Wyndham Hotel Group announced a new brand today: Trademark Hotel Collection. The soft-brand collection marks the company’s 19th brand and will consist of independent hotels ranging from three to four stars in ratings.

The company said that, so far, the new brand has more than 50 properties in its pipeline of both existing and new build hotels that are primarily located in urban markets worldwide, except it would not reveal any of the properties involved.

The decision on Wyndham’s part to launch a soft-brand collection was driven by that fact that there’s plenty of opportunity in the market, said Chip Ohlsson, Wyndham Hotel Group’s chief development officer.

“The explosion of soft brands in the last several years has been focused on luxury and upscale hoteliers—with demand still growing at a rate of nearly 20 percent—leaving a market void for independent hoteliers in the upper-midscale segment, the largest segment accounting for 18 percent of rooms in the U.S. Wyndham is the only hotel company positioned to champion upper-midscale-and-above independent hoteliers so they can compete in an ever-changing distribution environment with brand-backed support and guest recognition and loyalty.”

Unlike a “hard” hotel brand like a Wyndham Grand or a Travelodge, a soft-brand collection like Trademark is purposely meant to be a little undefined, and not necessarily beholden to the same strict brand standards as those aforementioned Wyndham brands. For independent hoteliers, the benefits of joining a soft-brand collection give them access to Wyndham’s more than 50 million Wyndham Rewards loyalty program members and the company’s global distribution network of more than 8,000 hotels, without having to sacrifice their properties’ own unique branding and identities.

The name for the collection, said Lisa Checchio, derives from the trademark being “a symbol of character, an emblem of individuality. Trademark isn’t just another brand. It’s a rally cry for independent entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid to make their own mark. The Trademark Hotel Collection is the next step in our mission to flip the script on existing expectations and champion all hoteliers by offering them an independent choice outside of the current luxury and upscale options available.”

Crowded Field

Trademark, however, isn’t the only big soft-brand from a major hotel company that’s targeting that three-to-four-star range, or what’s sometimes referred to as “upscale.” Although soft brand collections originally targeted more luxury hotels, both Trademark and Tapestry Collection by Hilton, which launched in January, are targeting a somewhat lower price point.

Mark Nogal, global head of Hilton’s two soft brand collections, told Skift during the launch of Tapestry in January, “When you look at the segmentation within the hotel business, there are not collection brands within the upscale category. We’re carving out a niche that hasn’t existed. This is an important part of what we do. We’re going to place brands in that perfect sweet spot. When we take a look at our competitors, they are there and we respect what they do. As we looked at the information and research, we realized we were building the first collection specifically designed for the upscale segment.”

For Wyndham, the decision to launch a new brand is a significant one, since the company has, historically, been more acquisitive in its pursuit of brands. Most recently, the company purchased Dazzler and Esplendor, two brands owned by Buenos Aires-based Fen Hotels, and in 2015, it acquired Dolce Hotels and Resorts.

Wyndham’s decision to launch a soft brand is emblematic of a larger push from the hotel industry overall to capture the very large and very fragmented independent hotel market.

Bjorn Hanson, a clinical professor with the NYU Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, told Skift that soft brands are where the growth is going forward for hotels when asked about the launch of Tapestry in January.

“The old model of brand uniformity, with the art on the wall being the same in New York City as it is in Honolulu, is being recognized as an old model,” Hanson said. “Growth won’t be in those uniform design and uniform operational models. Growth will be in soft brands and collections with local tastes, preferences, art, culture, and people looking for an experience.”

Photo Credit: A promotional image from Wyndham, with an image of the Trademark Hotel Group logo, from the company's trademark filing. Wyndham Hotel Group