In January, Marriott International unveiled an exciting new rebrand that had been in the works since its acquisition of Starwood back in 2016. The hotel chain ordained its new loyalty program — a consolidation of Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest — “Bonvoy,” an invented word sprouting from the whimsical “bon voyage.” “Marriott Bonvoy marks an evolution in travel,” declared Marriott International’s Global Chief Commercial Officer Stephanie Linnartz on the company’s website, “because it represents more than a loyalty program.”
The timing for a brand rehab couldn’t have been better. Recently, the $39.56 billion hotel chain had found itself repeatedly and unflatteringly in the news. In November, the company admitted that its Starwood reservations system had suffered the biggest breach of consumer data in history, with approximately 383 million customer records compromised. It was in the midst of also dealing with the largest hotel strike in U.S. history.
Marriott gave Bonvoy the red-carpet treatment. Along with partnerships with Manchester United and Coachella, the 22-country media blitz directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet included a 60-second spot at the actual Oscars, where 30-seconds costs as much as $2.8 million.
Companies pour millions of dollars, along with massive amounts of intellectual and creative brainpower into their splashy new look. But more often than not, the result is backlash.
Then, almost immediately after Marriott’s ad aired in February, the thing happened that seems to happen virtually every time a company debuts a rebrand: The social media pile on began. “If anyone says ‘BONVOY’ to me at a hotel, I’m walking out,” griped one traveler. “Bonvoy is trolling me at the #Oscars isn’t it?” jabbed another. “Bonvoy is a terrible name and the rebrand is unnecessary,” tweeted another.