HB ON THE SCENE: Choice focuses on brand reinvestment

LAS VEGAS—At its 65th annual convention here at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Choice Hotels International Inc. focused on its recent growth and maintaining the strength of the legacy brands that have kept it in business for 80 years.

“We are growing in all of our segments—upscale, midscale, economy and extended-stay,” said Pat Pacious, the company’s president/CEO. “We are also growing on the international front pretty significantly. When I think about the health of the business, all of those segments are growing today, and that is because of the value proposition that Choice Hotels offers.”

The last year has been an active one for the company. Pacious continued, “If I look at the last year, we have actually done three things: acquired a brand, WoodSpring Suites; launched a brand with Clarion Pointe, which has gotten off to a great success; and we also are continuing to invest in our current brands.”

He pointed to the company’s investment in the Cambria brand, as well as Quality, an 80-year-old brand, which, Pacious said, “had more openings than the next three midscale brands combined… It grew at 132 hotels last year in the U.S.”

A focus on legacy brands is important for Choice. “We don’t just look at the world as though everything has to be some brand extension or brand launch,” he said. “We also make sure we are reinvesting in the brands that have had such great success for our current owners.”

Choice has reinvested in its brands by revealing refreshed logos for four of them in the midscale category—Quality Inn, Clarion, Sleep Inn and MainStay Suites.

The new logos were designed to reflect both the brands’ tradition and potential. All include a “By Choice Hotels” tagline, which lends the company’s full power to the brands—starting from the first moment guests see the signage.

“This is really about bringing the identities of the brands in line with what guests are looking for today,” said Anne Smith, VP, brand management, design and compliance, Choice Hotels. “If we really have such a stronghold in midscale, then we should look like it. In each case, the brand had a different design brief.”

She described some of the decisions behind the logo changes for each brand: Quality Inn capitalizes on its 80 years of history and strong awareness by leveraging the recognizable “Q” and green that signals value, while modernizing for the future; Clarion used learnings from the new Clarion Pointe extension to design its revamped, kinetic logo, which signals its strong foothold in the focused-service segment; Sleep Inn’s value proposition as a stylish, all-new-construction brand translates seamlessly to a cursive logo and eclipsing moon against its signature purple background; and MainStay’s updated blue logo—an ambigram of its M.S. initials—reimagines the brand promise of “live like home” and communicates calm and comfort, especially for extended-stay guests.

Hotel owners will begin transitioning their signage to the new logos, and all guests can expect to see the new brand logos over the next two to three years on the hotel’s exterior and on digital and social channels, including choicehotels.com.

The Choice team reported that they were mindful of the costs for owners when it came to replacing signage. “We did it in a way that denotes change, but we are allowing some of the elements of the hardware of the signage to stay in place to try and mitigate the costs,” said Brian Quinn, VP of franchise development for new brands, Choice Hotels. “From a day-to-day managing of the numbers, that is a big way the franchisees see us partnering with them.”

While Choice Hotels is focused on its existing brands, Pacious said that looking at the future, the company has identified an area where it sees a chance for expansion. “If you look at new brands, if you look at where our portfolio is today, we don’t have an upscale extended-stay brand yet,” he said. “We don’t participate yet in the full-service side of the house. Those are opportunities for us in the immediate to long term. Right now, we are focused on the hotel brands that we do have. We are pretty excited about the growth prospects this offers.”

The company is also plotting increased expansion in Europe and Latin America after forming an alliance with Sercotel Hotels last year. “This allowed us to enter a couple of new markets in Spain, in particular, and also in Latin America through that same alliance,” Pacious said. “We have added a significant number of hotels with our alliance there in a country where we didn’t have a footprint.” HB

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