Marriott segregates brands into categories after Starwood buyout, but will it help them?

Marriott has clustered its brands into “Classic” and “Distinctive” categories. Pic: W Taipei

SINCE the high-profile Starwood buyout in September, Marriott has attempted to create a clear framework for the portfolio of 30 brands under its belt.

As a first step, all brands are split into “Classic” and “Distinctive” sub-categories that fall under larger “luxury”, “premium”, “select”, and “longer stays” categories.

For example, The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis brands fall under “Classic Luxury” while The Luxury Collection and Bvlgari are sorted into the “Distinctive Luxury” tag. Overall, “Luxury” is described as “bespoke with superb amenities and services”.

Meanwhile, Marriott and Sheraton fall under the “Classic Premium” category while Le Meridien and Westin are considered “Distinctive Luxury”. Here, “Premium” is defined as “sophisticated and thoughtful amenities and services”.

Hotels that focus on business travel and fuss-free service rather than luxury amenities are called “Select” with brands like Four Points, Courtyard Hotels, Aloft, and Fairfield Inn & Suites clustered under this category.


In a piece by Hotel Management, writer David Eisen is of the opinion that “classic is a euphemism for older, non-millennial-minded brands, while distinctive certainly means hipper and younger”.

But in an interview with Bloomberg, Marriott’s global brand officer Tina Edmunson implied it wasn’t quite so simple: “We thought long and hard about how you serve up 30 brands in a meaningful way – one that helps consumers infer both price and experience.”

She added, “Prior to the close, we talked to customers to see how these brands are being perceived. And a lot of people were talking about this unprompted. So you know it’s resonating.”

In the case of rival brands St. Regis and The Ritz-Carlton, the Bloomberg report said that Edmunson and her team did “a deep dive on this particular pair of portfolios to understand their subtler differences”.

“With Ritz-Carlton, this consumer is really leaning toward discovery. And for St. Regis, it’s really about status and connoisseurship,” she said.

The St. Regis brands are distinguished from rivals The Ritz-Carlton. Pic: The St. Regis Singapore

Ritz, she added, is about connecting people to places, while St. Regis itself is the place where people want to see and be seen.

“The St. Regis customer is looking for the hotel to serve up performances by jazz legends or signature rituals like midnight supper and St. Regis bloody marys.”

In a roundup by Bloomberg, journalist Nikki Ekstein expressed that she was surprised that Marriott decided to keep all 30 brands without nicking any of them.

“I think Marriott is really doubling down on luxury which is super refreshing after we’ve seen the hotel industry really prioritize millennials and younger, fresher hotels for a while. They want to find the things that make each brand special, and make that brand resonate in an individual way,” Ekstein said.

“Marriott has tried to create a discreet brand identity for each one of them that travelers will go back for again and again. They’re really stratifying their brands into tiers based on the level of luxury and price point,” she added.

After the buyout, Marriott revealed plans to merge the loyalty program for a more seamless guest experience and an eventual phasing out of the Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG) program.

In September, Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott’s executive vice president and global chief commercial officer, told Travel + Leisure: “The earliest that we would combine the two programs will be 2018. You can imagine all of the complexities involved with the respective partners [for each program].”

Skift reported that Marriott emphasizes its objectives of using loyalty to simultaneously unify and sell the brands under its portfolio.

While the sorting of brands into categories may not explicitly cater to that objective, Marriott looks to be working doubly hard to foster a seamless relationship between the two major hotel groups.

SEE ALSO: Marriott completes Starwood buyout, but what does this mean for you?