Fact: Differentiation in the highly competitive and constantly evolving hospitality industry is a big challenge for individual hotel brands. Also a fact: This challenge becomes exponentially more difficult when, virtually overnight, you become the world’s largest hospitality company with the most diverse hotel brand portfolio.
With the announcement of its successful merger with Starwood, Marriott International was faced with managing 5,700 properties spanning 30 individual hotel brands in over 110 countries, with more choices for guests than ever before.
Insights grounded in science, creativity and collaboration
The merger 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? To answer that question, Marriott turned to Lippincott, with our experience in managing complex, large-scale mergers.
Working within a three-week time frame, we embarked on the mighty task of building an intuitive architecture model to organize and categorize Marriott’s 30 hotel brands for customers. A core insight from neuroscience governed our work: People find it hard to handle more than seven items in any comparison. We developed several models and pressure tested them with consumer focus groups in six markets and a linguistic screen in 16 languages. Ultimately, we landed on an experience-led architecture system presenting the portfolio in a customer-friendly way. Hotel brands are now organized into six groups, with no more than seven brands in a group, which are distinguished by two dimensions: type of experience and level of service.
A second principle of the project was to move away from industry jargon like “full service,” “lifestyle” and “signature.” Research told us that not only did these terms and names lack meaning, many did not translate across cultures. Our naming team created a system based on a universal idea underpinning each label, such as “classic” or “distinctive.” We then identified the set of English words that are both easy to understand for non-native speakers and easily translated into local languages.
Finally, we redesigned Marriott’s corporate brand identity system relative to the expanded portfolio. The logo acts as an anchor for the combined company, maintaining its iconic quality while expressing a modern sensibility. We separated the name from the symbol so that both elements could be used more purposefully and with greater flexibility.
Greater impact from Marriott’s brand marketing investments
Our attention then turned to creating a framework so Marriott could be as strategic about its marketing investments as with its brand architecture. Instead of going to market as 30 individual brands, we developed a framework to share and allocate investment across groups — or categories — of hotel brands. Our category marketing approach, where similar brands are grouped together in marketing efforts, was twofold: helping Marriott achieve scale across its portfolio (and deliver a higher return on marketing investment) and helping guests’ understand the breadth of Marriott’s offerings without overwhelming them.
The diversity of Marriott’s brand portfolio presented a unique opportunity to “own” specific customer stay needs, such as extended stay or boutique hotels. These needs were the basis of our marketing categories. Next we developed a model for sharing and allocating funds across the portfolio to increase total marketing impact. Marriott debuted the approach in the U.S. with the launch of “Golden Rule,” a multidimensional campaign featuring — for the first time ever — four of Marriott’s hotel brands together: Courtyard, Four Points, Fairfield Inn and SpringHill Suites. The rollout represents Marriott’s entry into category marketing and a critical evolution of how the company will leverage its collective strength to present a more powerful offering to consumers.
Centering marketing on the guest journey
Marriott has a complex global marketing organization, with many levels of marketing, global regions and functional areas, and the rollout of our new category marketing strategy added an additional layer of complexity. To ensure the long-term success of the marketing organization, we set out to define the roles and relationships of the different levels of global marketing at Marriott.
Historically, Marriott had many best-in-class marketing efforts, but its most successful efforts were often executed within organizational silos (e.g., within a single brand, such as The Ritz Carlton or JW Marriott). Looking at the portfolio as a whole, efforts felt less coordinated — and even duplicative — across brands, marketing levels and channels.
Our task: create a framework for a more coordinated and collaborative approach to marketing.
Using an iterative, collaborative process to deeply engage teams across the global marketing organization, we cast aside the traditional marketing funnel and took a new approach to putting the guest at the center of all marketing efforts. We adapted and built upon Marriott’s existing multiple guest journey framework. After landing on a global view of the guest journey, we oriented all marketing around the guest and their needs at each stage of the journey. Throughout the process, we held collaborative workshops with teams in the U.S., Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa to pressure test and align on the strategy. Finally, we provided a cohesive global-marketing-strategy playbook detailing the guest-centered approach for each stage of the journey.
The new marketing strategy has significantly changed the way that Marriott’s entire global marketing organization works and thinks, requiring greater coordination and collaboration. To support the new strategy, Marriott has designed and implemented new teams, structures and processes across the organization. As part of this, our marketing strategy framework was used in Marriott’s annual marketing planning process as the lens through which to set and communicate the global team’s vision and strategic marketing priorities.
The number of weeks to develop and land the architecture model through a combination of art and science
The average estimated increase in brand marketing spend for brands in categories
Shared global marketing strategy centered on a common guest journey across all levels of marketing