Rebranding is hard. An update on the Bonvoy rebrand

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The below wasn’t written in February 2019 and then updated in July 2019:

Five months into the Bonvoy rebrand have previous brands disappeared? Of  course not – we knew it would take some time.

Two examples:

At my Marriott in Hilton Head Island the room keys said Marriott Rewards still.

I was on a press trip in Chicago the previous week and checked into a  Westin near Lake Michigan.

Some of the views:

Lake Michigan Lake Michigan Lake Michigan


Since the rooms were comped and they handed me  keys without checkin, I called down to add my number.

“What’s your SPG number, Mr. Trappe?”

Of course, SPG is the old Sheraton program, so that’s another good example of how hard it actually is to rebrand everywhere. SPG is like two brands ago now.

My Marriott credit card also still has the SPG logo by the way.

No sweat really and I don’t mean to show off Bonvoy marketing. Just a good reminder how hard rebranding is.

The February 2019 post is below…


The Marriott Rewards loyalty program is rebranding as Marriott Bonvoy in February 2019, which means that most of us will potentially stop calling it the Marriott Rewards program by roughly 2044. #snark #parody but maybe not…

Of course, the intent here is to officially combine three programs – Marriott, Sheraton and Ritz-Carlton. That’s fine and rebranding is nothing new to marketers. But I often wonder if it’s worth it.

And it takes forever for the public to use the new term anyway.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette rebranded in like the 1990s to The Gazette – to be more regional. Twenty years or so later, people still call it The Cedar Rapids Gazette here and there.

KCRG – the former sister station at one point got a logo redesign and that took a while to be updated everywhere:

  • The building
  • Cars
  • Jackets
  • On-air, of course
  • The website
  • And all kinds of other places.

Somebody actually ran what I would call a “search and replace” to find all the different places where logos were being used on digital channels. Fingers crossed that they all were called “KCRG_logo” or something like that and not “image_42545675252.” We all know people who save files like that! 🙂

At the One World travel conference an executive cited cost why a logo wouldn’t be changed. He’s not wrong.

Then Meetings Focus – part of Stamats Business Media, rebranded a few years ago to Meetings Today. Every once in a while I go on press trips for Meetings Today and truth be told I still get credentialized as Christoph Trappe of Meetings Focus. I’ve never worked for Meetings Focus and have never listed that name on anything.

But rebranding takes time – especially when your database remembers one name. For humans, the database is our brain and we remember what we remember.

Points writer JT Genter reminded me of this as well, with this tweet from a Sheraton that didn’t even mention the Marriott Rewards program – despite the merger a while ago.

And while I’ve seen how laborious rebranding can be, sometimes consumers just roll with it. For example, I was staying equal nights at Sheraton (whose loyalty program was Starwood) hotels and also Marriott hotels. So when they combined that was great for me and I immediately bumped up a level.

I deleted my Sheraton app, because it was just a copy of the Marriott one anyway. And I was happy with the combination as I was now collecting points in one place and that helped me maximize them even more.

For example:

  • on a recent trip a Marriott bumped me due to an overbooked situation. I complained just long enough for them to offer me 90,000 bonus points. You may say I was much happier. I promptly used over half of those to book a stay at an Autograph hotel (Marriott or Sheraton – I don’t know – in Venice, Italy).
  • I’m heading to Brazil again to speak at a healthcare conference this year.  The last time, I went I must have been on the Marriott points chase as I didn’t book the Sheraton where the conference was being held. This time around the Sheraton property simply showed up in my Marriott Rewards app and I booked it there and will earn Marriott points.

So sometimes branding might be overthought. Sometimes it works well when we establish strong brands and other times, it might take decades for people to remember the new brand name!

I do have to say that I don’t find the new Marriott Rewards name very memorable. In fact, I already forgot it and I just wrote it 400 or so words ago. I want to say it’s Bon Voyage or something like that. It actually is Bonvoy – for … , well, no idea what it means. Maybe that’s short hand for Bon Voyage? Way too much thinking needed here. So I likely will call it my “Marriott points” or “Marriott account” going forward. The real branding is in the name Marriott anyway and they aren’t changing that – as far as I know.

It looks like a new Twitter account has started from scratch too:

So the Rewards one will just go away? With all those followers? I thought you can change account names!

When would a rebrand be recommended?

The answers to that question can be endless, of course, but some that come to my mind are:

  • when we try to avoid confusion in the marketplace.
  • when we want to shake some bad history.
  • when an organization’s value proposition shifts.
  • when mergers happen.

The M&A item certainly applies to the Marriott rebrand, but is it enough to just do that for the loyalty program. When American Airlines bought U.S. Airways a few years ago, everything was combined – under the American Airlines brand.

I was flying American quite a bit at the time and I was surprised how quickly that all happened. I’m sure it took a lot of work! Every once in a while I’d see a U.S. Airways plane still in the field, but it was rare.

So sometimes, a rebrand can just be one or more existing brands that are going away folding into one already established brand. That strategy seems to work and minimizes re-learning of brand names. For example, in the last three years, I haven’t heard anyone accidentally call American Airlines U.S. Airways. U.S. Airways just disappeared.

If your organization must rebrand or decides to rebrand just be aware of:

  • the work involved and the potential Return on Effort
  • will it confuse the market even more?
  • what’s the goal?

And some rebrands – like an update to a brand that hasn’t been updated in 20 years – are certainly necessary. Just be aware of what’s involved and what the pay off might be.

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