Tru by Hilton: a millennial brand?

Hilton's Tru brand will launch later in 2016 and appears to be primarily targeted at millennials (Photo: © Hilton Worldwide)

Hilton's Tru brand will launch later in 2016 and appears to be primarily targeted at millennials (Photo: © Hilton Worldwide)

Last week, Hilton announced Tru by Hilton, a new brand coming later in 2016 that will be "cost-conscious" but fun, a gap that Hilton feels is a "massive void." According to  Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO, Hilton Worldwide, Tru will seek to address an underserved customer segment demanding these features in a hotel brand:

Tru by Hilton...will serve the largest segment of the hotel market, but a segment where no brand is meeting guests’ current needs. Tru will provide guests with a high-quality, contemporary, consistent and fresh experience at a great value for customers, while at the same time delivering strong returns to our owners.”
— "Hilton Worldwide Changes the Game with a Revolutionary New Midscale Brand" - Hilton Worldwide press release

The release has all the standard marketing buzzwords from which I usually glean little. What is more useful are two videos, one outlining Tru's brand position and another providing a virtual tour of a property. (Nod to One Mile at a Time for posting these.)

All I can say is....wow. The brand essence video is a hot mess. I did see some things I liked, but I was also turned off in the dumbed-down overt appeal to millennials. 

Is Tru Hilton's response to SPG's Aloft?

Tru makes me really think of SPG's Aloft brand. Both have contemporary design, a round check-in desk, stations with foods for purchase, bright colors and lobby areas that promote socialization and include games. However, Tru feels a bit downscale by comparison but that is not unexpected for a value-priced brand. The room appears a bit spare even for a contemporary scheme. However, I have not found Aloft to be squarely in the value segment. 

With the exception of my stay in Charleston, SC, I have found Aloft to be priced a little higher than average. That leaves me wondering how Tru will compare in terms of the overall stay experience since it will have to be more cost-efficient to make lower price points work. Will that requirement leave the brand feeling cheap? You can't read too much into look and feel from a 3D-model so we will have to see how guests review Tru properties. Would I consider staying at Tru? Absolutely, but I won't lie that the millennial targeting decreases the appeal somewhat.

Does Tru assume millennials are shallow and unsophisticated?

I think when people talk about ‘millennials’ they mean like, around 20ish/late teens or something and not 5 year olds.
— Comment from ZombaXIII, "Tru Brand Essence" YouTube video

I think the comment by user ZombaXIII on the "Tru Brand Essence" YouTube video sums up the unintended marketing message for the new brand: millennials' tastes and sophistication is on par with children. Some of the colors and decorative graphics in the hotel made me think of a daycare center. I found the truncated three-letter words to be fairly mindless. In general, I was left the impression that Hilton was trying too hard to be "hip." I get that they want to position Tru as a "fun" brand. However, including seniors in the video behaving as if they were 22 does not say "fun" to me. Rather, it says "they look ridiculous."

Is this what an elevator lobby would look like in a daycare center? (Photo: © Hilton Worldwide)

Is this what an elevator lobby would look like in a daycare center? (Photo: © Hilton Worldwide)

Hilton does not seem to grasp that there are more ways to have fun and be energetic than the way of a single generation. Similarly, some tastes of a generation are not universal. Though some hotel chains seem to think millennials don't want a desk, not even all millennials agree. Others have written of how the lack of a traditional desk is a major turnoff for a property or brand. That notwithstanding, Tru appears to remove the traditional desk in favor of some flat-surface far too small to be a proper desk that attaches to the wall. The obvious targeting of millennials results in the Tru brand essence falling flat. As a non-millennial, I like the general concept but I see many aspects of the property "annoying" instead of "fun." The bottomline is that Hilton is obviously positioning this brand to millennials - in a poorly executed, unsophisticated manner - but is hedging its bets with an disingenuous nod to non-millennials. The result is a campaign that feels ill-suited to millennials and non-millennials alike. 

While I am not a fan of the marketing, I am intrigued by the brand and would be willing to give it a chance. Whether I would return would depend on if the deficiencies in the design and decor overwhelm the value of a lower price,


Posted on February 2, 2016 and filed under Hotels.