Skift Take

IHG really needs a conversion brand in the mid-market for supply and demand reasons. So this move is smart. Yet Garner falls flat with us as a name.

IHG needed a new brand to appeal to two audiences — guests looking for something cheaper than the company’s 70-year-old flagship, Holiday Inn, and developers looking for a more cost-effective brand to run. The UK-based hotel giant on Wednesday took a step to fill this market gap by officially launching its 19th hotel brand, Garner an IHG Hotel.

IHG has big plans for Garner. It expects to have more than 1,000 hotels worldwide flagged under this brand over the next two decades.

The company has been showing a promo video to developers — embedded below.

Demand-Side Reasons for the New Brand

Garner aims to be a bit more affordable for guests than its other brands targeting the middle of the market.

  • It aims to be about $10 to $15 a night cheaper than IHG’S midscale Holiday Inn Express brand.
  • The company’s market researchers said that U.S. travelers seeking hotels at this price point will spend about $18 billion a year on hotels by 2030.
  • Until now, it didn’t have a brand that fit this particular price range.
  • As the video above shows, this hotel is pitched toward middle-class travelers. “Our style is refreshingly approachable, which appeals to all types of guests,” said Jen Gribble, SVP of global marketing mainstream brands.
  • The hotel lets guests bring pets into their rooms and will offer pet-friendly touches, such as welcome treats, loaner items, and outdoor relief stations. Many middle-class travelers struggle to find hotels that will welcome their pets, and the number of pet owners expanded significantly during the pandemic.
Garner an IHG hotel Exterior
An exterior view rendering of Garner, an IHG hotel. Source: IHG.

Supply-Side Reasons for the New Brand

IHG hopes Garner will also capture the imaginations of potential franchisees for one central reason: The group needs to sustain a competitive pace of pipeline growth.

IHG has had only a 3% annualized growth rate, on average, over five years, while many competitors of roughly equivalent size had roughly 4% a year growth.

Garner may help. It’s a conversion brand. Unlike new-build brands that take time to grow because of construction delays, conversion brands can expand quickly, especially as many independent hotel operators or owners of properties flagged with older brands seek a refresh.

Importantly, IHG is unusually loose in the brand standards it requires of developers. No two Garners will be exactly alike. IHG won’t expect major renovations to make a lobby look standardized, for example.

IHG said it will prioritize building the early wave of Garners at “convenient locations.” Imagine popular markets, often next to major highways and interchanges. That will help make sure they have a lot of demand.

Garner an IHG hotel room with king bed new brand in 2023
A view of a guest room with a king bed at IHG’s new brand, Garner. Source: IHG.

Details on Garner, an IHG Hotel

IHG said it would start offering franchises for Garner in the U.S. as early as next month. It also offered some other details.

  • It plans to open the first Garner hotels by the end of this year.
  • About 100 owners of properties have “expressed definitive interest” in the brand.
  • There’s a free hot breakfast — think buffet-style scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and cereals — which is something that the target travelers like to have included in the base price.
  • To keep costs in check, there’s no hotel restaurant as you would usually find in IHG’s flagship brand, Holiday Inn. Garner instead provides packaged snack items for sale in a small retail area.
  • Other amenities include flavored water when a guest arrives.
  • But facilities are simpler than what is available at Holiday Inn Express. There’s no swimming pool.

What’s With These Hotel Names?

There’s nothing objectionable to the name Garner, which is also the name of a pretty town in North Carolina. But it also seems bland. One dictionary says the word garner comes from the Latin granarium, which means “store-house,” usually for grain.

Other names, like Rise, might have been catchier. But to be fair, hotel brand marketers have to cope with finding names that won’t run into copyright conflicts and that sound neutral in other major languages. Practical considerations rule out many otherwise appealing names.

IHG also is hardly the only hotel group adopting bland names for their latest brands.

  • StudioRes, an extended stay brand Marriott debuted earlier this month, isn’t going to win any AdAge awards.
  • Last November, Wyndham debuted Echo Suites. The company didn’t hire TBWA\Chiat\Day or a similar first-rank creative agency to invent it.
  • The parent company of Best Western last October presented to developers a new extended-stay brand, Home by BWH. It has since been renamed @Home by Best Western.

IHG has had success in launching brands recently. Consider Avid, a brand that debuted in 2017. It’s now IHG’s second-largest contributor to system size after Holiday Inn Express, with 147 in the works.

Hopefully, IHG’s target audience likes Garner as a name better than we do. 

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Tags: branding, brands, future of lodging, hotel brands, ihg, marketing

Photo credit: A guestroom with a king bed at Garner, the 19th hotel brand from IHG, revealed in August 2023. Source: IHG. IHG

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