Differentiation in the highly competitive hospitality industry is a big challenge for individual brands. But, when you become the world’s largest portfolio of hospitality brands overnight, the challenge becomes exponentially more difficult.
With the 2016 announcement of its successful merger with Starwood, Marriott International was faced with managing the world’s largest hospitality portfolio — 5,700 properties spanning over 110 countries and more choices for guests than ever before.
Preparing for the launch presented Marriott with a unique challenge: How do you simultaneously present 30 individual brands, showcase the unique qualities of each and help guests navigate to the choice that is right for them? Marriott turned to Lippincott, with our experience in managing complex, large-scale mergers, to answer that question.
Insights grounded in science, creativity and collaboration
A central insight that drove our work was drawn from neuroscience: People find it hard to handle more than seven items in any comparison. So we created a system that organized the brands into six initial groups, distinguished by two dimensions (a classic versus distinctive experience and level of service, from select through to luxury) to make navigation intuitive. Within each group there are never more than seven brands.
A second principle was to move away from industry jargon like “full service,” “lifestyle” and “signature.” In interview after interview, guests told us that these terms and names lacked meaning. Worse still, many did not translate across cultures. Our naming team created a system based on the universal idea underpinning each label, such as “classic” or “distinctive.” We then identified and utilized the English words that are both easy to understand for non-native speakers and also easily translated into local languages.
Throughout this creative exploration, Lippincott worked closely with Marriott’s internal brand managers as well as hotel owners to ensure their understanding and confidence in the role their respective brand played within the portfolio.
Leveraging a powerful corporate brand identity
The redesign of the identity system focused on the role the corporate Marriott brand would play relative to the new highly expanded portfolio.
The first step was defining where and how the Marriott International logo should be used. We knew that the corporate brand needed to play an important role as an anchor for the combined company. Our challenge was how to refine the iconic brand mark through a supporting system that would function across channels and applications.
The resulting logo maintains the iconic quality of the original while expressing a modern sensibility that reflects Marriott’s enhanced portfolio. By separating the name from the symbol, both elements of the identity can be used more purposefully and with greater flexibility. This is especially true in digital applications, where the new design adapts effortlessly to digital’s many screen sizes and devices.