Another day, another brand launch and this first one of 2019 comes from no less a parentage than Marriott International. Some years after the biggest merger deal in the history of hospitality, Marriott has unveiled the new flag for its loyalty programme, under which it is merging its three existing schemes: Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG).
Marriott is a big, powerful and dominant beast, so frankly they could have branded the amalgamated loyalty behemoth as almost anything they pleased because the chain possesses the volume, reach and clout to make pretty much anything stick. And so Bonvoy will stick and within a year or so it will become assimilated into the hospitality lexicon just because they have the might to lodge it there.
That said, it does seem to me like a missed opportunity and at a couple of levels.
First, the proposition itself seems to be trying a little too hard. What’s wrong with a great loyalty program? Why does it have to represent “more than a loyalty program”? How is a travel program any different and why does the extraordinary portfolio of global brands need to be brought to life in any case? Don’t the brands do that for themselves? I would imagine that the operators who work inside the hotels of those brands would think so anyway.
Second, the branding. The name (chosen from over 600, we are told) creaks like the bones of an overladen packhorse. It’s very similar to that other disaster new hotel brand ‘Belmond’ and imitates the former Orient-Express Hotels’ appropriation of pseudo-French to suggest a faux world of international ‘Je ne sai quoi’. You can hear them thinking “throw in some French and it will make us global, romantic and cosmopolitan, won’t it?”
Unfortunately, all the promise of the French is immediately eroded when spoken (as in the launch video) by a voice artist with an American accent straight out of central casting for corporate videos.
The “simple, bold and modern logo” is also described as “welcoming and optimistic”. Actually, it’s just another me-too mark following in the well-worn footsteps of so many recent re-brandings (re-blandings?) of previously characterful logos e.g. YSL, Burberry, Balmain and Céline (see attached). Suddenly, it’s all about bold sans serif logotypes.
That’s a legitimate creative choice of course but the stacked arrangement of ‘Bonvoy’ set in CAPS with ‘Marriott’ also in CAPS makes the combined logo difficult to read. Clearly, the intention is to drop the ‘Marriott’ once the new name has been established but graphically I would have used the actual Marriott logo rather than writing the corporate brand name in the same font as Bonvoy.
Then we might ask why is the O lifted and underlined? Most probably to make the logotype distinctive enough to secure global trademark registrations but as there is no further explanation of this offered, ultimately it comes across as arbitrary rather than considered.
So, there we have it. A vanilla solution that’s rather less inspiring than all the promotional explanation that surrounds it. It will work but this was an opportunity to apply the group’s heft to something breakthrough and industry-defining. Instead, they have played it safe and as per usual, the innovation opportunity remains open for the smaller groups and independents.