In a bid to boost development of its midscale Sleep Inn brand, Choice Hotels International has launched a new trade marketing platform that emphasizes the rapidly increasing appeal of the midscale segment and the long-term value of investing.
The print and digital 'Always Sleep Inn Style' ads emphasize that hospitality trends geared exclusively to today’s guests may not appeal to tomorrow’s. “Developers should invest in brands that withstand the test of time,” Anne Smith, VP of brand management and design at Choice Hotels, said in a statement when the campaign launched, noting that outdated hotels will need to spend more in the long run on frequent renovations.
The heart of campaign, Smith told HOTEL MANAGEMENT, is the message is that “good investment never goes out of style.” The brand, she said, is the lowest cost to build in the midscale segment at approximately $55,000 per room, with ADR of about $90 in newly constructed hotels. “The combination makes for smart investment,” she said.
A Campaign to Boost Demand
With Hilton opening its first Tru hotels and InterContinental Hotels Group announcing it’s new Avid brand all within the past six months, the midscale sector seems more crowded than ever. But according to Smith, this presents a good opportunity for a midscale-focused company like Choice, which has 2,500 midscale hotels already open. “Every company is launching a new brand, but they have to learn the way,” she said. “We don’t have to learn it. We just have to improve our delivery and improve our craft.”
The new Sleep Inn campaign, then, is an opportunity to get the brand in front of owners and reinforce its value. With a focus on affordable style, the new campaign can appeal to the cost-conscious millennial market. “The cost fits people’s budget, but it looks like a brand that people want to associate with because it fits their identity,” Smith said of the demographic. “Personal style matters to them. It says something about who they are.”
The campaign is also about continuing momentum for investors and developers. The Sleep Inn brand has 400 hotels open globally with another 120 in pipeline and 10 actively under construction. “Sleep Inn has lots of opportunity to grow,” Smith said.
The new prototype, introduced in 2016, has a “very efficient” footprint, Smith said. “Looking at the size of the rooms, the square footage is smaller than [Choice’s upper-midscale] Comfort brand.” A key feature of the prototype focused on making sure that what the company expected owners to build made sense, she said. “We’re not asking them to overbuild or use things that go out of style. We know what is needed and what is not.”
When the new prototype launched last year, the Choice team queried guests about how they interacted with their hotel spaces—for example, how did they pack and unpack their luggage? For short stays of one or two nights, they found, guests rarely bothered putting their clothes in drawers. This, Smith said, encouraged the design team to emphasize open storage spaces in the rooms—which reduces the overall building costs. “A partially open closet simplifies the look and feel of the room,” she said, noting that guests are less likely to leave items behind when the storage is open and visible. On the other hand, she cautioned, a completely open closet doesn’t feel quite as polished and gives the room an economy vibe. “It’s a trend, but we’re not a fast trend follower,” she said. “We focus on things in the guestroom that drive appeal and that are rooted in nature. Sleep Inn guestrooms are smaller than [those at] Comfort Inn, but not so small that they sacrifice comfort or appeal.” For example, Smith said, the guestrooms have a real desk—an important element for business-focused travelers. “When we take things like that out, it makes the room less comfortable. Guests don’t want to stay and relax, and it affects the guest experience.”
The result, Smith said, is a room that the company expects to remain contemporary for several years to come. “We understand the nuances,” she said. “Guests are looking for simple lines, colors that are warm and not too flashy, a neutral color palette with pops of color. Black and white artwork is always in style, but we added a pop of purple.”
Owners, meanwhile, want a smart investment without extra costs for replacing outdated design in five years. The prototype, then, “makes sense for the owner,” she said.