What is the meaning / definition of Soft Brand?
The term soft brand is a term used in hospitality that describes a hotel franchise or chain company. This organisation, in comparison to other hotel franchises or hotel chains provides the benefits of a larger chain without enforcing strict rules, regulations or a strong brand identity on the franchisor or chain member.
The member hotels are granted branded distribution, sales and marketing, CRS and loyalty systems in exchange for royalties and franchise fees. These soft brands offer individual hotels the opportunity to affiliate with major hotel chains while keeping their unique design, name and orientation.
These soft brand hotels are usually hotels that are historic or have enough history that it would hurt the hotels reputation to change it to a large chain name like a Marriot or a Hilton rather than its original name.
At one time a famous example of a soft brand hotel would have been Best Western because they had often encouraged their members to develop their unique brand identity. In this case they wanted the hotels to be part of Best Western not just a Best Western in a specific area.
A more recent example is the Marriott Autograph Collection which includes famous hotels like Algonquin Hotel Times Square in New York, The Hotel Chicago and Pier One Sydney Harbour. Such hotels would face declines in business if trading their name, uniqueness and history with Marriots main chain and strong branding.