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If you happened to be one of the millions of people who tuned into the Academy Awards on Sunday, chances are you likely saw Marriott International’s newest global campaign commercial.
In the 60-second spot, a series of vignettes plays out with a variety of travelers having different experiences at a number of Marriott hotels around the world, from The Ritz-Carlton in Kyoto, Japan, to the Courtyard by Marriott in Sedona, Arizona. Each traveler snapshot features the usage of “Bonvoy!” as a shorthand expression for “bon voyage.”
Bonvoy is the name of Marriott’s newly combined loyalty program, which brought together Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. The new program name was announced on January 16, and it’s clear that with this new campaign, “Rewards Reimagined,” the world’s largest hotel company is looking to boost brand recognition for Bonvoy, as well as all 30 of its hotel brands. Bonvoy has 120 million members, arguably the largest loyalty program for a single hotel company.
“It’s about the emotional part of what good travel means,” Karin Timpone, global marketing officer for Marriott International told Skift. “That’s what the campaign is all about — people experiencing the joy of good travel and they have one word to describe it, and that one word is ‘Bonvoy.’ The more people hear that, the more they connect that idea of good travel to our portfolio and that program.”
Can Marriott Make ‘Bonvoy’ a Catchphrase? Should It?
So, can Marriott actually make ‘Bonvoy’ as ubiquitous a greeting as it hopes to with its less-than-subtle use of “Bonvoy?” It’s too early to say, but it’s clear that’s the main objective with “Rewards Reimagined” as well as speaking to Marriott’s larger efforts to be a true experience platform beyond just hotels.
When Marriott first announced Bonvoy as the new name for its loyalty program, and even prior to the official announcement, consumer response and reaction was, at best, mixed.
Nevertheless, Marriott continued with Bonvoy, and with this new campaign, it’s clear the company isn’t backing down anytime soon, and it knows that it’ll take some time for people to grow accustomed to the new name/phrase.
“It takes time to build a brand, whether in hospitality or any sector,” said Timpone. “There are many brand names we use in regular vernacular today where people were thinking, ‘What does that actually mean?'”
Bonvoy, which Timpone confirmed “comes from ‘bon voyage,'” was carefully selected by Marriott, which even investigated how the name would be pronounced in different languages, including Chinese.
“Anyone who’s worked in name development for brands knows it takes time to select and develop it with consumers,” she said. “We think it’s good because it relates to travel, and relates to Marriott, and also points to something new — that the loyalty program is now the richest set of benefits, and much more than what it was in pieces.”
An Evolution of ‘It Pays to Book Direct’ and ‘You Are Here’
Just as Marriott’s biggest rival, Hilton, has also sought to change the conversation about booking direct with its newest campaign, “Expect Better. Expect Hilton,” Marriott is also doing the same with its new loyalty program and campaign by emphasizing the benefits and customized, special experiences you can have as a Marriott Bonvoy member.
Some of those experiences include special musical performances, sports events such as Marriott’s partnership with Manchester United, and culinary events.
“Reimagining Rewards” does as well, and like “You Are Here” its other main goal is to educate consumers about all of Marriott’s brands.
“We want there to be a way for travelers to identify the brands in our portfolio,” Timpone said. “We believe that loyalty and the new Marriott Bonvoy is the way travelers can understand how the brands are related. The top business goal it to affiliate the 30 brands of our portfolio so travelers can recognize those as connected.”
By extension, Timpone said “We also believe it’s important for a single name of loyalty to be attached to the daily habit of our co-branded credit card members,” referring to Marriott’s co-branded credit card partnerships with Chase and American Express.
And as Hilton did when it debuted “Stop Clicking Around” during the annual Grammy awards in 2016, Marriott timed its global campaign with another entertainment-focused awards ceremony, the Oscars, seeing it as a prime opportunity to explore the connections between film and travel.
Timpone wouldn’t say exactly how much Marriott spent on this new campaign, but she said “it’s a considerable investment.” Marriott also commissioned Oscar-nominated director Jean-Pierre Jeunet to work with its own creative and content marketing department, as well as an outside agency, Observatory Marketing, to create the TV spot that aired during the Academy Awards. ABC was charging $2 to $3 million for its Oscar spots.
While there weren’t any celebrities featured in the TV ad that aired Sunday, Timpone said that celebrities from the worlds of film, sports, music, and food will be prominently featured in upcoming Marriott Bonvoy-related events.
In other words, the commercial was just the start of a massive multi-channel digital, social, and media campaign that will span 22 markets worldwide.
Whether consumers worldwide eventually warm up to the idea of “Bonvoy” remains to be seen, but Timpone said early signs point to success.
“One of the things I’ve observed in groups we’ve talked to [about the program name] is that once we fill the name with meaning, we hear from people that they absolutely love it,” Timpone said of Bonvoy. “Saying the name is just the first step. Then we affiliate it with the portfolio, and connect it to our loyalty benefits and have it as a single way to navigate all the things travelers do with us.”
Below is the full 60-second commercial that aired on Sunday: