It’s old news by now, but in case you’ve been stuck in cave and have just learned that the shadows you saw were not an accurate representation of the world, Marriott rebranded their sensibly-named Marriott Rewards loyalty program as Marriott Bonvoy. I’ll wait here while you do the finger-down-the-throat pantomime for five straight minutes. I swear it seems like there’s a group of marketing/branding consulting firms who are daring each other to propose ever stupider ideas for stodgy hospitality companies, waiting for the idea that will finally get rejected by the likes of Marriott, Hyatt, etcetera. And that idea never comes, so the next batter up has to come up with something even more insane. It’s why five years from now IHG will announce that it is rebranding its loyalty program as follows…
Until IHG’s flashy “HDR” rollout, however, we are stuck with Bonvoy as the newest worst brand in the loyalty/hospitality space. If I wasn’t bored after spending 10 minutes subtly adjusting the text of “Hitler’s Dildo Rewards” to look like IHG’s standard font, I’d put together one of those memes with Marriott looking at Hyatt’s stupid loyalty tiers (Explorist, Discoverist, Globalist) and saying “Hold my beer.”
Plenty of blogs have pointed out the audacity of Marriott investing so much in the rollout of its new program while its integration of Marriott Rewards and SPG is shitting the bed left and right, but I’m going to point this out as well. I maybe wouldn’t care as much, except I recently spent almost an hour on the phone with Marriott trying to recover a bunch of SPG-era reservations that had disappeared from my online account and thrown errors when I tried to look them up using the confirmation number. And while I was on hold for 30+ minutes, every 90 seconds or so the hold music would be interrupted by a very enthusiastic voice telling me about how Bonvoy is coming on February 13th and how it’s going to be the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced. And every damn time, I thought the music was cutting out because a rep was finally picking up, but no… another Bonvoy commercial.
I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one that has dealt with this over the past couple weeks, which means that Marriott is actively making people hate Bonvoy by dripping that stupid recorded message about it onto their angry members water-torture-style. But it’s not just the fact that they’re focusing on flashy branding right now instead of fixing the numerous bugs in their program, it’s that the brand is so. goddamn. obnoxious.
Bastardization of French words didn’t work for Joon, an actual French brand that was pitched to appeal to millennials, so it’s entirely predictable that Marriott would announce that they’re adopting exactly the same strategy within a couple weeks of the announcement that Air France-KLM’s new CEO was pulling the plug on Joon. (RIP Joon… although you were good for some memes, I suppose.) It’s like they’re all reading from the same playbook, which is what makes their craven attempts to woo millennials so irritating.
You know how millennials are so self-centered, always snapping selfies with their selfie sticks and shit? Well on Marriott’s fancy website introducing Bonvoy, this is the first feature:
Centered on ME? IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE MADE A LOYALTY PROGRAM WITH ME AT THE CENTER, SINCE I’M A SELF-CENTERED MILLENNIAL!!! However, you may have heard that millennials care more about “experiences” (whatever that means) than material things. Don’t worry, though: Bonvoy’s got you covered there too. Here’s the third main feature of the program:
Oh thank god I’m going to be inspired with new experiences, I was afraid that this hotel loyalty program would earn me free nights at hotels, WHICH IS THE LAST THING I WANT, SINCE I’M A MILLENNIAL!!!
It’s almost as if they needed to make the name as vague as possible because they were afraid of being boring and actually tipping people off to the fact that they’re a loyalty program, rather than a nebulous collection of experiences that means nothing to anyone. Maybe the consultants told them that millennials really hate Saussurean linguistics, in which language is underpinned by signifiers (“Marriott Rewards”) and signifieds (“free hotel rooms”). Instead, they prefer poststructuralist critiques of structuralist linguistics in which the link between signifiers is open to disruption and questioning, such as by substituting familiar signifiers with idiotic nonsense words (“Bonvoy”) and smearing concrete signifieds into meaningless tropes (“experiences”). Yeah, that must be it.
But wait, it gets worse! There are all the SPG credit cards, remember? And those need to be renamed too, and the names absolutely have to be dumber than “Hilton Ascend” and “Hilton Aspire.” (It’s bad enough that I constantly confuse those two names, but Amex decided they had to make the cards almost identical too. Luckily that won’t be a problem here, as I’ll get to in a second.) As a result, the high-end SPG Luxury card will soon be renamed as — and it legitimately makes me nauseous to type this — the “Bonvoy Brilliant” card. The only way I can live with that is if I imagine a British person saying “Brilliant” sarcastically. Because the name “Bonvoy Brilliant” really is bloody brilliant.
I swear, we’re so far away from product titles that have a connection to anything concrete that I half expect these companies to start pulling from The Jabberwocky to fill their mad lib sheet of items that need to be renamed. At least I won’t have to worry about the Bonvoy Brilliant card looking identical to the standard Amex Bonvoy card, though, since that one is getting a new design by a famous artist. I’m so exhausted by this point, is it even worth asking why the fuck Amex (or Bonvoy, or some hellish Hydra combining the two) is paying to commission an artist to design a card that isn’t available to the public and will be discontinued soon, while the actual cards that you can apply for get generic Bonvoy branding?
The crazy thing is that the original artwork for the card was totally off-the-hook bananas, and apparently someone at Amex got scared of getting sued by Shepherd Faerie, so they pulled the design at the last minute and replaced it with that anodyne geometric design that you’ve probably seen already. I was poking around Amex’s website trying different URL extensions to see if I could find a page where the original artwork was still uploaded, and I actually managed to come up with something. Can you believe this? The only consolation to this whole Bonvoy Boondoggle would have been getting to have this nutsoid card in my wallet, but alas it was not to be. Bummer!
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