AT CHOICE, IT'S ALL ABOUT BRANDS

While last month's Choice Hotels conference was light on hard news, it was full of strong talk about the importance of brand consistency, brand standards and brand-centric marketing.

First the news: At the conference, the company's 53rd, Choice unveiled a new, more modern logo for Econo Lodge. The new brand symbol follows other recent guest enhancements at the economy brand, including the addition of wireless Internet access, free USA Today and an upgraded breakfast program.

During the conference general session, Vice Chairman/CEO Chuck Ledsinger stressed the company's willingness to listen to and then act upon franchisee concerns. Ledsinger and his staff used regional meetings last fall as a venue to gather informal and formal feedback from licensees.

“You told us you wanted us to enforce brand standards and promote brand consistency. We introduced brand-specific quality assurance forms for our mid-scale brands and will be rolling them out for our economy brands this summer,” he told the crowd of 4,000-plus franchisees. “You wanted your brands to be better differentiated. We reorganized through a new brand-centric structure that better defines our brands.”

To further emphasize this philosophy, the chain outsourced its quality assurance process and redefined the role of its franchise service directors. These renamed brand performance consultants help individual properties drive additional revenues and profits.

Ledsinger also revealed the company's new ad campaigns and summer marketing programs. While Choice will continue to market its brands by price grouping (e.g., economy and mid-market), it also developed some single-brand advertising and created media plans for each of its 10 flags.

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