Fresh from the recent announcement of Cambria Suites’ new positioning and visual identity, Michael Murphy, SVP of upscale brands for Choice Hotels, details some of the thinking behind the move.
Why did the company decided to undergo this new positioning for Cambria?
Before you have a unique value proposition, you have to go find out what is the size of the possible market and what does the consumer want. That took 18 months of research. In the short term, that consumer is what we call the medium-frequency business traveler. For weekdays, it’s five to 19 nights per year. I compare them to the zone fours and zone fives in the airlines. We call that unloved, unattached, and up for grabs.
There’s as many medium-frequency room nights in the upscale tier for a weekday as there are with frequent business travelers. Now, if there there’s a way you can come up with a brand that has the positioning, operations, and design that supports targeting those consumers, it’s a home run.
Secondly, hitting us like a tsunami, we expect in four years millennials will be 30 percent to 40 percent of business travel. We went out and talked to medium-frequency travelers and the millennials, and we positioned and created the design and service elements around it.
Did anything surprise you from your research?
What we had with Cambria Suites is: Here’s your work space, here’s your recreation space, and here’s your sleep space. The consumer wants us to pare down the room rather than programming the room for them. They want to do whatever they want to do in their mode.
Why did the company decide to change the name from Cambria Suites to Cambria Hotels & Suites?
There are two customers here. There’s the end-user customer and then there’s the developer customer. For the end-user customer, the word “suites” exceeded its lifetime. Customers want choices and options with a variety of hotel room types. They want a sense of upgrade.
On the developer side, I’m coming into Manhattan with a 233-square-foot guestroom, and we’re putting a suite there. We’re creating a room that has a sense of spaciousness in 233 square feet. There are great designers who can help you do that and make it feel like the bed is an upgrade, the desk area is an upgrade, etc. From a primary urban market standpoint, it gives them more opportunity for development. For the consumer, it gives them choices and options in a hotel rather than just suites.
How else are the millennial customers different and how are you accommodating them?
Gone are the days of hierarchy and structure, and here come the days of Cambria Hotels & Suites. The millennials don’t strive for hierarchy like the boomers do. I see platinum with a hotel program or with an airline, and I can’t wait to get it. It’s all about points, and then what can I do with those points. Millennials don’t want to have to wait until they get 25,000 points. They want to do something with them now.
Why can’t we use the loyalty program for a craft brew at the bar? The bartender becomes the most important position in the hotel of tomorrow. The bartender says, “Mike, are you a Choice Privileges member? Pull up your app and let’s see how many points you have. Hey, you have enough for a beer. Why don’t you go ahead and use your points now?” It’s instant recognition, instant redemption, and immediate rewards.
That’s a 18-month project we’re working on right now. That won’t come out until early 2016. That’s a differentiation point. What it comes down to is engagement. The building won’t engage the customer by itself; it will support it. It has to be the service that engages the customer.