Changing a brand’s logo is a tricky thing to do. Consumers view logos as representations of what a brand stands for in terms of its values and offering. Change that visual identity and it can leave your audience confused and unsure. They will not be sure whether or not that brand will still mean the same thing for them.
However, brands can create a new logo that customers can still relate to if they do it right. And, that’s something that the Comfort brand, which represents thousands of Choice Hotels, did successfully. They created a new look that symbolized their transformation. According to Anne Smith, Vice President, Brand Management and Design, Choice Hotels, in a recent press release, “It’s more than a change of symbol, it’s a symbol of change. From new lobbies to upgraded guest rooms, Comfort hotels are being renovated across the country to deliver a more consistent, up-to-date guest experience.”
The Comfort logo features orange and yellow as well as blue for the Comfort name. Megan Brumagim, head of Comfort brands, Choice Hotels, noted, “It’s the capstone of our transformation, inviting guests to check out the new Comfort.” It’s also been a way to unify their numerous brands. These include Comfort Inn, Comfort Inn & Suites, and Comfort Suites.
The brand began its transformative in 2012. They no longer associated itself with over 600 properties that did not represent the brand’s heightened standards. The brand then introduced Move to Modern. This initiative focused on property upgrades. Additionally, it turned Comfort into the largest 100% smoke-free hotel brand in North America. These efforts have strengthened the brand’s leadership position in the upper midscale segment.
Preparing For the Reaction
What every brand must prepare for when they dramatically change their logo is customer feedback — good or bad. In this case the feedback was positive as research revealed that guests’ perception and intent to stay increased dramatically when they saw Comfort’s updated brand image. The renovated public spaces and guest rooms also played a role in that conclusion. They were even willing to pay more per night.
Smith added, “Guests also liked that the logo unifies the Comfort Inn, Comfort Inn & Suites, and Comfort Suites brands as one family. Because the Comfort brand has near universal awareness, we talked to consumers about how much to change the identity.” She noted that they could have taken a more conservative approach by simply refreshing the logo.
However, consumer feedback made them realize that the changes made to the product warranted a stronger symbol of change. “As a result, the design of the new logo reflects our warm and welcoming heritage that our loyal guests expect. It has a distinct, modern look and feel that also appeals to guests who haven’t stayed with us for a while.”
Customer Experience Must Play a Role
While Comfort brand customers reacted positively to the brand and logo changes, they recognized the underlying reason this happened was the company’s focus on enhancing the customer experience that must be a priority. For Smith, this has meant that the changes have focused on providing guests with a more consistent, up-to-date experience.
She added, “By the end of next year, Choice and our franchisees will have invested $2.5 billion in Comfort’s transformation. The fact that we didn’t introduce this new brand identity until after the product upgrades have been made to the hotels is a testament to how much we put the guest experience at the top of our list. Hotels must complete the required Move to Modern renovations before they can get the new signs for their properties.”
What Smith also noted is that brands must look at the customer experience beyond the initial interaction of the hotel stay, meal, or retail transaction. For the Comfort brand, looking beyond meant investing in its award-winning loyalty program, Choice Privileges.
Not only do members have access to exclusive member rates when booking directly at ChoiceHotels.com, but they also earn rewards faster and can qualify for instant perks. These include their choice of a $5 gift card to enhance their stay from the moment they check in. Those are great takeaways for other brands who want to work on improving their customer experience.
Making a Product Different and a Brand Memorable
Hotel rooms are great examples of a product where many consumers may think what they get is all the same. And, because it’s just a basic necessity, then they will opt for the cheapest hotel room available regardless of brand. However, more consumers are realizing the value of having a truly enjoyable experience with their brand interactions.
Smith explained, “One thing that sets Choice apart is our well-segmented family of brands. We truly have something for every consumer and travel occasion. We put the consumer front-and-center, exploring how attitudes, psychographics, and demands among Boomers, Gen Xers, or Millennials allow us to carve out a distinct positioning for our brands. Each brand caters to different wants and needs, whether a guest is searching for upscale, upper midscale, midscale, economy or extended stay to satisfy their business or leisure trip occasion.”
Brands can emphasize the differences that show why decisions don’t need to be about the cheapest by covering every aspect of the brand experience. For Comfort that has meant creating what they call the “Welcome to Goodbye” signature customer experience. It delivers on the brand positioning of feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. Elements include lemon-infused water stations in the lobby, a proprietary bath amenity line called RAIO, and a healthy and hearty breakfast.
Staying Relevant with New Technology and Data Analytics
For a brand logo and identity transformation to be taken to heart by its audience, a company must continue to seek ways to progress. In the digital age, that means adopting new technology that can help maintain that outstanding customer experience.
Smith noted, “Our partnership with Amazon on choiceEDGE – the first new global reservation system in the hotel industry in 30 years that we introduced earlier this year – has opened up some exciting possibilities. We are exploring how augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) can come together to serve our hotels. For example, during Choice Hotels’ annual convention in Las Vegas, we showed a demonstration of a ‘digital assistant,’ or a virtual lobby concierge.”
Beyond disruptive technology adoption, companies like Comfort have also started to see why harnessing consumer data becomes increasingly important. With connected devices, the company has experienced how guests are sharing more and more of their personal data. For that sharing, brands must deliver something in return. For Comfort, this has meant making the most of choiceEDGE and its robust data analytics platform.
The platform allows the company to harness consumer data. This can help them find ways to personalize the guest experience. Smith explained, “We recently announced our partnership with delivery.com. This gives guests the ability to order services on their Choice mobile app.
They get rewarded with Choice Privileges points. In the future, when a guest orders dinner from a nearby restaurant, we can capture that data and use it to identify a pattern in their preferences. Next time they stay with us or use our app, we can proactively offer to them what they want before they’ve even started thinking about it. Now, that’s personalization.”
Changing a logo is important and takes careful thought. However, it is the actions that brand takes every day that involve customers that really determines the success of these types of brand transformation.
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