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When Skift spoke to Marriott Global Brand Officer Tina Edmundson in September, a little over two weeks after Marriott finally closed its $13.3-billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, she gave us a bit of insight into how Marriott would position all those 30 brands.
Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, Marriott began putting that strategy into place. Today, if you go to its site, all 30 of Marriott’s brands are now distinguished by whether they are “classic” or “distinctive,” as well as by category. This applies to all brands, whether luxury or premium, select or for longer stays.
For example, in the luxury category, The Ritz-Carlton, The St. Regis, and JW Marriott brands are defined as “classic luxury” while The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, The Luxury Collection, Bvlgari, W Hotels, and EDITION are categorized as “distinctive luxury.”
Occupying the premium category are classic brands such as Marriott Hotels, Sheraton, Marriott Vacation Club, and Delta Hotels, and more distinctive brands such as Le Meridien, Westin, Autograph Collection, Design Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Tribute Portfolio, and Gaylord Hotels.
Not suprisingly, all but three of Starwood’s 11 brands ended up in the “distinctive” category. Starwood was known in the industry for it innovation in lifestyle branding.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Edmundson said the decision to distinguish all the brands by “classic” and “distinctive” was strongly influenced by customer feedback.
“When we think about any of our brands, we start with the consumer and look at what they value,” Edmundson said. “With Ritz-Carlton, this consumer is really leaning toward discovery. And for St. Regis, it’s really about status and connoisseurship.” She added, “Prior to the close, we talked to customers to see how these brands are being perceived. And a lot of people were talking about this unprompted. So you know it’s resonating.”
What Else Will Happen to All Those 30 Brands?
As Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson has reiterated previously, all 30 brands will remain in place — at least for now.
Edmundson, who previously worked at Starwood for more than 18 years, also told Bloomberg, “I am one of the few people that has had the opportunity to have worked in both companies, so I see this very much as a perfect marriage. Marriott is the leading international hotelier, operationally very excellent with so much experience and success both with existing brands and launching new brands. Then you think of Starwood, which is foundationally about innovation. Their strength is in public relations and brand marketing. You put these things together, and the marriage makes for a complete whole, if you will. Competitively it will be really beneficial for us.”
She also said Starwood’s more experimental brands, such as Aloft, a “distinctive select” brand, which is currently piloting voice-activated rooms, for example, will continue their pursuits in innovating with technology.
Merging the different tech systems used by all the 30 brands, however, will take some time, as Sorenson and the executive team mentioned during the company’s third quarter earnings call earlier this month.
While it’s too soon to tell if all 30 brands will ultimately remain a few years from now, and other hotel CEOs are touting the advantages of not having 30 different brands to market and distinguish, Marriott remains steadfast in its objective of using loyalty to both unify and sell all of those brands.
This is why Marriott is investing so much into its three different loyalty programs, with the hopes of unifying all three by 2018. Whether this investment pays off or not, however, only time will tell.