Marriott Bonvoy, Joon, and Other Thoughts About Branding

I volunteer as a mentor for micro-entrepreneurs for several hours on Tuesday evenings and have been doing so for years — and several minutes of the discussion in the latest session pertained to branding, which sparked thoughts which reminded me of the recent branding efforts in the travel industry.

Marriott Bonvoy, Joon, and Other Thoughts About Branding

The logos of three companies — Nike, Honda and Apple — appeared on the screen; and the micro-entrepreneurs in the room were asked what comes to mind when seeing these logos.

For Nike, the words fitness, health and exercise were among the words and thoughts which came to mind — but so did the word sweatshop. Reliable and dependable was overwhelmingly the first word which came to many minds pertaining to Honda — but also boring and predictable came to mind. As for Apple, stylish, cool and innovative were amongst the words mentioned in the room — but so were expensive and overpriced.

The same exercise can be performed for just about any company in the world — and that includes travel companies. What thoughts come to mind when you think of Hertz, Hilton, or Delta Air Lines as three of many examples?

The Power of Branding

Not many people were wearing Nike footwear when the company was founded as Blue Ribbon Sports on Saturday, January 25, 1964 — but a sleek swoosh logo and consistently clever advertising over the years helped to catapult the company to become the largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel in the world; and it is also a major manufacturer of sports equipment.

Did you know that Honda Motor Company, Limited has been the largest manufacturer of motorcycles since 1959 — or that a miniature pick-up truck known as the T360 was the first vehicle with four wheels ever sold by the company? Not until the Civic, Accord and Prelude models were respectively introduced in 1972, 1976 and 1978 did respect for the company strengthen — as well as its growing reputation for reliability.

Apple was not an overnight success. It competed with other computer companies — most of which used operating systems developed by Microsoft instead of the system software developed by Apple Computer, Incorporated, as it was officially known years ago. Microsoft bailed out Apple Computer and saved it from teetering on the edge of declaring bankruptcy by investing $150 million into the troubled company back in August of 1997 when it had already been in business for greater than 21 years. Not until after the iPod was introduced on Tuesday, October 23, 2001 did Apple start to experience success, which was cemented when the first iPhone was introduced on Friday, June 29, 2007.

Successful branding is not simply conjuring up a slogan and a logo; and it rarely occurs immediately — but at least one innovative yet reliable product or service, a business concept which is easy to understand, years of strong marketing, experience, catchy sayings, aesthetic design and recognizable logos are not the only attributes which contribute to each of the powerful brands of these three companies. They also developed a devoted and loyal following as a result of exemplary customer service — which ultimately earned the trust of their customers.

Hmm…loyal following. As a frequent traveler, does that sound familiar to you?

Branding in the Travel Industry

Delta Air Lines bankruptcy emergence Salt Lake City

This photograph — which was taken at a hangar at the airport in Salt Lake City — compares the Delta logotype with the “frowning widget” with the latest logotype. Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

Airlines, lodging companies and rental car companies are all competing for your share of the one trillion dollars spent by you and other domestic and international travelers in the United States — $1,036 billion in 2017, to be more accurate — and directly supported greater than 8.8 million jobs in this country alone, according to the United States Travel Association.

At one time, loyalty was the key to those dollars. Companies would do almost anything to build loyalty with you and other customers — even to the point where airlines were losing billions of dollars per year by showering its customers with perks and benefits which could not be sustained in the long run…

…especially with the advent of such entities as FlyerTalk and BoardingArea, through which information pertaining to sharing secrets on the best ways to take full and complete advantage of those benefits became significantly easier to share — to the point where some people claim that the open sharing ruined what many frequent travelers used to enjoy and possibly reducing the value of loyalty in the eyes of those who administer frequent travel loyalty programs.

However, that is a debate for another article at another time.

Joon: The Airline That Couldn’t

Air France Joon

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

“Joon is the new-generation travel experience by Air France. A real laboratory placing the spotlight on the test & learn principle, the company has been designed to offer its customers personalized and tailor-made experiences on board and beyond the flight, solutions at every stage of the trip and meet the expectations of new generations of travelers. Joon, an Air France Group airline, flies to 14 destinations in 2018 on departure from Paris-CDG” is the explanation of the brand which — at the time this article was written — is posted to the official Internet web site of Air France-KLM.

The primary target market of this subsidiary of Air France — which was introduced on Friday, December 1, 2017 — was younger people primarily of the “millennial” generation, as the name Joon sounds similar to jeune, which is a word in French that means young

…but a statement released on Thursday, January 10, 2019 from Air France confirmed that Joon — including its aircraft and employees — would be integrated back into Air France by the end of 2019 because the concept of the airline was “difficult to understand from the outset.”

That is an understatement.

World of Hyatt Elite Tier Names

Hyatt Regency Atlanta

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Admit it — unless the World of Hyatt frequent guest loyalty program is one which is your priority — do you remember the names of the elite tiers since they were first announced back in 2016?

If you said Egotist, Exhibitionist and Economist — sorry, but you did not win. Your parting gift is this article written by me, to which you can refer in order to remember the names and a handy chart comparing benefits with each elite tier.

Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond are terms which are immediately understood by frequent travelers; and — unexciting as they may be — are substantially easier to understand. They are practically universal.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott International, Incorporated is taking a significant risk with Bonvoy, as that is not a real word — nor does it have any history associated with it. This new name for its frequent guest loyalty program — which becomes official on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 and consolidates the former Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards into one frequent guest loyalty program — tends to evoke similar sounding terms related to travel. Think Envoy or Bon Voyage

…and the new name left many frequent fliers scratching their heads. What does a Bonvoy mean? What does that have to do with hotel stays, elite level status, and earning and redeeming points?

Aer Lingus

Source: Aer Lingus.

I actually like the new livery which was part of the overall brand refresh revealed recently from Aer Lingus. With the addition of a new teal color while retaining focus on the unique shamrock, the design is more modern — yet it still evokes the brand history and heritage of the airline.

Ireland is what instantly comes to my mind whenever I see the branding or livery of Aer Lingus. Primarily for that reason, Aer Lingus has a successful brand, in my opinion.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

I did not particularly care for the recent brand refresh of Southwest Airlines; but I do like it better than the overall look of the old brand. The colors are more vibrant; the logotype is bolder and significantly more prominent, and the design is more modern overall.

Summary

I believe that companies are spending way too much time with their branding — to the point where the brand is more doomed to fail than succeed, with Joon as a prime example.

Baby boomers, millenials, and other generations — as well as other designations of human beings — generally want the same core attributes to a product or service: offer something of value, reliability, consistency, easy to understand, and sell it at a reasonable price; and ensure that the customer can trust what is being offered to the point of not having to think twice about patronizing the company in the future. Other factors — such as luxury, experiences which are added on, and aesthetics — are important; but they are not necessarily part of that aforementioned core of a successful brand.

I never did like Joon or the names of the elite tiers of World of Hyatt. They do nothing to interest me — let alone entice me to become loyal to what is being offered.

As for Bonvoy — well, I do not like that name either, as it does not evoke travel or loyalty to me; but that is what was chosen as the official name of the frequent guest loyalty program of Marriott International, Incorporated. It must be given a chance to see if it stands the test of time — but with all of the blunders committed by Marriott over the past couple of years which customers have experienced, that name is not off to a good start and may even create a Pavlovian reaction for some people to automatically stay away from the program.

Finally, this article is by far not a complete resource to branding — whether or not it is in the travel industry — as there is a lot more to the concept that what I touched upon here.

In the meantime, please read the following articles for further information pertaining to branding:

Except as noted, all photographs ©2007, ©2015 and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “Marriott Bonvoy, Joon, and Other Thoughts About Branding”

  1. Ryan says:

    Good – and entertaining as always – article.

  2. ghostrider5408 says:

    Brian,

    Bravo well written very informative too bad most of the “new travel experts” on Boarding Area don’t take the time nor have the depth.

    I am on the tail end of my career selling my company to younger members of the team their views on marketing more reflective of their generation than mine. WE understand the Silver/Gold/PLT the new generation don’t seem to think its up to date. I think the WOH is a disaster but then I am of the old school.

    Your points are on target with me and most of my generation the question is what about the next one? Titanium ? I can say that as much as saying Globalist.

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