Best Western Hotels & Resorts: Is Its New Brand Enough to Change Its Image?

B est Western International recently announced sweeping changes to its brand — including heralding a “completely new look” — and the changes are so dramatic that its name has changed. It is now known as Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

“For more than two decades, Best Western has had a familiar, recognizable, and visible logo. But with our investments in this 69-year old brand during the last ten years, we need to make consumers aware of the exciting improvements in our brand. We are embracing our future with a completely reimagined brand identity that clarifies our exceptional offerings and broadens our appeal with a contemporary, energetic and relevant look,” said David Kong, who is the president and chief executive officer of Best Western Hotels & Resorts. “We started over. These new logos are dramatically different and illustrate the amazing products and offerings of today’s Best Western.”

They do?

Critique of the Master Company Logo

The Best Western logo has changed: the old one — in use since 1993 — is shown on the left; while the new ones shown on the right. Click on the graphic for a larger view of the logos. Source: Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

The Best Western logo has changed: the old one — in use since 1993 — is shown on the left; while the new one is shown on the right. Source: Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

My first impression of the new logo to identify the master company is that it looks too playful, elementary and childish to represent a lodging company. It does not suggest to me that Best Western Hotels & Resorts is serious about competing with other lodging chains worldwide. Perhaps with time, I may take the logo more seriously as a brand representing a lodging company — but as of right now, I do not take it seriously at all.

That is not to say that the old logo was great, as it is certainly dated despite using a stylized variation of ITC Century Bold Condensed, which is a typeface I do like. Despite my in-depth knowledge of typography, I do not recognize the typeface in the new logo — and for good reason, as it was custom created for the lodging chain:

“The Best Western Hotels & Resorts masterbrand logo pulls through the company’s current blue color, updated with a modern hue and uses the distinctive hand drawn lettering which was created to be contemporary, friendly and memorable. This logo will clearly define that Best Western is a company of hotels and resorts across the globe with brands that meet the needs of today’s travelers.

“The design of the Best Western hotel brand logo utilizes the hand drawn lettering, which is familiar and personable and pulls through the company’s updated blue color. The centerpiece globe comes to life through the use of special effects such as gradient, highlighting and a 3-D treatment. These effects will be distinctive within the hotel industry which traditionally uses two-dimensional logos.”

Contemporary? Perhaps. Friendly? Sure. Memorable? No.

Other Logos of Other Best Western Brands

Here are the logos for all seven brands of Best Western — including the new Glo brand. Click on the graphic for a larger view of the logos. Source: Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

Here are the logos for all seven brands of Best Western — including the new Glo brand. Click on the graphic for a larger view of the logos. Source: Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

For me, the Vīb logo does exude a stylish boutique hotel concept located in the heart of key urban and primary markets around the world; and the Glō logo does evoke a hip, boutique style experience for savvy travelers who expect the best in value, design and comfort of the newest brand of Best Western. Those two logos are successful, in my opinion. They are modern, hip, stylish, and ever-so-slightly funky with a little attitude.

The BW Premier Collection logo is nice but not outstanding in any way. In fact, it could use some color; and the typefaces chosen should have been more classic — perhaps modern variations of a Bodoni or a Didot as examples; or maybe contemporary versions of a Garamond or Caslon. However, the logo does not suggest to me that it represents “a global collection of carefully selected upscale and luxury hotels that retain their individual identities while sharing Best Western’s commitment to delivering exceptional travel experiences.”

The Best Western PLUS logo is similar to the main Best Western logo; but with a rounded three-dimensional diamond in a rich red color instead of the blue circle, with the word PLUS screaming out in bold, red and underlined. Even the description of the brand is nebulous: “From stylish, well-appointed rooms to upgraded modern amenities, BEST WESTERN PLUS hotels are thoughtfully designed to meet the needs of both business and leisure travelers who are looking for enhanced style and comfort.” This one is a failure in many ways, in my opinion, as I still have no idea what the logo or the description of the brand is trying to tell me — let alone scream out at me what should be subtly implied.

Did the designer just slap together two words using the new custom typeface to create the Executive Residency logo? What a cop-out for a brand which is supposed to be “an extended stay hotel offering the perfect combination of hotel and home for an enriching, upgraded extended-stay experience under the iconic Best Western brand name.”

The Best Western Premier logo is a complete disaster, in my opinion: a bad choice of typeface and a color too similar to Best Western PLUS — in addition to the perceived dichotomy between Premier and Best Western — does not represent its upscale hotel properties which “offer refined atmosphere and style, deluxe features and amenities, and superior comfort and service – making your stay truly memorable.” Change the typeface to a more classic yet contemporary typeface; and take the oval with the circle around it — the only element I actually do not dislike about the logo — and give it the three-dimensional treatment where it would appear that someone would use a soft cloth with white gloves to keep it shiny and refined.

MiresBall — the design agency behind the creation of the logos — missed the ball on them, in my opinion.

Is Another Upscaling of a Lodging Brand Really Needed?

Another thought of mine is: do we really need yet another lodging company to attempt to upscale itself? As an example, Hampton Inn is a brand of Hilton Worldwide which has updated its offerings — and, in many cases, its room rates as well — leaving people wondering if Hilton Worldwide needs a new low-cost brand for those guests who might believe that staying at a Hampton Inn is no longer within reach financially.

Holiday Inn has recently been refreshed as a brand; and Starwood Hotels and Resorts has no low-end brand — other than its Four Points brand, if you count that; or some of the hotel properties of the Sheraton brand, which were run down and overpriced.

The lodging industry is crowded with participants all over the world despite all of the mergers and acquisitions which had been announced in recent years; and Starwood Hotels and Resorts has been rumored to seek a suitor to purchase it.

Differentiation and Reputation

This leads me to another question: how does Best Western Hotels & Resorts plan to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack?

“Cheap” is the first word that came out of the mouth of one person whom I asked to tell me the first through pertaining to Best Western in general.

“Low budget” is another answer I received.

I would have to agree.

Best Western has been a tired brand for many years. It is a lodging chain of which I do not even give a thought when I want to stay somewhere for a night. I have not stayed at a Best Western hotel property in years. I stayed at one in the Alaskan town of Seward; but that was only because that was the best offering I could find at that time. To say that my stay was nothing special would be an understatement. In fact, I cannot think of any stay at a Best Western hotel property which was positively memorable — and yet the room rate in Seward was more than $200.00 per night, which was certainly not worth it.

Best Western Rewards and Poor Communication

There is nothing outstanding about Best Western Rewards — its frequent guest loyalty program — in general, either. As a reader of The Gate, you seem to agree. I have written articles pertaining to Best Western over the years — promotions, for example, with at least one which was considered “confusing” — and readership has been rather low on those articles when compared to most other topics about which I write, which is why I rarely write about Best Western in general. Sadly, I do not expect for this article to be any different — but perhaps you will surprise me.

Communications from Best Western has been fairly lousy over the years as well. Although one representative reached out to me proactively in June of 2013, I will give her the benefit of the doubt since The Gate moved back to BoardingArea from FlyerTalk at approximately the same time she apparently left the public relations company which represented Best Western International at the time — according to her profile on LinkedIn — leaving me with no official contact with the lodging company since then.

For example, did you know that Best Western had seven distinct brands before reading this article? Did you know that the Best Western Rewards frequent guest loyalty program celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013? Did you know that there were 25 weeks of promotions and giveaways to celebrate that milestone?

No? If that is your answer to at least one of those questions, you are apparently in good company.

Originally known as the Gold Crown Club, the Best Western Rewards frequent guest loyalty program celebrated its 25th anniversary, according to this press release from Monday, April 29, 2013; and the promotions included the following:

  • Diamond for Life membership status will be awarded to you if you have been a member of the Best Western Rewards frequent guest loyalty program for at least 25 years — and you will automatically receive 30 percent bonus Best Western Rewards frequent guest loyalty program points on all future qualifying stays; a choice of either 250 bonus Best Western Rewards frequent guest loyalty program points or a snack and beverage for each stay; a free room upgrade when available; and many other perks and benefits offered as part the highest elite tier of the Best Western Rewards frequent guest loyalty program
  • 250,000 bonus Best Western Rewards frequent guest loyalty program points will be awarded to you if you are one of the five lucky elite members who qualify for the Jump Start to Summer promotion through June 9, 2013
  • Each day, for 25 weeks through October 2013, you could be one of 175 one randomly selected elite members who will receive a $25.00 Best Western Travel Card as an appreciation for your loyalty
  • Social media promotions with 25-year themes will occur throughout the 25 weeks and will offer you opportunities to win prizes — including Best Western Travel Cards worth $250.00 — via twitter and facebook

 

The bizarre part was that I saw no mention of this celebration of 25 years anywhere on the official Internet web site of Best Western Rewards at that time — or at any time, for that matter. Perhaps it was hidden from me in plain sight?

You would think that Best Western would have significantly promoted this celebration better — especially with this bold quote addressing the then-recent changes to some of the competing frequent guest loyalty programs which have been perceived as negative:

“We reject the industry’s trend of devaluing loyalty because we view the world through the customer lens,” said Dorothy Dowling, who is the senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western International.

Best Western Hotels & Resorts may be doing a sightly better job of getting the word out pertaining to its recent massive rebranding — but I have yet to see a colleague of mine report on this news; and mainstream media coverage has been scant as well.

Summary

Best Western Hotels & Resorts has a long, long way to go to achieve its goals, in my opinion — although I do wish the lodging company the best of success. Three of its formidable obstacles include but are not limited to:

  • Better communication to the media is necessary
  • The stigma of its reputation as a low-budget lodging option is going to be quite difficult to overcome — despite a purported investment of greater than two billion dollars of property improvements and renovations in North America
  • The brand also needs to significantly and proactively differentiate itself from its competitors in a crowded industry

 

…and I believe that the logos and other new graphics and aesthetics representing the company moving forward are weak and unimpressive at best. I do not even want to know how much money was spent on the logo design alone; but any amount is too much.

The Best Western brand is 69 years old? I personally would have waited for its 70th anniversary and celebrated the living daylights out of it; as well as offered some memorable promotions you and I could not possibly refuse. Unfortunately, the publicity surrounding this is anemic at best in a world where rebranding garners a lot of free publicity — three of many examples include Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Google…

…but with years of branding and design experience — as well as a degree in Communication Design from one of the top art schools in the world — what do I know?!?

Have you stayed at a Best Western hotel property recently? What are your thoughts pertaining to the new branding, name change and logo? Despite being the sixth largest lodging company in the world in terms of number of properties — although it may have moved up the list with greater than 4,100 properties located in greater than 100 countries — does Best Western have any chance of achieving its objectives and goals?

Source: Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

8 thoughts on “Best Western Hotels & Resorts: Is Its New Brand Enough to Change Its Image?”

  1. brteacher says:

    I think the new logo is boring and crummy. I was really surprised when BW rolled out new credit cards earlier this year from a new issuer, and the rewards were just terrible. There aren’t many good cards issued by FNBO, and it’s always good to see cards issued by someone other than Chase and Amex, but they are terrible cards.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I really would not know much about affiliate credit cards, brteacher; so thank you for sharing your opinion on them.

  2. Captain Kirk says:

    Another well written article Brian. I have to say I have never in my adult life stayed at a Best Western. I may have once as a kid but I am a Marriott man myself. I have stayed in lots of Hilton’s and SPG properties but for me, those three and Hyatt are the only brands I consider when booking a stay. I like the fact that when I stay at properties of those companies I get what I expect to. Clean, spacious rooms with good service and no hidden fees or nonsense. In regards to Best Western, and my choice to avoid them completely was on the advice of a well traveled man. I was in a franchising class in college when the professor who was probably in his late 60s and was well traveled said he never stays at Best Westerns because you never know what you’re going to get. Some properties are great, some are mediocre and some are terrible. I know this holds true for all hotel chains to some degree but the big 4 really don’t have any “terrible” or “run down/beat up” properties. At the same time, those brands have some amazingly great and high end properties where I don’t know that BW does at all. For me, consistency is paramount. McDonalds may not be the best food in the world but it’s the same no matter where I go. A full service Marriott or Hilton is essentially the same no matter where you go. I don’t believe Best Western can say that.

    Another point, the fact they have a “Plus” and a “Premier” brand to me, sounds silly. It makes me think, that since those exist, the standard BW room is crap since its not “Plus” or “Premier”. In my mind, it would make more sense to make totally different named brands like the other chains to describe its offerings. I hope their strategy does work and wish them success, it just won’t be with my money.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I stopped staying at Holiday Inns in general for the same reason, Captain Kirk: I never knew what to expect, as they were wildly inconsistent.

      I have not stayed at a Holiday Inn hotel property since the brand was refreshed; so my opinion may be outdated.

      You give a good point regarding the impression that the words Plus and Premier give to the standard brand; and — come to think of it — that is generally not seen with the other major lodging companies.

      If I want something inconsistent from the typical brand chain experience, I would rather book an independent or boutique hotel property; or do something different altogether — such as stay in a hanok in South Korea or a ryokan in Japan.

  3. bigjim2011 says:

    Excellent writeup. Agree completely. At one time I was top tier in BW rewards program, but they just gave it to me. Over past 20 years, have only stayed 4 nights in BW properties and two of those nights were in British Columbia, where they have a slightly better image than in US. They seem to have fallen so far that it may be impossible to come back. You are right; the new logo is pretty awful.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I would have to agree with you, bigjim2011.

      I actually forgot that I had stayed at a Best Western property in Queenstown in New Zealand, which shows how memorable was that experience…

  4. Anonymous for this post says:

    I have to be careful here but I was at the meeting in Honolulu a few weeks ago when this was announced and revealed. I work on the meeting/show so I’m going to keep a lot of what was said to myself except a few points that are not really secrets:

    1. They worked hard on these logos. I don’t really have an opinion but I can say I do like the way they strived to make sure the logos would work in as many ways possible including on small screens and computers in general. While I do not disagree with your points the fact that they are trying to move forward is a good sign (no pun intended). It just might have been “too soon” and the focus groups might have needed more time to redirect the rebranding efforts.

    2. Speaking of signs can you imagine the sheer anger that some of the hotel owners have now being faced with new signage at their properties? The change that allowed properties to pick up the Plus and Premier monikers was not too long ago and some of the owners have modest properties and fought that change due to the cost of the signs and other rebranding expenses. And now this change? For the record not everyone was upset. Many owners were very happy with the changes as it marks a drastic move in a direction – any direction – that seems to be well received in that group.

    3. David Kong, Dorothy Dowling and the board of directors are trying hard to make BW a player in the market. I am rooting for them despite not staying there very often. Honestly I would try to give them more stays but it just seems for my travels it’s just not convenient or when it is I pick a brand that shows me more rewards for my loyalty (SPG, Marriott and Hyatt). I do give them preference over HIE stays, but again those stays are location based and if it’s a 10 minute cab ride farther to a BW property they lose that stay based on location alone.

    It’s going to be a long, hard fight to keep this brand relevant and growing. If they can make this work, focus on outstanding customer service and keep the price point focused on a value stay I think they can do well with their target customer base. The management team need to read this post and take your advice and constructive criticism to heart.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You will certainly remain Anonymous for this post.

      I have no doubt that they worked hard on the logo — perhaps a little too hard and overshot their objective? I do understand the need for consistency across as many technology platforms as possible; but it just does not work for me. That is only my opinion, though. I do agree that perhaps the announcement of the rebranding efforts might indeed have been too soon.

      Believe me, I can imagine that anger. Hotel owners under Hampton Inn and other brands had similar issues in recent years where they were forced to pay for new signage and other items associated with new branding. I do agree that arguably, Best Western had only one general direction to go for improvement; but it was not specific, as I will discuss in a moment.

      I have no doubt that David Kong and Dorothy Dowling are doing everything they can to prioritize the Best Western brand in the minds of more travelers — frequent and otherwise. I just believe that improvement — not necessarily upscaling — would have been the better direction. Hampton Inn was once a very affordable value option but has become more expensive. Is there really a truly consistent and clean yet affordable option in lodging these days which offers a significant amount of value? That is the direction in which Best Western should have proceeded, in my opinion; and not implementing that specific strategy is the main reason why the fight will be long and difficult moving forward.

      Thank you for your insight — and I truly do wish Best Western luck in the future even though I have no plans at this time to stay at a Best Western hotel property in the foreseeable future.

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