A brand enables customers to remember the core information about a product, and prevents competitors from making imitation. (Aaker, 1991). Successful brand building helps profitability by adding value that entices customers to buy (De Chernatony and McDonald, 1994). It is also becoming clearer that companies creating strong brands can obtain important competitive advantage over those that do no (Kohli and Thakor, 1997). Whenever a marketer creates a new name, logo or symbol for a new product, he or she has created a brand (Keller, 2003). According to the American Marketing Association’s definition, brand is a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or group of sellers, and to differentiate them from those o f the competition”. Another definition given by Farquhar (Farquhar, 1989) is “a name, symbol, design or mark that enhances the value of product beyond its functional purposes”. The brand creates a more favorable view of the product, relative to others in the market. If successfully built, a brand will add value for customers, and is the underlying reason for purchase. This can bring profitability to the firm (Laforet, 1996). In this report, two hotel groups were chosen for analysis and comparison with the perspective of branding: Starwood and Marriott, both are the leader in lodging industry.
Starwood Hotels & Worldwide, Inc is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 992 properties in approximately 97 countries and 145,000 employees at its owned and managed properties (Starwood). Starwood Hotels is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels, resorts and residences. Starwood Hotels also owns Starwood Vacation ownership, Inc, one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts. As one of the largest operators of upper-upscale and luxury hotels, its global portfolio is unmatched. Starwood remains on track to increase its world-wide foot print by 20% over the next five years through smart, carefully targeted growth that will expand its presence in the upper upscale and luxury hotel categories, as well as in the vital limited service segment. Exhibit 1 shows all the brands of Starwood, including Luxury full-service hotels, Luxury and upscale full – service hotels, Select-service hotels, extended stay hotels. The company divides its nine brands into four levels: luxury full-service hotels, luxury and upscale full-service, select-service, extended stay. Judging from the room quantity of each brand, the most two popular brands are Sheraton with 392 properties and Westin with 165 properties. The brands with the least sites are St Regis with 19 properties and Element with only 6 properties. It means that there is much less guests knowing St Regis and Elements than the people knowing Sheraton and Westin.
Compared with Starwood, Marriott has more than 3150 lodging properties located 69 countries and territories (Marriott) with 20 brands, including the newest one – Autograph collection, which was announced on 25th January 2010 (hospitalitynet, 2010). Exhibit 2 showed Marriott’s brands, including luxury lodging, full-service lodging, select-service lodging, extended stay lodging and timeshare. Brand has specific purposes, and businesses should invest in it only with specific aims in mind. It is a form of information, and is most valuable where customers have the least specific information, the least ability to obtain information, the least clarity on evaluation criteria, and the least time or inclination to obtain product information (Keller, 2008). Among all the Marriott’s luxury brands, there is only one brand and logo telling people that it is belong to Marriott group. Ritz-Carlton is often thought as an independent company and has no relationship with Marriott. Bulgari is originally a jewelry company and nothing to do with hospitality. It is very creative that the two companies became partners and launched a new brand in lodging industry, but it is difficult for people to associate these two brands. And for Edition, it was planned to open the first property in 2010, but so far, the official website (http://www.editionhotels.com) has not launched any new information.
Part 2 Points of parity (POPs) and points of difference (PODs)
2.1 Points of parity (POPs)
Points of parity are associations that are not necessarily unique to the brand but may be shared by other brands, i.e. where a company can at least match the competitors claimed benefits. While POPs may usually not be the reason to chose a brand, their absence can certainly be a reason to drop a brand. It is very important to nullify the competition by matching them on the POP. As a late entrant into the market, many brands look at making the competitors POD into a POP for the category and thereby create a leadership position by introducing a new POD.
Comparing the brands of Starwood and Marriott, obviously there are some POPs. Both of them have the different level of pricing: luxury, upscale, elected, and extend stay. It is quite general division according to the room prices. Luxury hotels target the guests who prefer the elegant atmosphere and traditional service, which are the symbols of society position. For upscale hotels, the target guests are business persons who have lots of frequent business trips. Usually the decoration and atmosphere are quite modern. However, family and young people like to live the elected-service hotels because the associates and services are quite more friendly and flexible. Normally extend stay-service hotels are apartments for the family’s or a group of people’s long stay. There are full-equipped facilities, especially in the kitchen.
2.2 Points of difference (PODs)
PODs are attributes or benefits that consumers strongly associate with a brand, positively evaluate, and believe that they could not find to the same extent with a competitive brand, i.e. points where the company is claiming superiority or exclusiveness over other products in the category (Keller, Strategic brand management, 2008).Consumers’ actual brand choices often depend on the perceived uniqueness of brand associations. Points of difference may rely on performance attributes or performance benefits. Sometimes, PODs come from imagery associations. Many top brands attempt to create a point of difference on “overall superior quality”, whereas other firms become the “low-cost provider” of a product or service.
Comparing Starwood and Marriott, Marriott has more segmentation for on category. Take the upscale full-service category for example, Marriott has Marriott Conference Centers, which are especially for company’s conferences and events. This sub segmentation helps Marriott to gain more market share of conference, while Starwood properly will lose. Therefore, conference center is Marriott’s superiority or exclusiveness. Another example is timeshare. Marriott has 3 brands for timeshare. And each brand has specific target guests. Therefore, Marriott definitely will gain more gusts than Starwood because Starwood does not have timeshare hotel, which means Starwood completely give up the market.
Both of these two groups have guest loyalty program: Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards. However, the following table can show the differences.
Starwood Preferred Guest
Offer collection service
Online shopping (double points)
Get points by using Visa card
Hotels with golf
Hotels with SPA
On the Gold Lists of Conde Nast Traveler’s
Commodity for changing with points (over 200 items)
Customize the commodity for points changing
No date limitation
Book the rewards then get points
Lowest price guarantee
Source: Marriott.com (Marriott)
Part 3 Brand analyze according to the brand report card
3.1 The brand excels at delivering the benefits customers truly desire.
People, who like Ritz – Carlton, not only indulge in the fancy facilities or the excellent service, but also immerse the dignified atmosphere and the noble lifestyle, such as the elegant concierge uniform, rococo or Renaissance decoration. Simply speaking, together with the brand’s image, the service, and other tangible and intangible elements, it is not living in a hotel but living your life.
So, it is same in St. Regis. There are only 19 St. Regis around world and this brand is on the top of Starwood brand hierarchy. St. Regis offers its elite clientele an experience beyond expectation. St. Regis even has itself guest loyalty program: St. Regis Aficionado (SM). Guests of the hotel are invited to indulge their passions with exclusive privileges such as a private tour of the Sistine Chapel, the opportunity to sample a rare vertical selection of Chateau Petrus, or a back country ski trip with a personal chef and sommelier. Simply speaking, guests who chose the top brand are choosing their lifestyles.
3.2 The brand stays relevant.
The five segments of Marriott are all in lodging industry but represent different positioning. In 1980s, the company recognized that there were more and more businesspersons who needed quality service and moderate price room, and it would be a large potential market. Sooner or later, Courtyard was launched by Marriott and has long been the industry leader in upper moderate tier lodging for business and leisure travelers. The pictures of the gallery from its official website (http://www.marriottdevelopment.com/index.html#brands/jwmhr/) indicated that the culture and atmosphere in Courtyard is easy and amiable, such as bright color and fashion decoration. There are also hi-tech and unitized facilities for entertainment and meeting. Also be one of the select – service lodging range, the brand of SpringHill Suites delivers progressive design to a rapidly emerging customer segment – the lifestyle traveler in the upper moderate tier. These two similar brands are in the same price range but their target guests are different. Generally speaking, the former one is for business whereas the latter one is for leisure.
Consumers tend to respond to names that they recognize (Solomon, 2009). For the new and young brand, such as Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, people prefer to buy some jewelry of Bulgari, not live in a Bulgari room, although it is a luxury brand. For a long time, the impression is already formed: Bulgari is jewelry brand.
For Starwood, they focus on lodging industry more. All the brands are created by the company itself. And there is no brand for club, conference, timeshare apartment, suites. These are the blank papers for Starwood. However, in order to attract more young business persons, there are two related brands with different poisoning: W hotel and Aloft. W hotel is luxury and full-service lodging while Aloft is select-service hotels. Nevertheless, these brands’ target guests are young persons, who like bright color, creative setting-up or easy & quick service.
3.3 The pricing strategy is based on consumers’ perceptions of value.
The simplest way to judge a product is by its price. The common sense is that more expensive, there is the better quality. For Marriott, it uses the value-based pricing (Collins M, 2005). It means for the two same-cost rooms, the JW Marriott one definitely much more expensive than the Fairfield Inn one. This pricing method has become a common expression for a relationship that goes beyond the manifest monetary price of an item or service. The interpretation of price-value must be based on the buyer’s view of the relationship between price and value. A technique known as price-sensitivity measurement (PSM) can be used to determine how consumers’ perceptions of value are affected by the interaction of price and quality. PSM also provides clues on how to alter consumers’ perceptions of value (Lewis R C, 1997).
Marriott took the approach of price-driven costing when it developed the successful Courtyard product. (Christopher, 1986) Courtyard began with consumer research that revealed a preferred price point and related bundle of desired benefits. The product was then developed to fit within those limits.
Often, brand and price serve a similar purpose – to inform purchasers about their potential purchase. For example, telling consumers that a room for one night is priced at USD 800 will deliver much the same message as telling him the room is of St. Regis. While the nuances differ, in both cases the message is essentially the same: “It is a luxury hotel.” In general, brand and price are often close reflections of each other. A much-asked question is whether or not brand can create a price premium (Docters R G, 2004). In this part, quality plays a very essential role. Starwood started to implement Six Sigma to control and keep it quality from 2001. Six Sigma is a set of quality improvement practices originally developed by Motorola in the 1980s. Starwood was the first company in the hospitality industry to adopt this international recognized organizational development tool (Siguaw J, 2008).
3.4 The brand is properly positioned.
The brand position is the perceptual space that the brand holds in the consumers’ mind at the beginning of the selling idea development process. For Marriott, there are several brands in the same positioning range. In each category, the individual brands have points of parity (POP) for keeping up with competitors and points of difference (POD) for achieving advantages over competitors in some other areas.
Take TownePlace Suites and Residence Inn for example. TownePlace Suites is another kind of hotel designed by Marriott for the do-it-yourselfer – the sufficient, value-conscious, extended stay guest. The new and modern design concept brings a simple, fresh look to the brand while enabling friendly interactions with staff. Each hotel specializes in helping guests keep their routine and settle in to the neighborhood with in-suite home office modules, full kitchen, quick “in a pinch” market, easy meals / snacks, and free corner cup coffee. However, Residence Inn is a brand on the move, evolving its products and services to meet the need of the changing consumer, fortifying its dominance in extended stay marketplace.
The POD is their general positioning, i.g. extended stay lodging but the POP is that TownePlace Suites focus on DIY and quick and easy service while Residence Inn’s target guests are high-value target guests willing to pay higher rates for superior environments and amenities.
In Starwood, the four luxury and upscale full-service hotels are at the similar position. But Westin and W hotel attract young people because of its modern style while Sheraton and Le Méridien attract more traditional gueats.
3.5 The brand is consistent.
There are seldom changes of Marriott’s brands. Basically, Marriott did do a good job to keep its brands consistent. They don’t get muddled or lost in a cacophony of marketing efforts that confuse their guests by sending conflicting messages. However, there is still one case of refining positing. In 2001, Renaissance Hotels Resorts and Suites, and upscale full-service lodging brand of Marriott International is further refining its brand positioning to provide properties with uniquely expressive design, a new level of “Savvy Service” and restaurants serving contemporary local cuisine that appeal to both hotel and local customers. Sid Yu, global brand vice president of Renaissance said they want to instill a sense of delight and discovery for Renaissance guests by having each hotel deliver distinctive experiences. Finally it is successful because Renaissance is keep growing. By year-end 2002, Renaissance opened an additional 15 hotels throughout USA and internationally (Marriott Renaissance brand refining its positioning, 2001).
In order to keep its brand image and related quality, Starwood will remove hotels which do not fit with the image that the specific brand wants to portray. On February 4th, 2010, Starwood announced that the company would remove the Sheraton flag from the Sheraton Manhattan in New York City this April and temporarily operate it as an independent hotel. Ultimately, Starwood wants to redevelop the hotel on a prime city block – into an upscale hotel project. The hotel is being removed from the Sheraton system because it looks dated and does not meet Sheraton chain’s new, upscale standards inside or out. The hotel also needs major behind-the-scenes work. The removal of the 776-room hotel will make the Sheraton Manhattan the largest hotel yet that Sheraton has booted from its system. So far, Sheraton has removed 32 hotels that do not fit with the upscale image that Sheraton wants to portray. The very interesting thing is that one of the posters, named as Noveto Travel, replied “If I were Sheraton I would keep it in their family, not as a 5-star upscale luxury property but a tourist hotel attraction.” (Starwood to pull branding from Sheration Manhattan, 2010)
3.6 The brand portfolio and hierarchy make sense.
In terms of prices, there are two types of division: the horizontal comparison and the vertical comparison. The horizontal comparison is that Renaissance Hotels & Resorts and Marriott Hotels & Resorts are quite similar. However, their target guests are different. The young persons who get a favorable job are Renaissance’s target guest, while Marriott tries to attract the people with good income who already got a family. For the vertical comparison, Ritz – Carlton and JW Marriott is on the top point in the high-end market of Marriott. Because Bulgari Hotels and Edition Hotels are new brand, not too much people know these two brands.
Starwood only has nine brands and its portfolio is quite easy to understand. Also see Exhibit 1.
3.7 The brand makes use of and coordinates a full repertoire of marketing activities to build equity.
Except Ritz – Carlton, all the other logos of Marriot have the “Marriott” image, especially Courtyard, Residence Inn, Fairfield, TownePlace, and SpringHill. Their logos have similar presentation and format. Marriott has very delicate website and logos and symbols but not have jingles. If there is a sound impression the guests will easier and quicker to remember Marriot’s sub brands.
3.8 The brand’s managers understand what the brand means to consumers.
Company quite understands their brands’ meaning to the guests. Edwin Fuller, the president of business department in International Sector of Marriott, introduced that the management will launch a related brand once Marriott finds a blank market. If Marriott does not have such of brand, the company will launch a new brand. Researches with details will be taken before the project in order to keep Marriott’s brand image and reputation (Yue, 2009).
3.9 The brand is given proper support, and that support is sustained over the long run.
In order to keep the brand’s strong image and power, Marriott focuses on every detail. Each guest’s each habit is record in the computer system. When the same guest checks in for the next time, the server will offer personalized service without asking. Every year, Marriott changes more than 500000 sets of linen to promise its guests good sleep. Until 2009, 90% bed and 95% mattress have been change in 2860 properties, said Edwin Fuller (Yue, 2009). Moreover, company also does research to find out what kind of mattress and pillow that guests prefer.
In Starwood, company will continue to build the brands to appeal to upscale business travelers and other customers seeking full-service hotels in major markets by establishing emotional connections to the nine brands by offering signature experiences at all the properties. The goals are planned to accomplish this in the following ways: (i) by continuing our tradition of innovation started with the Heavenly Bed® and Heavenly Bath®, the Westin Heavenly Spa, the Superfoods® menu, the Sheraton Sweet SleeperSM Bed, the Sheraton Service Promise SM and the Four Points by Sheraton Four Comfort Bed (SM), (ii) with such ideas as Westin being the first major brand to go “smoke-free” in North America, Aloft’s “see green” program created to introduce and promote ecologically friendly programs and services; our newest innovation, the [email protected](SM); and (iii) by placing Bliss® Spas, RemèdeSM Spas and their branded amenities, including the Sheraton Shine® by Bliss bath product line, and upscale restaurants in certain of our branded hotels
3.10 The company monitors sources of brand equity.
The last and biggest challenge for Marriott is to improve the full-service lodging into luxury lodging. Edwin Fuller told that 8 years ago (2001) JW Marriott was successfully improved and the quantity of JW Marriott was double in 2008. The number of different brands of Marriott is increasing according to the specific local market. The response of this phenomenon is “starving tactic”, i.e. limit the room’s quantity and keep the high occupancy and quality service in order to strengthen Marriott’s brand. (Yue, 2009)
Part 4 Conclusion
Marriott is the leading hotel operator in the world during 2005 with a strong brand and an excellent global reputation with higher than industry average revenue growth. It remains innovative, as seen by the rapid introduction of high-speed and wireless Internet access to its hotels. The group also benefits from a strong global reach with a balanced portfolio of mid-priced and premium hotels. However, Marriott is heavily dependent on the US market, which accounted for around 90% of its turnover in 2005, with US hotels being highly competitive and approaching saturation. Today, Marriott is expanding its global operations year-on-year and will benefit most from the opportunities in Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific, particular in markets such as China and Russia.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts has a strong portfolio of internationally known hotel brands, mostly situated in the luxury or upscale full-service segment of the market. These include: St. Regis, Sheraton, Le Méridien, Westin and Luxury Collection. Company has also developed two new brands in the moderately priced select-service hotel category – Four Points by Sheraton and aloft – that broaden the portfolio’s appeal to younger, more
Starwood is also committed to developing its presence in major emerging markets, such as China and Russia, and is therefore placing itself in a good position to exploit future growth trends. Although the company has an increasingly strong market position in Asia-Pacific and Africa and the Middle East, Starwood lacks a strong presence in the fastest growing emerging markets: Latin America and Eastern Europe. Starwood’s hotels are also confined, largely, to the upscale segment of the market. This means that the company is poorly positioned to take advantage of burgeoning growth in both the economy and mid-scale ends of the global hotels market.
Starwood’s acquisition of the Le Méridien chain of over 100 premium-ranked hotels in Western Europe affords the company the opportunity to consolidate its share in this mature but vitally important regional market. The intensification of competition in mature markets is likely to favour major brands with high levels of consumer recognition and significant marketing resources. Starwood brands such as St. Regis, Sheraton and Westin are some of the most widely recognised hotel brand names, and are committed to a greater focus on brand development. The growing business in vacation ownership resorts and marketing vacation ownership interests, offers the company an alternative income stream with lower labour costs and ongoing management overheads.
Exhibit 1 Starwood’s brands
Luxury full-service hotels
The Luxury Collection
Luxury and upscale full -service hotels
Extended stay hotels
Source: starwood.com (Starwood, 2009)
Exibit 2: Marriott’s Brands
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L. L. C.
JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts
Bulgari Hotels & Resorts
Edition Hotels & Resorts
Marriott Hotels & Resorts
Renaissance Hotels & Resorts
Nickelodeon Resorts by Marriott
Marriott Conference Centers
Autograph Collection Hotels & Resorts
Select – Service Lodging
Courtyard by Marriott
Fairfield Inn by Marriott
SpringHill Suites by Marriott
Extended Stay Lodging
Residence Inn by Marriott
TownePlace Suites by Marriott
Marriott Executive Apartments
Marriott Vacation Club International (MVCI)
Marriott Grand Residence Club
The Ritz – Carlton Destination Club Source: Marriott.com (marriott) (marriott)
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