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‘Country’ Focused on Capturing New Customers

‘Country’ Focused on Capturing New Customers

Carlson Rezidor executives unveiled a new brand identity for its upper-midscale, select-service brand at the 2013 Country Inns and Suites Business Conference, held this week at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, in Miami, Fla. The leadership and branding teams showed off the new logo, design elements, and direction of the brand to a record crowd of more than 700 hotel owners, operators, and general managers. And one thing is for sure—Country Inns and Suites is focused on the future.

“We have a family of brands that are very strongly profiled,” said Thorsten Kirschke, president of the Americas for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. “Brand positioning will be more and more important as we go forward. Country Inns and Suites is in a unique position in the industry, globally, and here in North America.”

Gordon McKinnon, chief branding officer for Carlson, explained that the new look and feel of the Country brand seeks to attract a younger, more business-savvy crowd. With Generation Y increasing by 124 percent by the year 2020, and the number of baby boomers decreasing, McKinnon stressed the importance of catering to a new crowd while still maintaining the crux of the brand for loyal guests.

“In very simple terms, we’re looking to change the business mix and broaden the appeal to create a more profitable business,” he said. “This is not only about an age, but it’s about attitudes as well.”

The new visual identity rolled out this week with a cleaner, more streamlined logo, which is now in place on the brand’s online marketing materials and social media sites. Hotel owners will receive a visual identity jumpstart kit within the next month that will feature a new flag, back-of-the-house poster, as well as consumer-facing and elevator signage. The visual jumpstart kit will be sent at no cost to the owners. Hotels changing over to new exterior signage may also be eligible for credits to help with the costs of implementing the new look.

Along with the new visual identity of the brand, Country Inns and Suites has launched its Generation 4 design package that will evolve both the exterior and interior look and feel of the hotels. The design will feature modern and contemporary elements such as natural-looking stone and wood, an updated color palette, and an altered layout of the lobby and public space. The new design improves sightlines in the living room area, so guests can see from the entrance directly to the back of the property. It implements a new take on the brand’s traditional front porch, with a veranda that features lounge-like seating and fire pits. Generation 4 guestrooms will offer modular, easy-to-change furniture elements, a new bedding package, and spa-like bathrooms consisting of new sinks, showers, and a signature tile wall.

“Travelers expect hotels to stay current and fresh,” said Jim Grimshaw, senior director of brand program development and standards, midscale hotel brands for the Americas. “We can’t stand still. Continued hotel renovations are key to our brand’s success.”

Grimshaw recognized the strain that renovations have on hotel owners, and says that the Generation 4 implementation is meant to be both cost effective and easy to execute. Adding in the new flooring and timber accents, implementing new lighting, and simplifying areas such as the hotel’s main staircase and porte-cochère will bring Generation 3 hotels into the next phase. Guestroom layouts in the new design remain primarily the same, but the spaces can be refreshed with the updated bedding packages, new paint, and fresh furnishings and treatments.

For new construction or conversion properties, the new design will have a similar cost-per-key as the previous generation. Grimshaw says Generation 4 will also give developers the option of going after urban markets and will help the brand expand into city-center locations.

“This is essential for our existence,” said Scott Meyer, senior vice president of midscale brands. “But what is just as important, is that the essence of the brand is not changing. Our DNA, our service heart, our culture—that is a constant that we will never lose. That is our identity.”

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