Apple and Zappos get it. A brand is an identity, and people want to be socially connected to the brands they support on an ongoing basis. This is a major problem I see with selling hotels through online travel agencies. There’s no identity; each page has the same layout with different text inserts and image thumbnails. When every page feels the same like this, brand identity is distanced from the consumer. The primary motivations then become location and price, and a consumer naturally will seek the most convenient or deepest discount around. In a race to the bottom like this, every hotel loses.
Furthermore, humanizing your brand is not just a cheap trick for first-time buyers. It goes miles toward customer loyalty, but most of the heavy lifting has to occur on-property with physical interactions. Your team has to be trained not only to be sociable, but also they must be strategically positioned to maximize guest-staff interactions.