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.