Deputy Group CEO, our assignment was initiated with an extensive research exercise
to get under the skin of the business, its operations and brand;
to understand its strengths and weaknesses and to establish how Macdonald was perceived by its employees, customers, the industry, and competition. The ‘Discovery’ process entailed visits by members of our team to more than half of the hotels and resorts, numerous property inspections at competitor properties while confidential soundings were taken with 60 internal stakeholders, loyalty programme members and trade partners.
Derived from the findings of this exhaustive review, we developed a set of actionable insights and recommendations for the business.
While our report highlighted many strengths to celebrate and to build on, of greater value to the leadership team was our advice pertaining to three key organisational weaknesses: purpose, direction, and proposition.
We also noted a significant uptick in not only the volume and nature of competition, including new entrants such as Airbnb,
but in the quality and innovation of product development and guest experience design from entrepreneurial boutique operators as well as improved offerings from branded chains. In short, the pressure was being exerted from every direction.
Finally, we concluded that the Macdonald name was performing more as a label – liberally yet superficially applied to operating and marketing collateral – than as a differentiating operating philosophy. In other words, Macdonald was more a brand in name than in nature.
In a subsequent stage of work, we have produced for the Group a comprehensive set of proposals to address the organisational challenges. These included crafting a relevant and differentiating central organising thought and a framework through which to deliver an elevated brand experience across the hardware, software, service, and communications of the brand. We also proposed a revised visual identity and brand architecture.
Luxury Branding continues to work with Macdonald Hotels & Resorts on the repositioning of individual assets, a revitalised wellness proposition and a vision for a multi-product development of the Group’s non-hotel assets.