How does a hotel brand get customers to experience its revitalized rooms? With a free night’s stay, of course.
Sheraton has been a brand in decline, unlike Starwood siblings W and Westin. The most recent Consumer Reports ratings ranked Sheraton as the worst in its category, based on value, service, upkeep, and problems; customers have blogged about the brand’s poor quality as recently as today; and even Hoyt Harper, Starwood’s senior VP of brand management, admits that “some of the hotels were substandard.”
So to celebrate the brand’s multi-billion-dollar makeover, Sheraton is launching a campaign offering more than 2,000 free overnight stays at 86 of its freshened-up hotels in the US and Canada on October 23.[more]
The economic downturn has been especially hard on the hospitality industry, and hotel brands have been using unconventional tactics to keep guests from checking out. Marriott is actually saving $2 million by serving irregularly-shaped bacon rather than standardized strips. But Marriott’s moves are mostly to cut costs; the brand still, according to an industry analyst, “puts heads in the beds.” So while switching from Häagen-Dazs to Edy’s ice cream makes sense for Marriott, Sheraton had to reboot its sagging brand, which is why its updates included upgrading from Maxwell House coffee to Starbucks.
Sheraton’s new look includes partnerships with other brands, and branding its own products and services where a generic name just won’t do. A glance at its online About Us page finds relationships with Microsoft and Core Performance, plus the opportunity to bring home the “Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed” experience. Most important, though, is the mention of the other jewels in the Starwood crown, which allows the rebirth of the Sheraton brand to be supported by the combined brand equity of the other hotels.
Even though what Starwood’s Harper calls “a new beginning for the brand” won’t change the perception of Sheraton overnight, those free overnights in October will certainly help.