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HB Exclusive: White Lodging Rebrands in Response to Growth, New Company Direction

MERRILLVILLE, IN—Success knows no boundaries. Passion works here. These are two taglines that embody the rebranding efforts of White Lodging, which officially launched today.

Chris Anderson, the company’s SVP and chief revenue officer, told Hotel Business that the reason for the rebranding stemmed from White Lodging Services’ robust growth. With 165 hotels in its portfolio, the locally based company will open 17 hotels in the next 18 months. With that pace, it will need to hire some 4,000 employees in the next 24 months. And attracting and retaining good employees requires being a place and a culture they want to be a part of.

In doing its market research, the company discovered it was best known for operational excellence. “That’s what we’re known for—operating great hotels,” said Anderson. And while that’s a fantastic thing to be known for, the research pointed out that there was one term that wasn’t used to describe the company both internally and externally—innovative. But, said Anderson, as the company delved into its past, it realized it was a company of firsts. “We were the first ones to have a franchised Fairfield Inn from Marriott 35 years ago. We were the first hotel company to put a dual-brand together in the Courtyard Residence Inn Austin Downtown. Since then, we’ve done the first triplex,” he said. “We are an innovative company, but in the past, quite frankly, we just haven’t told that story. We didn’t really do a good job telling the world who we were, and so part of our rebranding is to let people know we’re hip and innovative, as well as being really great at operating hotels.”

The owner/operator also wants the industry to know it’s kicking the convention hotel management side of the business into high gear. “We’ve been so focused on our own growth, that part of the rebranding is that we are aggressively going to be in the management business for large, convention hotels,” said Anderson. “We want management contracts, and we also want to insert ourselves into the convention space.” He noted that the company has experience in the convention space, with properties like the JW Marriott in Indianapolis and Austin, and “not many people are in that game.”

He added, “That’s different for us because we’ve said no in the past to some larger contracts. We wanted to focus on our own stuff, but we’re now big enough where want to own hotels and we want to manage for others.”

As part of its rebranding, the company has a new logo, website, multimedia content and overall messaging. For example, a brand anthem video has been attached to its website, which gives a summary of the company and what it’s about, from its 1,000-room hotels to the 150-room Moxy it’s building. “We can get people fired up and passionate,” said Anderson.

Last week, White Lodging presented at its GMs conference “making sure our GMs understood they work for one of the most innovative, fastest-growing, trendsetting, forward-looking companies in America,” said Anderson. “We’re going to be doing activation with the website where we’re going to take these ‘Passion works here’ stories from property levels. They’ve got a venue or portal where they can be heard and tell their story, and it’ll automatically come up through the website.”

The site, he noted, was a big part of the rebranding, as White Lodging wanted something more modern and contemporary. “The old one was static and the pictures were yearbook style. Even though we’re a diverse organization, we weren’t showing it that way,” he said.

And that was a problem because the company needs to hire 4,000 new employees in the next 24 months and the first place potential employees go is a company website. “Our website didn’t inspire anyone to want to work for that company. They get the fact that there might be some great opportunities because we’re growing, but they couldn’t tell what the culture was, they couldn’t tell what we’re about, they didn’t understand our social responsibility, how innovative we are,” he said. “We think this new site is a better portal in which to get the best of the best to call us.”

And, Anderson said, it’ll also be a means to retain the 12,000 employees the company already has. “Retention is a difficult task,” he said. “We want them to be able to be engaged with the company and at the same time attract new people. Part of the launch was the website, brand anthem video, and a full year of activation of these new hotels coming out.”

So where did the taglines come from? “Our chairman’s [Bruce White] philosophy is this: I want to create a company that will last forever, enabling success for everyone to win,” he said. “We want people to come to work here that will stay forever. People, especially millennials, will tell you what they want: it’s got to be a place that has similar values to their own and it has to have some cachet. It’s got to mean something, which means its reputation out in the street and digitally has to be one they can be proud of.

We allow your success to grow at many different levels,” Anderson continued. “’Success knows no boundaries’ truly means that. We get we’re not living in a world where your dad works for Ford for 40 years and retires. People get tired of doing the same thing. The message for us: there are no boundaries. You can go from culinary to front office, from sales to restaurants, and you can go across the country. With 165 hotels across the country, if you want to move to Austin, we have 30 hotels in Austin. We want them to know we support the movement, we support the training because we truly believe we can have a place for you to be with White Lodging for 30 years.

“The other tagline we work with is ‘Passion works here.’ Millennials want to work someplace where they can bring their passion to work and bringing that passion actually helps them be successful,” he continued. “What we’re doing, from a grassroots standpoint, is we’re having all of the associates tell their stories, and as they tell their stories, it might be an Instagram post that fuels up through our website. Everyone can tell what is it about what they do that they really love and we want them to bring that to light and we want them to know we support that to bring their passion to life. When people do that, they’re happy, and when people are happy, it makes for great guest service, and great guest service means the guest will come back. It’s just a great formula.”

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