Someone asked me the other day what I thought about Marriott Bonvoy. My answer was, “May be, present tense but future perfect.”
In the world of branding, attention does matter. If your logo or brand name is catchy, it will garner more attention. The more attention it garners and the more often people see it, there’s a higher likelihood of developing ‘top of mind awareness’. Top of mind awareness or TOMA is commonly referred to as a concept where your brand becomes synonymous with the category it plays in. In short, when customers think about a product category, they think about your brand first.
Think about Xerox and copiers, think about Coca Cola and soda, think about Google and search. Given all the attention that Bonvoy has garnered, where does it stand? In this post, I’ll evaluate where it stands and why perhaps all is still not lost yet.
Competing Hotel Programs
Hyatt Gold Passport is now World of Hyatt. Clearly, the words gold and passport were confusing. The word gold was more confusing since it could’ve been mistaken for some sort of status.
Hilton dropped a redundant H in the Hilton HHonors and made it the Hilton Honors program. The extra H wasn’t really of much use and only made things confusing for members.
Bonvoyed is TOMA
All of a sudden, Bonvoy has been all over in the news over the past year. However, it has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. A series of events has triggered distrust in the Marriott brand, and Bonvoy has been at the forefront of all the attention. Marriott wanted to make Bonvoy popular, instead they made Bonvoyed popular. The blogosphere and major news outlets covered these stories in detail.
Bonvoy points not crediting
Marriott gets Hacked
When the new cards launched, the earning rate was reduced to a flat 2x per dollar spent. Since Starwood points converted to Marriott Bonvoy at a ratio of 1:3, this was a devaluation to co-brand cardholders who were earning 1x Starpoint per dollar spent. This was followed by the introduction of peak and off-peak pricing for their award chart.
Key Exec Fired
This was the final nail in the coffin. It was possibly also an acceptance of failure with all that has gone wrong over the last year.
The Future of Bonvoy
As it stands today, the Marriott brand stands diluted. Given the poor implementation of Bonvoy, Marriott has a frequent flyer community that’s not too happy. Starwood elites who held co-branded cards are seeing that their ‘new’ cards earn fewer points.
Other members in general aren’t trusting the brand any more. They’re worried about security after the hacking incident. They’re dissatisfied when they don’t see their points crediting correctly after a stay.
Recovering lost Brand Equity
Given the size of Marriott (especially post merger), it’ll be a herculean task to turn the ship around. However, we’ve seen many major corporations stumble and fall, only to recover. Given that Bonvoyed itself has become more popular than Bonvoy, what’s the future for Marriott’s loyalty program?
The key will be to restore the brand equity that they’ve lost. On the technical front, they’ll have to button up their IT in order to prevent further breaches. They’ll need to fix issues that are preventing points from posting correctly after stays. Nothing annoys frequent travelers more when they see that their loyalty with a brand isn’t getting honored the way it should.
The Pundit’s Mantra
It’s often said that no publicity is bad publicity. That’s not entirely correct. Marriott Bonvoy has gotten all the publicity, but for the wrong reasons. However, the only silver lining is that the brand has been a part of the conversation. If the faith and trust in Marriott and Bonvoy can be restored, then this could work out well for them in the long run. The key will be to restore the faith of loyal customers who are currently dissatisfied with Marriott, particularly with Bonvoy.
On a personal front, I don’t really have a dog in the fight. I’m largely loyal to Hilton because I get free breakfast and Gold elite status for just having the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card, which has a $95 annual fee and a 125,000 points sign-up bonus. When I find Hilton points way too devalued to redeem for night, I transfer points from my Ink Preferred to Hyatt to book Hyatt stays.
What do you think about Marriott’s horrid year? Do you think you still have faith in the Marriott brand? Let us know in the comments section.