HOTELS at IHG: Crowne Plaza shifts gears

Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts is adopting a new brand positioning, “Traveling for success,” and targeting “strivers,” a group it says represents 9% of all annual hotel stays and is currently unsatisfied with available options in the marketplace, the brand announced Monday at the 2011 IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas.

Rumors are also circulating at the conference, as they have been for the past few months since Kirk Kinsell came back to the United States as president of the Americas, that IHG will launch another U.S. midscale brand segmented just below its Holiday Inn brands. Details, at the moment, remain sketchy.

Brand leaders compared Crowne Plaza to the BMW 3 Series, saying both are brands coveted by strivers — individuals who are climbing the ladder to success but have not yet arrived. Janis Cannon, vice president, global brand management, for Crowne Plaza, added that strivers see travel as necessary for their careers but not as a goal on its own. To meet that group’s needs, she said the brand will need to provide seamless service, technological and social connections, physical and mental restoration, affirmation of what strivers have accomplished thus far and, most importantly, energy that stimulates them.

Three phases

Crowne Plaza will adopt its new positioning via a three-phased approach, brand leaders said. First, from now through the end of 2012 primarily in the Americas, the brand will “freshen up” through initiatives such as improved F&B, refreshing its Sleep Advantage program, updating fitness centers, enhancing marketing promotions — especially those using social media — and introducing collateral to reflect the new identity.

The second phase, slated for 2012 and 2013, will emphasize Crowne Plaza’s “move up” within its category. Activities within this phase will include a new global branded service training program, development and distribution in major gateway cities and resort markets, increasing trial and brand awareness, and delivering on key drivers of guest satisfaction.

The third phase, from 2013 through 2015, has been dubbed “shine,” and will focus on ways the brand can differentiate itself in the long term. Innovative brand hallmarks will be rigorously tested across the globe.

“We’ve got great Crowne Plazas,” Cannon said. “We’ve got a lot to be proud of with this brand. This is where we start. Today’s the red-letter day.” According to IHG, the brand is the fourth largest upscale hotel brand in the world having doubled since 2003 to 400 hotels globally, generating US$3.5 billion in gross revenues, and with a pipeline standing at 115 hotels.

IHG leadership echoed the commitment to revitalizing Crowne Plaza throughout the conference presentations Monday. CEO Richard Solomons noted that the company is prepared to take a financial hit in losing Crowne Plaza hotels not willing to commit to the new brand positioning.

Kevin Kowalski, senior vice president, global brand management, added, “We have a clear path for the future. The result will be a rejuvenated Crowne Plaza brand.”

IHG plans to reposition its Crowne Plaza brand.
IHG plans to reposition its Crowne Plaza brand.