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It's a Whole New Country

Country Inns & Suites executives unveiled an entirely new look and feel for the 25 year old brand last night. Here’s what it looks like.

Monday, March 18, 2013
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After nearly two years of behind the scenes planning, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group unveiled its plans for Country Inns & Suites by Carlson. And the brand is about to undergo an extensive transformation in order to better reflect the current and emerging needs of today’s discerning consumers.

The big gamble: Completely reinvent the brand without it seeming the brand is being entirely reinvented. That is, broaden the appeal of Country Inns & Suites to attract more consumers without alienating current clientele.

Essentially the company is looking to attract two groups previously elusive to them; male business travelers and Generation Y travelers who are becoming an increasingly important part of the guest mix.

“We will establish a clear and compelling positioning,” said Scott Meyer, Senior Vice President Midscale Hotel Brands, Americas with Carlson Rezidor. We will deliver on operational touch points, accelerate development and win the revenue battle.”

And for the folks at Carlson Rezidor this Generation 4 design that means a near wholesale reinvention of the brand with the hope it still retains the DNA and warmth of previous brand iterations. There’s a new logo, a new outdoor visual scheme and a rejiggering of everything inside from the looks of the guest rooms to newly designed public zones.

“Like any business we cannot stand still and must evolve to meet the changing needs of guests. We must be competitive today and be ready for tomorrow,” said Jim Grimshaw, Senior Director, Brand Program Development and Standards, Midscale Hotel Brands, Americas.

“We are all in this together,” said Gordon McKinnon, EVP & Chief branding Officer, Carlson. We are changing the business mix and looking to broaden the appeal [of Country] and when you do that you are looking to create a more profitable business, which is why we are here in the first place.

“We truly understand what Country means to you. This is what we need to do and when we need to do it. Everything is thoughtfully considered and proven. We are hoteliers at heart and believe in hospitality. We are in this together let’s do this together as well,” continued McKinnon, who reminded Country owners and hotel managers Carlson Rezidor owns hotels too before adding the brand will retain the same positioning to guests and the same cost structure to owners. However, McKinnon believes the ROI “will be so much better.”

Here’s what to expect with the new Generation 4 Country Inns and Suites:

Properties will forge more of a connection between the indoors and outdoors while also enhancing colors, materials, lighting and attention to detail, said Grimsaw.

Grimshaw said there will be greater visual interest on the outside of the hotel. For example, bringing in contrasting regional specific exterior colors paired with elements of warmth created by timber and layers of stone. At night there will be relaxing and comforting exterior lighting.

The front porch gathering place is now known as The Veranda and will feature fire pits and ivy covered pergolas.

Inside, public areas have been reorganized to be more operationally friendly with better site lines for staff and the back of house has been consolidated to minimize footsteps. Guests will now get to enjoy the Living Room, a two story area which will be bathed in natural light and feature seating of varied heights and flashes of color.

Guests will get their hot breakfasts in The Servery, which press materials call a modern take on a country kitchen, while The Breakfast Room is a multi-use space where guests will eat in an area designed to highlight residential spaces.

The Den will be home to a fireplace, business center and comfortable seating meant for people to have a quiet chat or read a book, for example.

Guestrooms will see a new look as well that will see design elements introduced, including a signature timber headboard. And other simple furnishings with fresh wood tones will be featured but not necessarily immediately required. Carlson Rezidor executives said they understand the cost of furnishings and they will be replaced at the end of their natural life cycle. There will also be a choice of new bed treatments such as triple sheeting with bed scarf or a soft lightweight duvet color with a “touch of urban appeal,” said Grinshaw. In the bathroom there will be spa touches such as a spa sink, and signature tiled wall.

And for new hotels there will only be three room types.

Aurora Toth, VP, Marketing, Midscale Hotel Brands, Americas said it was time to evolve the brand, including its logo which she said felt dated. The new logo retains certain features of the classic log while making it more contemporary in style. “Our current identity doesn’t resonate well with male business travelers,” she said about the now retired visual cues prompted by the old logo. “The new logo retains warmth and approachability but with a refreshed, streamlined look that is contemporary and classic.”

When testing the new visual identity with consumer focus groups made up of current customers and those that stay at competing brands, 73 percent gave it a positive rating while 12 percent were neutral and 15 percent negative.

The new branding was launched overnight last night.

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