Hotel Brand Matching Test Results

Matching the hotel brands with its parent top ten global hotel group should not be a difficult task. Asking a group of individuals that are knowledgeable about the hotel industry should make the task simple. In practice, perhaps not quite that easy.

Report Card

Based on an average grade of C- for individuals familiar with the hotel industry recognizing hotel brand affiliations, this must be the grading scale some hotel brands internally use themselves…
Photo Credit: PapJeff (cc|flickr)

Major hotel groups continuously pitch the strength of their brand positioning when soliciting management and franchise agreements to hotel owners. The brands are positioned relative to the competition, markets segmented to align prototype properties with highly attractive traveler personas, and lots of image-rich language glowingly portrays the brand as a perfect fit for the prospect.

From a consumer perspective, the distinctions may not be so clear. As demonstrated by the travel/hotel wonks that tend to follow this blog, when asked to match the 100 hotel brands to their parent top 10 global hotel groups, answers were not clear-cut.

While the sample size and methodology can in no way be claimed to be statistically significant, comprehensive, or even scientific, there are some clear indications that hotel branding relationships could use some work. The average score wound up being a miserable C-.

This was despite simplifying the test with easy questions allowing one to match the “Best Western”, “Hilton”, “Hyatt”, “Marriott” and “Wyndham” brands to the “Best Western”, “Hilton”, “Hyatt”, “Marriott” or “Wyndham” hotel groups. The two individuals tied with the highest score of 94 out of 100 still missed 6% of the questions.

Considering the scale of fees extracted to support brand advertising, the full group of 100 brands scoring only just over 70% on their parent brand relationships raises serious questions. First, is if the positioning of these hotel brands within a parent hotel group is critical to the success of the member properties, and second,

Given the asset-light strategy employed by virtually all the major hotel groups, if the other shoe were to drop and hotels started questioning the value of the brand identities, hotel groups now lack a large group of owned properties to serve as an anchor to their portfolios. Without clear-cut competitive advantages or product differentiators, franchise and/or management agreement renewals tend to gravitate toward discussions of fee levels.

For the publicly held hotel groups, lowering fee levels – which negatively impact margins, represent a major red-flag for institutional investors. Pressure is compounded by the share growth of online travel agencies and increased online distribution. What happens if OTAs or publisher-backed soft brands begin to become more important to guests than traditional multi-brand hotel groups?

The Hotel Brand Explosion

Hotel Group Performance

For the vast majority of the large, well-established, global hotel brands, parent affiliations were clearly understood. However, this is not the immediate battleground for most hotel groups. Instead, most are focused on expanding the number and property count of their new hotel brands.

As opposed to commenting on all the brands where the affiliations were well known (that should be the expectation), the focus will be on those brands scoring at the low end of the spectrum.

Aside from the two year old MGallery soft-branded collection of independent properties, Accor’s member brands were largely recognized by the respondents.

Best Western
When presented alone, the “Premier” tier of Best Western’s branding is not readily associated with the brand. It may be safe to assume that the perception of Best Western is stronger than the designation for its upscale product line.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Carlson brand portfolio wound up scoring the lowest degree of recognition among the top 10 global brands – 58%. While it is understandable that the new Radisson Red and Quorvus Collection brands, both launched in 2014, have not yet become established, the Country Inns & Suites brand founded in 1987, was also rarely associated with its parent.

Unlike Carlson, Choice cold not point to newly announced brands pulling down its average – neither the Rodeway and MainStay Suites brands, both established in the 1990’s were associated with Choice, nor were the Cambria Suites or Suburban brands (launched in 2007 & 2005 respectively). Like many other soft-branded groupings, the Ascend Collection was also often orphaned.

The newly launched Canopy brand and Curio brands may not have attained top of mind awareness as Hilton brands, but most of the other brands have. The rare exception was the slow-starting extended-stay Home2 brand, now in its fifth year. This may reflect a pattern, as Hilton’s 15 year-old extended-stay Homewood Suites brand only attained a middling score.

Hyatt’s two new all-inclusive brands, the adults-only Zilara and Family oriented Ziva, both opening this month were virtual unknowns. Andaz, now seven years old, still seems to lack identification with Hyatt as its parent.

It’s logical that some may have missed the news of Kimpton’s acquisition by Intercontiental, and the new Even brand is still unknown, but the respondents sadly failed to recognize the decade-old triumvirate of Candlewood, Indigo and Staybridge as belonging to IHG – that’s not a good thing.

With a total of sixteen brands, Marriott won in the quantity department. Its new brands – including Ian Schrager’s Edition, Moxy and Protea, as well as the slightly older acquisitions AC and Gaylord are generally not known as Marriott brands. Better, yest still somewhat average scores were attained for the still often overshadowed, SpringHill and TownPlace brands.

The hotel group with the most recognized brand affiliations was Starwood – scoring 86%. The brands pulling down the average were Le Meridien and the Luxury Collection soft-brand, with St. Regis scoring slightly higher. All other Starwood brands were widely recognized, scoring over 90%.

Narrowly losing out to Carlson by only two points (at 60%), in the low score competition, was Wyndham. [Brand] Garden and [Brand] Grand appeared to be frequently confused with Hilton Garden Inn and Grand Hyatt. However, unique and comparatively well established brands, Baymont, Days Inn, Microtel and Tryp all scored failing grades below 60%, while Howard Johnson, Knights Inn and Super 8 were close behind, attaining D level scores. Without any new brands launched or acquired since 2010, if Carlson’s two brands launched in 2014 were removed from consideration, Wyndham would have had the lowest score.

The table below includes each of the 100 brands surveyed, grouped by parent hotel chain, including the year that the brand and that chain were first paired. A letter grade is also provided – this grade reflects a straight grading of the success rate of the respondents from the Hotel Brand Matching Test. The scale was 90+% = A, 80+% = B, 70+% = C, 60%+ = D and below 60% = F.

NOTE: The term [Brand] was used as a variable when the hotel chain name was used in the hotel brand name.

Here are the results, by brand and parent chain:

Brand Chain Grade Age
Grand Mercure Accor A- 1983
hotelF1 Accor B 2012
ibis Accor A- 1983
ibis budget Accor A- 2012
ibis Styles Accor A- 2012
Mercure Accor B 1983
MGallery Accor F 2012
Novotel Accor B 1983
Pullman Accor C 2007
Sofitel Accor B 1997
Suite Novotel Accor B 2001
[Brand] Plus Best Western B 2011
[Brand] Premier Best Western D 2002
Best Western Best Western A 1946
[Brand] Blu Carlson D 2009
[Brand] Red Carlson F 2014
Country Carlson F 1987
Park Inn Carlson C 2000
Park Plaza Carlson B 2000
Quorvus Collection Carlson F 2014
Radisson Carlson C 1962
Ascend Collection Choice F 2008
Cambria Choice F 2007
Clarion Choice C 1990
Comfort Inn Choice B 1990
Comfort Suites Choice B 1990
Econo Lodge Choice C 1990
MainStay Choice F 1997
Quality Choice B 1990
Rodeway Choice F 1990
Sleep Choice B 1990
Suburban Choice F 2005
[Brand] Garden Inn Hilton A 1996
Canopy Hilton F 2014
Conrad Hilton A 2005
Curio Hilton F 2014
DoubleTree Hilton A 1999
Embassy Hilton A- 1999
Hampton Hilton A- 1999
Hilton Hilton A- 1919
Home2 Hilton F 2009
Homewood Hilton C 1999
Waldorf Astoria Hilton B 1997
[Brand] House Hyatt B 2012
[Brand] Place Hyatt C 2004
[Brand] Regency Hyatt A- 1967
Andaz Hyatt C 2007
Grand [Brand] Hyatt B 1980
Hyatt Hyatt A- 1957
Park [Brand] Hyatt C 1980
Zilara Hyatt F 2014
Ziva Hyatt F 2014
Candlewood IHG F 2004
Crowne Plaza IHG B 2003
Even IHG F 2014
Holiday Inn IHG A 2003
Holiday Inn Express IHG A 2003
Hotel Indigo IHG F 2004
InterContinental IHG A 2003
Kimpton IHG D 2014
Staybridge IHG F 2003
AC Marriott F 2011
Autograph Collection Marriott C 2011
Bvlgari Marriott D 2004
Courtyard Marriott A 1983
Edition Marriott F 2010
Fairfield Marriott B 1987
Gaylord Marriott F 2012
JW [Brand] Marriott A 1984
Marriott Marriott A 1957
Moxy Marriott F 2014
Protea Marriott F 2014
Renaissance Marriott A 1997
Residence Marriott B 1987
Ritz-Carlton Marriott C 1998
SpringHill Marriott C 1999
TownePlace Marriott C 1997
Aloft Starwood A- 2008
Element Starwood A- 2008
Four Points Starwood A 1998
Le Méridien Starwood D 2005
Luxury Collection Starwood D 1994
Sheraton Starwood A- 1998
St. Regis Starwood C 1999
W Starwood A 1998
Westin Starwood A 1994
[Brand] Garden Wyndham F 2006
[Brand] Grand Wyndham F 2006
Baymont Wyndham F 2006
Days Inn Wyndham F 2006
Hawthorn Wyndham C 2008
Howard Johnson Wyndham D 2006
Knights Inn Wyndham D 2006
Microtel Wyndham F 2008
Ramada Wyndham C 2006
Super 8 Wyndham D 2006
Travelodge Wyndham C 2006
TRYP Wyndham F 2010
Wingate Wyndham B 2006
Wyndham Wyndham A- 2006
All Brands – Aggregate Average C-

From a personal perspective, I also took the test – scoring only 97 – unable to correctly match three hotels correctly to their parent chains, despite having created the test myself… The hotel guests never stood a chance.

About Robert Cole

Robert Cole is the founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting practice. He also authors the Views from a Corner Suite Blog and publishes the Travel Quote of the Day. Robert speaks regularly at major travel industry conferences, authors articles for leading travel industry publications, advises travel-related startups and the equity investment community. He is an evangelist for the global travel industry.