by By Cheryl-Anne Sturken | May 01, 2013

In recent years, hotel brands have sprung up like dandelions across the globe, making an already crowded hotel market even more confusing to navigate. Today, hospitality research firm STR puts the number of brands in the United States at 225, up from 210 in 2006. By comparison, in 1980, just 81 brands were represented in the U.S.

On the international front, it's anyone's guess. "Our data globally is spotty due to the hundreds of local and regional brands," notes Chad Church, senior director of operations for the Hendersonville, Tenn.-based STR.

Over the past three years alone, more than a dozen new brands have entered the hotel market, including Atlanta-based InterContinental Hotels Group's wellness-focused Even and China-specific Hualuxe; Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp.'s new select-service brand, Hyatt House; and boutique pioneer Ian Schrager's value-oriented Public chain. Just two months ago, Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International surprised the industry with the addition of yet another brand to its stable, Moxy, which will target "millennial global nomads." 

To grasp exactly what makes a brand stand on its own, and out from competitors, M&C recently spent some time talking with the chief marketing and branding officers at five major global companies who are directly involved on a daily basis in creating the philosophy and product behind the following five brands.

Conrad Hotels &
Parent chain: Hilton Worldwide
Portfolio: 23
In the pipeline: 9 opening by 2020

The Conrad New YorkIn 2012, Conrad Hotels & Resorts opened more properties than in any other year in its 30-plus-year history. And in a still-tough real estate market, the company has managed to expand its footprint with impressive new-builds in key gateway cities such as Beijing, New York City and Seoul, South Korea. The 550-room Conrad Dubai, which will feature 30 meeting rooms, is set to open later this year.

This brand has set its sights on the well-heeled global business traveler with its core brand pillars of style, service and connection with the indigenous culture of each location, all part of a philosophy summed up by the operating term "smart luxury."

"It's a new definition of luxury," says Michael Ennes, senior director, brand development, luxury and lifestyle, for Conrad. "For example, the architecture must have a dramatic, clean, sweeping style, accented with great artwork, yet also be comfortable and functional. It differentiates us from our competition."

Those concepts extend to the meeting space, which feature lots of natural light, comfortable furniture for networking, the latest technology and easy access from anywhere in the hotel. "Meeting space, even prefunction space, has to be adaptive and responsive to the meeting's needs," notes Ennes.

Indeed, Conrad's meeting space design template follows the mantra "foster collaboration and celebration." The year-old, 463-suite Conrad New York is a perfect example; its 30,000 square feet of meeting space, on the second floor, looks directly down into a soaring glass and steel atrium lobby, accessed via a central floating staircase.