In April 2015, Value Place began the process of switching its brand identity over to that of WoodSpring Hotels. Now, two years later, the process is finally complete. According to WoodSpring president and CEO Gary DeLapp, as of now the company has gone beyond the original assets it started with, originally committing to 171 conversions and now working on an additional 15 properties that are in the final stages of rebranding.
DeLapp said the rebrand was part of a desire to stay current and modernize the company’s portfolio of Value Place properties. What’s more, he said it was simply time for a new name.
“We look at where we are in a market, and our opportunities to stay and evolve in economy extended stay,” DeLapp said. “We wanted an opportunity to cast a wider net, to capture guests who may not have stayed with us previously. Now we are entering markets we historically haven’t been in, and some municipalities expressed concerns: They wanted a certain type of project and the name we had created some problems. The new name resonates with them.”
Prospective hotel developers should be familiar with the struggle DeLapp describes. The entitlement process before development is growing more difficult, and while DeLapp said the problem wasn’t pervasive across the Value Place portfolio, it did cause trouble for as many as a dozen of the company’s projects. “Today we’re seeing municipalities that are much more difficult to work with regarding changes to signage, and in new builds,” he said. “You have to work with them.”
DeLapp isn’t disparaging the Value Place name—on the contrary, he said that it served a great purpose when it was developed. However, just as times change, so has the company’s target guest. WoodSpring was developed, according to DeLapp, to attract the interest of more corporate clientele, both blue and gray-collar. And the WoodSpring name works—municipalities are more interested than ever.
It’s easy to slap a new name on an old product and call it a day, but DeLapp isn’t selling doghouses, he’s selling hotels. Switching over to the WoodSpring concept meant providing new uniforms, name tags, exterior and interior signage, marketing collateral and more.
“Our previous uniforms had been around for a long time,” DeLapp said. “We didn’t want to just refresh the properties, but the look and feel of the associates; we want them to be comfortable and modern.”
The refresh also came with new stipulations for WoodSpring’s online presence in the form of photography guidelines. DeLapp said a hotel’s online presence is dominated by its photography, and how a hotel represents itself through photography remains the No. 1 influence on a customer’s decision to book a stay.
WoodSpring now takes opening photos for all new hotels, which a property is able to display for up to 90 days before they are to have their own photos taken. In addition, WoodSpring’s corporate offices work with architectural photographers familiar with hotels, and negotiate favored pricing for owners in order to ensure updated photos are taken. DeLapp said that updating the company's online photography has been a priority ever since he stepped into his role as CEO of Value Place in 2016.
“When I joined, which wasn’t that long ago, we knew [photography] was important, so we did a full audit,” DeLapp said. “We are driving for direct bookings just as every other brand is, and we wanted to ensure we have the most compelling photography and images to convert lookers into bookers.”
More Than A Snapshot
If updating photography were so simple, every hotel brand would have a quality online presence. According to DeLapp, the audit found that many WoodSpring hotels didn’t meet brand standards for photography, and the company responded by reaching out to operators directly. It offered data on the importance of photography in online conversions, and even put forth special incentives for pricing should they have proper photography in place by August 2017. The results, according to DeLapp, were a big win. “So far, there hasn’t been any pushback,” he said.
In the lead-up to Woodspring’s brand refresh, the company delved deep into consumer research to determine the best areas to focus on in order to appeal to guests. The company wanted to focus on travelers looking to stay for five or more days at a time, and after redoubling its efforts to capture that customer, DeLapp said WoodSpring is reaping the benefits of the research.
Currently, the company has 225 WoodSpring, WoodSpring Suites Signature and Value Place properties in total across all the brands. WoodSpring is adding on average 10 new corporate-owned assets each year to its portfolio, and is in the process of adding an additional 30 new franchised properties, all of them new construction. The company is also breaking out into new territory, namely the Pacific Northwest and Northeast U.S.
“We believe the name has had a hand in speaking to travelers, so we’ve continued to target those customers,” DeLapp said. “We aren’t deviating from our base, but we are casting a wider net.”