HM on location: Why new logos bring Choice brands into the future

LAS VEGAS—The big buzz here at Choice Hotels International’s 65th annual convention was the unveiling of new logos for four of the company’s legacy brands. A year after Choice updated the logo of its Comfort brand, the Clarion, MainStay Suites, Quality Inn and Sleep Inn flags also got new looks.

The changes were meant to keep the brands modern, said Anne Smith, VP/brand management, design and compliance, Choice Hotels. “At 80 years old, this company is doing things that are very new and very innovative,” she said, noting the company’s growth in the upscale and extended-stay segments. The midscale brands, however, still make up the core of Choice’s business, but they needed logos that would catch the eye in the 21st century. “If you make the logo too much the same, I’m not going to think differently about your product,” she said.

Another important point of consideration was how well the logos worked on phones. With mobile booking growing exponentially each year, a logo that is recognizable on a small screen can be the difference between a last-minute booking and a missed guest. As such, the new logos were created with digital appeal as a priority. “We talked to a lot of franchisees about this,” said John Bonds, SVP/enterprise operations and technology. “They wanted to see change.”

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Brand by Brand

At the Quality brand session, Kristen Salotti, head of foundation brands portfolio, told attendees guests notice when things start to look old and dated—and this applied to the logo as well, which was last updated in 1999. The 80-year-old brand will keep its signature Q and gold color, but will update the font and emphasize value with a dark green.

Clarion’s new look, meanwhile, was inspired by the company’s newest brand, Clarion Pointe, with a simplified font and a color scheme of navy and teal. While the junior brand uses lowercase letters, Clarion will remain in all capitals, which Salotti said would signify that Clarion is the premium brand of the two.

Clarion Logo
Clarion owners and managers saw the new logo for the first time during the brand session.
Photo credit: Choice Hotels International

Sleep Inn is keeping its signature purple, but now has a cursive logo and eclipsing moon against the background. “It’s still easy to read and recognize,” said Brent Bouldin, VP/marketing and advertising, during the brand session. Director of Brand Activation Case Parker noted other recognizable brands use cursive fonts to catch the eye, like Kellogs, Coca-Cola and Cartier.

MainStay’s updated blue logo—an ambigram of its M.S. initials—was designed to convey “calm and comfort” to extended-stay guests. “This new logo offers a sleek, contemporary treatment of our signature M,” Ron Burgett, VP/franchise development, extended stay, said as the new logo was unveiled, noting the logo also evokes the numerous sails of a ship, compared to the former logo’s single ship.

The changes, said Smith, are meant to bring the identities of the brands in line with what guests are looking for. In each case, she said, the design had a different design brief. “For Quality, it was about keeping it closer in, but making a meaningful change that really modernizes it. For Sleep, we’re preserving some of the equity that we have there with purple and the eclipse that guests have come to recognize … With Clarion and Clarion Pointe, this really is an opportunity to unify the family and also freshen that identity to really bring it out of the 1990s maroon. With MainStay, there’s more blue sky to think about. It’s a smaller system. How do we refresh it and breathe some new life that signals calm and comfort that an extended-stay guest needs?”

All the new logos will include a “By Choice Hotels” tagline.

Logo Logistics

Updating signage and collateral is never a quick and easy process, but Choice is trying to mitigate any pain points. All affected hotels will have until November 2022 to make the changes, and as with the Comfort Inn logo launch last year, Choice will offer incentives to the earliest adopters.

The cost to owners for updating the logos will vary, the team said, depending on several factors, including how many signs they already have. The logos were designed, however, to fit on existing signage, and some properties will only need to change vinyls.

Comfort’s launch provided a “strong foundation” for Choice to learn from, Smith added, especially in terms of how to talk to owners who may be concerned about spending money on adding new logos. Quality added 130 hotels to its American portfolio last year, Smith noted, and all of those owners bought signs with the now-former logo. “It doesn’t feel good to buy a sign and then have to change it,” she acknowledged, adding that cost-sharing is not off the table.

Most important, the company will emphasize the new designs were all created to catch the eye and increase bookings, said Brian Quinn, head of development, new-construction brands. “They made an investment,” he said. “This helps them get a return.”

“We watch what happens after we launch something,” Smith said. The company will monitor how the early adopters do, and will see they can credit the new logos with improved performance. That, she said, will help spur further adoption. “Get the right people to do the sign, and you get everyone else on board.”

Choice expects to open more than 150 midscale hotels across its Comfort, Quality Inn, Clarion, Clarion Pointe, Sleep Inn and MainStay Suites brands this year. Properties are slated for  Brooklyn, N.Y.; Nashville, Tenn.; Oklahoma City; San Antonio; and San Diego.