I can only imagine the reaction in the Marriott International boardroom when reps from the chain’s Autograph Collection suggested removing the parent company’s brand from the latter’s new website.
After all, wasn’t that the purpose of the portfolio of upper-tier independent hotels—to harness the power of the hotel giant while still maintaining some semblance of individuality?
The answer, of course, is yes. But the move to wipe the Marriott name from Autograph’s new website, which launched yesterday, isn’t a departure from that original strategy.
What it is is a forward-thinking gamble that deserves a tip of the hat.
The hotel industry has long stressed the importance of the “guest experience,” especially as the stuttering economy has forced more travelers to book by price and price alone. If we sell based on rate, experts have said, then our hotels become commodities. If we sell the promise of experience, they’ve said, then our hotels become something more—they become epicenters of unforgettable travel that will keep guests coming back for more (and often at higher prices).
But talk is cheap, and few major brands have truly embraced this emphasis on experience beyond one-off marketing campaigns and half-baked social media campaigns.
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Which is why the Autograph Collection’s new website is so impressive.
The site presents a glossy, stylized interface that resembles a collage of pictures and videos from a well-traveled socialite. While guests can shop the old-fashioned way—by location and date—the new design presents vacation classes by experience.
For example, a traveler wanting a culinary vacation will be offered the option of 10 different Autograph Collection hotels, all which have a focus on culinary or food-and-beverage concepts. Sports enthusiasts can click a picture of a downhill skier and choose from six like-minded hotels.
“Autograph is a collection of independent hotels. It is imperative that each unique hotel experience and story be showcased on the new brand website,” Kelly McCourt, VP of marketing for Sage Hospitality, which manages The Glenn Hotel in Atlanta and Hotel ICON in Houston—both Autograph Collection hotels—told HotelNewsNow.com correspondent Melanie Nayer.
“The traveler profile that the independent hotel appeals to is very different from the typical Marriott hotel guest,” she added.
Fortunately, Autograph’s senior director of marketing, Amanda Altree, recognized the same thing and was willing to take a risk and remove the Marriott name in the new redesign.
“We believe the independent customer is someone who doesn't necessarily need the endorsement of a big brand,” Altree said.
I have a feeling leaders of other brand collections, and some of the more stylish lifestyle brands, are going to be doing some heavy clicking around Autograph’s new site during the next few days. So should you. If the slick interface isn’t your cup of tea, then the seamless integration of social media just might be.
I encourage you to read more in Nayer’s “New Autograph website drops Marriott branding.” She’s the first to chat with Autograph executives and owners on the bold move, and she’s got a lot of great insight to share.
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