Two years ago, when Marriott International plunked down $13 billion to buy Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, it came into possession of the posh St. Regis and trendy W brands—and also an awkward stepchild named Sheraton.
Sheraton’s problem wasn’t size. The well-known hotel brand had over 440 properties around the world, many of them prime locations. As of last year, Sheraton generated $9.2 billion annually in global revenue. But Sheraton had never been very successful at differentiating itself. Many properties, especially those in the U.S., were dated and the guest experience frequently inconsistent.
That wasn’t just the view of industry experts. In April of 2015, Starwood’s own CEO Adam Aron surprised analysts by calling Sheraton a tired brand. Last year, Marriott chief Arne Sorenson admitted to the hospitality website Skift that Marriott had initially passed on the Starwood deal because fixing Sheraton looked like “a ton of work.”
But fixing up Sheraton is work Marriott had nonetheless committed itself to. Last summer, it unveiled a new Sheraton lobby design and announced the start of a systemwide transformation of the legacy brand.
Now comes the latest step in that effort—a new Sheraton logo.
Which is a more significant step than it might seem. Though Sheraton’s old logo had been around since the 1970s, it was, and remains, among the most recognizable in the hospitality industry. And because the Sheraton brand had such a deep history—two Harvard classmates founded the hotel chain in 1937—Marriott officials, with a creative assist from Grey New York, were careful how they went about updating its corporate badge.
“This is the first change to the logo in 40 years,” Marriott’s vp of global brand marketing Mara Hannula told Adweek. “So we looked at each element and really tried to figure out the symbolic nature and the equity.”
Below, a look at some of how that was done:
1. The laurels
An ancient symbol of victory, this wreath was indeed looking rather ancient. But Marriott still liked the concept. “It celebrates the idea of gathering, so instead of losing it, we made the circle complete,” Hannula said. “That’s representative of where the brand has been and where it’s going.”
2. The “S”
Another key identifier for the brand, the S initial was also one of the components that internal research revealed the public recognized. So it stayed, though Grey redrew it.
3. The typeface
Serif-based fonts are great for reading, but they often don’t present well on digital screens. A new font called GT Super Display wasn’t just a cleaner read on mobile, Hannula said, “we also felt it gave the brand a more modern, future-forward design aesthetic.”
4. The affirmation
One element missing from the old logo was this reminder of the brand’s founding year. “We’re proud of our heritage and wanted to celebrate that,” Hannula said. At the same time, Grey positioned the statement at the very base of the logo so that if there isn’t room on a given placement, it can be withheld.