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Could the Holiday Inn brand of the past be the key to their future?

Could the Holiday Inn brand of the past be the key to their future?

During a recent stay at a Holiday Inn we spotted these framed images in the lobby including a photo of the original Holiday Inn branding from its opening in 1952. The strong mid-century design references made us reflect on the current Holiday Inn design approach and how, whilst they are referencing the origin of the brand, they are potentially missing a big trick by not fully embracing this valuable and distinctive asset. The Holiday Inn business and brand has transformed from a small Motel to a multi-international corporate brand, and is now very much one of the leading global, affordable, business-standard overnight stays.

But, with so much competition and differentiation becoming more and more important we wonder, when looking ahead, if Holiday Inn should take this one step further and embrace their history using these design milestones and references of the past to further distinguish themselves amongst other affordable options, who will no doubt look at ways to stand out. In the UK alone there is a little to distinguish a Holiday Inn between a Travelodge or a Premier Inn, other than price, and Premier Inn appear to hold the top spot with value and standards. How many of Holiday Inn's competitor brands have the benefit of this unique history and origin? Are they maximising on the opportunity they have with their brand together with the design surrounding their offer...?

It can be very productive for companies to take inspiration from, or even revisit, their past branding identities. Just look at Coca-Cola's can design and you'll see references back to it's origin. This can help to reconnect with customers and establish fresh angles of business growth, on a much deeper level and evoke a sense of nostalgia whilst staying relevant in a constantly evolving marketplace.

IHG launched Holiday Inn's sister brand in 1990, Holiday Inn Express, a $8.3 billion gross revenue operation with 3,000 locations created to offer business travellers budget accommodation, keeping prices low by offering reduced options of service and doesn’t have leisure facilities as a brand standard. For the main Holiday Inn hotels, a $5.2 billion gross revenue operation sitting at around 1,100 locations, the focus is very much around a full-service hotel for young couples and families with on-site restaurants and bars, room service and bell staff, as well as conference rooms and catering services – you’re also typically more likely to find swimming pools, spas and fitness centres at Holiday Inns. In 2007 Holiday Inn invested in a $1 billion rebranding initiative, which included the new logo. This was an interesting move for IHG as they've made a huge effort to clearly differentiate their audiences, but from personal experience the Holiday Inn brand still feels very corporate and business focussed with the ever changing landscape of the hospitality industry. Boutique hotels continue to be on the rise taking a bigger piece of the pie from the larger chains with customers wanting more personalised and unique experiences. This is where we feel the opportunity is for the Holiday Inn of the future. And if Holiday Inn Express want to retain this leading spot business travellers will naturally be lured away with offers that mix affordability with aesthetics and personalisation.

The original Holiday Inn branding is iconic and instantly recognisable with it's mid-century design aesthetics including neon signs, retro colour palettes and interior design pieces. It is also associated with a time of optimism and travel. Motel regeneration and revamps are on the up turning, once cheap overnight stays, into boutique retreats. By revisiting this brand personality and style, Holiday Inn could tap into these positive emotions and appeal to both existing and wider audiences, looking for a different kind of holiday to the business traveller. There is of course a balance to get right here but that's the role of the creative teams involved to approach this in the right manner and ensure every decision made is based on the interests of the target audience and their needs, whilst importantly contrasting what the competition are doing and how they do it.

It's important when revisiting a previous iteration of a brand to ensure this is refreshed appropriately to work in the current times, together with the digital landscape, and ensure it won't look dated or out of place and feel like a natural evolution. Most importantly that the change is relevant and engages with the target audience.

We at Motel would love to see Holiday Inn reconsider it's overly corporate approach, instead taking inspiration from their past and returning to it's routes once again embracing design in a fresh and innovative way. As long as this is done in a strategic and business objective manner – a project we'd love to get our teeth into at Motel!

What are your thoughts on the Holiday Inn brand vs the past and about companies taking inspiration from, or revisiting, their past branding identities?

We'd love to hear from historic brands and discuss how we can help make them more relevant today: +44(0)1843 621103 or

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