If I offer a “Choice” have I differentiated my brand?

So I was watching the Broncos lose this afternoon. And here comes another commercial that dilutes, no absolutely destroys, the brands they’re advertising.

I watch commercials with half an eye. When they’re on I’m usually doing the Sunday suduku.

So I’m not really clear about what I saw today. I know it was a hotel/motel chain called “Choice”. I never did get what they’re USP was if they had one.

But the thing that really confused me and caused me to make a note to write this blog – they signed off with the names and logos of four or five different

chains. They said something like “be sure to stop at one of our facilities and then named “Clarian”, “Quality Inn” and others I couldn’t remember even though by now I was fully attentive to their ad.

I had to go to the Choice Hotel web site to identify the other players, and to find out they had another five chains in their stable that weren’t advertised. But even on the website each brand was not differentiated from the next. Each web page was almost exactly the same for each brand.

Here’s the point: advertising five different brand names in the same commercial is really confusing. Does each brand have an identity of its own? Is this a case of egos in an acquisition orgy where the old names had to be retained to enable sales to go through? Did Choice think by retaining five chain names and advertising all five together would somehow help people think of Choice?

Or were they thinking, “If Marriott can have a stable of chains, so can we, and we can retain the unique identities of each of our acquisitions by advertising five at a time.” But Marriott differentiates between their chains. And they use the unifying Marriott name with each. And I’m not sure the way Marriott is doing it is the correct approach to differentiating one from another.

There’s a whole body of work concerning brand architecture and internal brand organizations. Because I’ve mostly concerned myself with smaller businesses, I’m not an expert on brand families and the tensions occurring within companies with multiple brand managers. But it does seem to me that what Choice Hotels is doing is not aiding any of their brands, including the Choice brand.

In fact, I’d say there really isn’t a Choice brand, just as there isn’t a prominent Proctor and Gamble brand. But Choice doesn’t understand that if you have brands in your stable, each should have its own identity differentiated from its siblings. You don’t see Proctor and Gamble promoting Tide, Era, Gain, Dreft and Cheer in the same ad.

I have a hunch that Choice is in this predicament because it’s very costly to convert the diverse facilities to a single brand, and they haven’t the budgets to advertise them separately. I would hope that in the long run they’ll convert facilities to a single nameplate, that within four or five years there’ll be a single brand that’s meaningful to their market members. I hope consumers will still give them a chance when they’ve finally gotten their act together.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

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