The Executive Who Brought Us Bonvoy is Out at Marriott

Ad Week is reporting that Marriott Chief Marketing Officer Karin Timpone will step down at the end of the year to “pursue new opportunities.”

“I am so grateful to have led a central initiative within Marriott’s transformation,” Timpone said in a statement. “Having completed the Marriott Bonvoy launch with key marketing benchmarks ahead of estimates, this a perfect time for me to thoughtfully plan my next move.”

The name ‘Bonvoy’ sounds like bon voyage or good wishes for a journey. It’s supposed to be something something endless inspiration something something members pursue their passions.

Initially members called it Bonfire, but as the program struggled to deliver benefits or a consistent experience to consumers (which Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson calls “noise around the edges”) “Bonvoyed” took on a new meaning. Whenever something went wrong with Marriott, you were Bonvoyed. Whenever you took it on the chin in life you were getting Bonvoyed.

Most of the Marriott loyalty program integration IT issues have been worked out, though of course watch your accounts to make sure stays post.

Eventually we’re going to get used to the word Bonvoy and stop making fun of it so much. What’s left then is the meat of the new program, which is a devaluation of the old Marriott Rewards earn and burn and a devaluation of the old Starwood elite program. That also means it’s an improvement in earn and burn for Starwood members, and an improvement in elite benefits for Marriott members.

The real challenge Marriott is now facing is getting their hotels to deliver on promised benefits. Marriott as a chain used to be known for its consistency above all else, but that’s been completely upended by uneven elite member experiences with Bonvoy. And when things go wrong, Marriott corporate has been largely unable to help.

The Marriott program, though, remains stronger than Hilton and IHG in many ways.

  • More rebate for in-hotel spend than Hilton
  • Better elite benefits than Hilton and IHG

What’s been lost is a lucrative credit card (the old Starwood American Express) and consistent delivery of benefits. If you’re willing to take inconsistency then it becomes fair to point to the individual hotels at Hilton and IHG that go above and beyond what’s promised. (That said neither Hilton nor IHG even promise a guaranteed late checkout, let alone that if a standard suite is available then it should be offered as an upgrade.)

After the bungled launch of ‘World of Hyatt’ the chain announced that the position of CMO was no longer available. Their strategy for improved marketing was literally to eliminate the role. Since then members have largely forgiven Hyatt. The 25 stay Diamonds who were ‘fired’ by the new program and especially vocal have moved on, while the ex-Starwood executives brought in to run the new program went about fixing several of the pain points in World of Hyatt quickly. Hyatt’s problem now isn’t loyalty, it’s footprint.

Marriott, too, may be able to get Bonvoy on the right path. They just need to enforce program rules with hotels, and provide problem resolution to guests. That’s a huge challenge with over 7000 hotels and 135 million program members, but it’s certainly doable.

(HT: R.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Does anyone actually believe she left on her own a few days before the FOURTH change to the award chart in 18 months?

  2. No….no one believes her “time to leave” flowery adios.
    Bonvoy is still a mess. Simple thing is just get rid of what she did.
    Now we are getting issued new credit cards with marketing all over them for Bonvoy.
    It is embarrassing to use it.
    And it still riles me the amount of money they spend on the Book of Mormon placed in every hotel room.

  3. No, clarifications are needed ” Having completed (& screwed up) the Marriott Bonvoy launch with key marketing benchmarks ahead of estimates (& totally behind customer satisfaction), this a perfect time for me to thoughtfully plan my next move (& see which next program to screw up).”
    dont get hit by the door behind you.

  4. The person who led in the creation of Bonvoy has been Bonvoyed. It doesn’t get more karmic than that….

  5. “They just need to enforce program rules with hotels, and provide problem resolution to guests. “


  6. Please just give me breakfast at Courtyards and the other errant legacy Marriotts and I’ll shut up.

    A Former SPG Lifetime Titanium Elite Member

  7. Still no points from 12/18 stays, despite three letters. 9/18 stays uncredited too. It’s as if the rogram expects us to just throw up our hands and say “teething problems” and excuse the whole fiasco of trying to get points. Sorry: Marriott’s problems have chased me to other hotels. I can’t spend endless hours chasing points.

  8. Maybe that explains the appreciation bonus they just gave me (200 – yes 200 – points). I guess that’s about an 80 cent parting gift.

  9. How is Marriott more in rebate for spend than Hilton? Hilton gives 10x v 6x for Marriott. At your valuation of .004 v .007 for Hilton v Marriott, that figures 4% for Hilton vs. 4.2% for Marriott. That’s statistically insignificant within the margin of error in your estimation of valuations.
    Given that Hilton has better promotions, I would give the edge to Hilton.

  10. “That also means it’s an improvement in earn and burn for Starwood members, and an improvement in elite benefits for Marriott members.”

    I’ll give you that elite benefits are improved from Marriott, but could you clarify how earn is improved for ex-SPG members? I just got an email which excitedly informed me that I could now transfer United miles TO Bonvoy at 1:1 ratio. That’s right, 1 MileagePlus mile -> 1 Bonvy Dong. Direct CC earn is nothing like what it was when we were earning SPG points, and even with the bonus spending on Marriott, it probably makes most sense to put that spend on another card.

  11. @Scott – in-hotel earn-and-burn is improved for SPG members, elite benefits are not. And as I mention credit card earn for SPG members is worse.

  12. @gary – makes sense. Wasn’t clear that it was in-hotel earn you were referring to. Perhaps it’s a mistake, but I’m sure that other readers are like me where it’s a points currency that I honestly don’t actively pay attention to anymore. I stay at Marriott properties for work, but that’s about it. I get whatever points I get from that, but I am focusing my own personal travel/spend elsewhere.

  13. Biggest issue is that they lost my trust. I would use very insulting words to describe both their ethics and their competence.

    In addition to the things mentioned by Gary, they are just too expensive on both paid and award bookings. And for points bookings they will get more expensive in a few days, and every day as they jiggle peak and standard and slip through the occasional recategorization. Then again in March.

    Up to double compared to independent hotels, as well as Airbnb. What Marriott and other chains used to have going for them is consistency and reliability, now that they don’t enforce brand standards they have much less of this attribute.

    They do still have a lot of great employees at the individual hotels (and in the Singapore office),

  14. @And “….great employees… Singapore office..”

    Nov and Dec 2018, none of my SNAs could process in SG from 3 stays. I banked them for end year use. Even the hotels forwarded the “IT issue” to the SG office. Reply: “Nothing we can do. Sorry.”
    They expired and I got NO support from Marri-rot.

  15. Glad the idiot is gone.

    My ugly Bonvoy Amex card arrived in the mail, finally, after being told many months ago to start looking for it. Of course I had no desire to receive a new card, certainly not one with this ugly design and stupid Bonvoy name on it.

    But the last straw was the obnoxious email from Amex sent when literally everyone is on vacation the final week of summer letting me know my existing card would be deactivated if I did not promptly activate the new Bonvoy card.

    Seriously? Great way for Amex to lose my business after I already became completely disinterested in Marriott.

  16. “Combine your SPG with Marriott account”, so I did. Then when all was combined I lost the opportunity to be platinum for the remaining year because I was an SPG transfer. After speaking with director of loyalty services I promptly ground up my Marriott credit card.

  17. I had a situation occur at a hotel near IAD. The acting manager blatantly lied about the situation and was completely unwilling to address the situation. I decided to wait a few days before taking my concerns to customer service. The response that I received was, my experience would be used in a training session and thanks for my input….. I am finding the brand quality (especially over the past few years) is slipping away.

  18. I agree this merger had good and bad, but mostly bad. They need to focus more on he customer. Sure you can stay at a Marriott in West VA. for 125.00 a night, but go to a large city, that same room will cost you at least 350.00, and /or 35,000 points. This is ridiculous. In West VA. the room would be 5,000 points at best. Another big issue, the lounges at the hotels, why can United Employees no longer access the lounges on layovers. Their status was earned with their own dollars, NOT layover rooms. If you have reached the status, then you should be able to access the lounge whenever you are staying at the the property. it is not a free room, someone is paying for it. I don;t know if other airline employees are experiencing this, but it is a slap in the face.

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