Marriott brand strategy / positioning case study

Marriott Brand Strategy Analysis

Travel & transportation – hotels

Owner of the brand:
Marriott International

Key competitors:
Hilton, InterContinental, Airbnb

Brand essence

Putting people first and providing sophisticated spaces and experiences that keep the mind balanced, sharp and inspired.

Brand values

Care, inspiration, excellence, employee focus.

Brand character

Refined, cosmopolitan, premium, warm, welcoming.

Dominating archetype

Although the first actual Marriott hotel was opened in 1957 in Arlington, Virginia by John Willard Marriott and his wife, Alice Sheets Marriott, the company prides itself on a longer history. The couple started their hospitality business by founding a root beer stand in 1927, which later evolved into a publicly-traded chain of so-called ‘Hot Shoppes’ restaurants and then into the biggest hotel network in the world. The company has so far only had four CEOs. J. W. Marriott ran the firm until 1972, when his son, J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. took over. J.W Jr. then remained at the helm for almost 50 years and to this day is the Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Marriott International as well as writing his own blog for the company[1]Arne Sorenson held the CEO position from 2012 until his passing in 2021 and Anthony Capuano is the current CEO.


In 2016, Marriott acquired Starwood Hotels & Resorts and became the biggest hotel company in the world. Before the merger, Marriott had 19 of its own brands, sub-brands and endorsed brands and after, this number grew to 30. Although Marriott’s brand architecture became highly complex, the company decided to keep all the brands and divide them into nine categories: classic luxury (e.g., The Ritz-Carlton), distinctive luxury (e.g., W Hotels), classic premium (e.g., Marriott Hotels and Sheraton), distinctive premium (e.g., Westin), classic select (e.g., Courtyard by Marriott), distinctive select (e.g., Moxy), classic longer stays (e.g., Residence Inn by Marriott), distinctive longer stays (e.g., Element) and collections (e.g., Autograph Collection Hotels). Marriott’s challenge in unifying and simplifying its brand architecture lies in the fact that it runs only a tiny part of its hotels, while the rest is managed by franchisees and specialist management companies. Therefore, it might take many years for Marriott to be able to decrease the number of brands it currently owns.


Marriott is both a corporate and a consumer brand. As a consumer brand, it is present in the form of five sub-brands: JW Marriott (classic luxury hotels), Marriott Hotels (the flagship brand of full-service hotels in the classic premium category), Marriott Vacation Club (classic premium timeshare properties in holiday destinations), Marriott Executive Apartments (classic longer stays) and Marriott Bonvoy (a loyalty programme), as well as a number of endorsed brands such as Courtyard by Marriott or Springhill Suites by Marriott. Some of the brands belonging to the Marriott portfolio still carry legacy endorsement from Sheraton (e.g., Four Points by Sheraton). Under the corporate Marriott brand, there are a number of sub-brands which do not use the Marriott branding, only its shadow endorsement, for example, St. Regis, Westin or W Hotels. In this respect, Marriott’s brand architecture differs from that of its biggest competitor, Hilton, which endorses all its brands- with the exception of only two ultra-luxury labels (Waldorf Astoria and Conrad).


Marriott International (the corporate brand) promotes five values that guide the company’s culture (focus on people, pursuit of excellence, change, integrity and social responsibility[2]. The one that is given the biggest prominence in Marriott’s communications is its focus on people, particularly its employees. This approach stems from the belief (shared also by Virgin) that happy employees will take better care of customers (“take care of associates and they will take care of the customers”[3]). Matthew Von Ertfelda, former VP of Insight, Strategy & Innovation said: “We attribute a lot of our success to actually having a higher purpose, and our higher purpose as a company is to transcend travel to transform lives by putting people first”[4].


Marriott Hotels (the consumer brand) is positioned as the flagship Marriott brand – a mainstream proposition in the classic premium category. As such, it targets a wide audience and doesn’t have a clear brand or product differentiator like other, more well-defined brands in the Marriott portfolio (e.g., the way Westin focuses on wellness and well-being or W Hotels represent distinctive design and a “cutting-edge lifestyle”). Currently, the key benefit of the Marriott Hotel brand is defined as “providing sophisticated spaces and experiences that keep the mind balanced, sharp and inspired”[5].


Marriott’s messaging and advertising style can be assigned to a few brand archetypes but the most relevant one is the Caregiver. The brand applies a warm and soothing tone of voice and emphasizes its focus on taking care of people in communications.

Most important campaigns

1. “Where Can We Take You?” (2021)

2. “The Marriott Bonvoy App” (2019)

3. “Human | Golden Rule” (2017)

4. “Reinventing The Hotel Experience | Future Stay” (2017)

5. “French Kiss Official Trailer” (2015)

Official brand statement:

Marriott International:
At Marriott, we never stop searching for inventive ways to serve our customers, provide opportunities for our associates, and grow our business. The company that began as a nine-seat A&W root beer stand is recognized today as a top employer and for its superior business operations, which it conducts based on five core values: put people first, pursue excellence, embrace change, act with integrity, and serve our world.[6]

Marriott Hotels:
Provides sophisticated spaces and experiences that keep the mind balanced, sharp and inspired.[7]

Interesting facts:

Marriott was the first hotel company in the world to enable its customers to make reservations online; it launched the first online booking service in 1995.[8]


1. Ad Age on the “Where Can We Take You?” campaign
A. Pasquarelli, “Marriott Debuts Biggest Global Campaign Yet As Travel Rebounds”, Ad Age, Jun 2021, 

2. Marketing Week on Marriott Bonvoy
M. Fleming, “Inside The Launch Of Marriott’s New Loyalty Programme”, Marketing Week, Feb 2019,

3. Interview with Toni Stoecki, Marriott Global Brand Leader & VP
I. Alimonti, “Interview: Inside Marriott’s Hotel Innovation Strategy”, PSFK, Mar 2018,

4. All Marriott brands explained
D. Ting, “Every One Of Marriott’s 30 Hotel Brands, Explained”, Skift, Sep 2016,


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