Southern Living, already a behemoth in the brand extension department (you can buy Southern Living furniture, bedroom linens, tableware, and even house plans), is giving "living" the brand experience a whole new meaning with a Southern Living Hotel Collection.
“We’d really been looking at brand extensions that allow for deeper immersion into the lifestyle,” said publisher Greg Schumann. “We always say that our reader doesn’t just read Southern Living—she lives it. As we began to focus on the travel facet of the brand, we realized that our readers are always looking for Southern Living vetted and endorsed experiences.”
The collection will launch with 15 independent four- and five-star hotels across the South, from the Barnsley Gardens Resort in Adairsville, Ga., to the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. “They are all hotels that we feel very comfortable endorsing and have mostly appeared in our pages," said editor in chief Lindsay Bierman. "They represent a really broad spectrum of cultural experiences in the South.” The Southern Living stamp of approval will also provide a boost for these locally run businesses, he added: “It legitimizes the hotels in a very competitive environment, especially versus larger hotel chains that already have marketing power.”
Within the next five years, the collection will continue to expand to include around 100 properties. (Editors will regularly vet all current hotels.) Schumann said that the hotels could begin offering Southern Living branded events, from cooking classes to weddings, or selling Southern Living branded items from their gift stores. Southern Living is even exploring the concept of building its own hotel at some point in the future, he added.
To promote the hotel collection, Southern Living will publish a spread in its July issue that introduces readers to the 15 charter members, and it plans to tap into the larger Time Inc. marketing database. A Southern Living Hotel Collection website will go live on July 1.