Trying my consumer’s hat on for size this Labor Day, I’ll ask the question: Would you pay good money and choose to stay a night or two in the hotel pictured above, without having a personal recommendation from a very, very good friend?
Me neither, says my wife, for our family.
Did the name have anything to do with your decision? In other words, might you be leery of weary desk clerks, eerie hallways, and dreary rooms, at the Drury Inn?
We were. Sorry, Drury Inn.
But, with far more cheery sounding and well-known national hotel brands readily available like Courtyard, Crown Plaza, Hilton, Hyatt Regency, Westin, Sheraton, Hampton Inn, Residence Inn, and Holiday Inn (or, should I say, H?), do you really blame us for our uninformed theory?
Remember my family road trip this past summer that revealed a trend toward single letter chewing gum brands and a discussion of non-verbal logos that can stand alone? Well, on that same trip, driving through the heartland, along the various interstates we traveled, we noticed Drury Inn after Drury Inn, a hotel chain we had never encountered before. We stayed a few nights in downtown St. Louis, near the above-pictured Drury Inn, but we never had the interest or courage to take a closer look.
Actually my wife felt even more strongly about it than I did, she thought that the various Drury Inns we saw (from the outside) looked and sounded, well, quite dreary. Apparently we aren’t the first to make the “dreary” word association with Drury Inn, especially among those who have expressed online their rather negative experiences in spending nights and money (on the inside of one) (here, here, here, here, here, and here). One could say that deciding to use a name so easily a target for a hotel chain starts to make the resulting wounds look self-inflicted.
Sorry again, Drury Inn.
Recognizing the practice of many popular national hotel brands to select and adopt brand names that evoke feelings of comfort and pleasure (Courtyard, Holiday Inn, Days Inn, Sleep Inn, and Comfort Inn), I was left rather intrigued with the peculiar naming decision involving Drury Inn, at least enough to take a closer look online. Armed with a Wikipedia reference along with the hotel chain’s website, I was surprised to learn, having never head of the brand before, that it has been around since 1973, it has 130 locations in twenty states, and it has won some awards too.
Now, while Mr. Drury, and other family members, might defend use of the family name based on the recognized success and longevity of their business, someone less emotionally attached to the surname might ask where the business would be with a better brand name for a hotel chain.
Perhaps this is a good time for Brand Introspection with Uncle Buck: As David Cameron’s On Brands Blog teaches: “You need to know what your brand does well. You need to know where your brand disappoints. And to truly know those things, you need to take an honest look at your brand – how you see it and, of utmost importance, how others see it.”
It is my understanding that re-branding and name changes are made “usually in an attempt to distance [the brand] from certain negative connotations of the previous branding.” As you may recall, I previously have called for name changes and rebranding when a name (Redskins) or symbol (Chief Wahoo) offends, and that is certainly not the case with the Drury Inn brand name, but it seems to me, when a name actually detracts from the positive attributes of an underlying brand, isn’t a name change or rebrand in order?
After all, doesn’t any hotel chain need to pass the “‘Where did you stay? Oh, we stayed at a Drury Inn . . . Oh, I’m so sorry, what was the name of the hotel? so we can avoid it on our next trip'” test?
Now, for Drury family members who might be leery of a name change, marketing expert Seth Godin notes, going all the way back to square one is underrated and “nicer than people expect.” But, if you’re still not convinced that Drury Inn should go back to square one with its name, what about a new tagline, as a compromise?
Drury Inn’s current tagline apparently is: “The Extras Aren’t Extra.” Nice enough, but it ignores the pink elephant in the hotel room. The name too easily associates with a word that is a far distance from inviting or comforting, attributes of importance to those willing to spend money and a night away from home. Interestingly, some of the hotel chain’s consumer champions appear to have spotted the pink elephant in the hotel room and are using it to the brand’s advantage:
Hoover’s coverage even plays on the name: “Drury isn’t dreary, but it is for the weary.”
Here’s my “consumer hat” suggestion for a new tagline: “Drury Inn, Everything But Dreary.”
What is your recommendation?