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Hyatt is changing a lot of things around in their loyalty program, World of Hyatt, which has garnered mixed reviews. However, even the most widely questioned (and derided) alteration seems to be part of a very reasonable plan.
Things Are Changing
On March 1st, Hyatt’s loyalty program, Hyatt Gold Passport, will be replaced by a new program, called World of Hyatt. The changes have been widely covered already, so I won’t go into detail here. But since the announcement of the new status tiers, there’s been one persistent and unanswered question: what was Hyatt thinking with the new names?!
To recap the tier changes, Hyatt is going from two tiers to three, upping the benefits and requirements for attaining top-tier status (most notably removing the option to qualify on stays, instead requiring nights or “base points,” which is code for a minimum spend), and introducing “Club lounge access awards” (lounge-level upgrades) for the middle tier. But the most perplexing change to many is how the new tiers are named.
Hyatt’s old program had two tiers: Platinum and Diamond. These are familiar status tier names, as many programs use precious metals (like Marriott), gemstones (like oneworld), or a mix (like Hilton) to indicate relative status. But Hyatt’s new tiers won’t be named after valuable materials. In ascending order of status, they’ll be named Discoverist, Explorist, and Globalist. The question is, WHY?
When asked about the names and rebranding in his Ask Me Anything (AMA) style interview on reddit, Jeff Zidell, the Senior Vice President for Loyalty at Hyatt, said, “we think of World of Hyatt as a window into the people, places and stories that make up each of our guest’s unique lives.” One could point out that “people” and “places” are pretty fundamental to the hotel business no matter who you are, but that last word, “stories,” gives us a clue.
Let’s look at this from Hyatt’s perspective for a second. With the recent acquisitions of Kimpton (by IHG), FRHI/Fairmont (by Accor), and Starwood (by Marriott), Hyatt is arguably the only independent multinational player left in the world of all-upscale hotel brands. That leaves them with a challenge: how to compete against competitors that can offer massive footprints. But it also leaves them with an opportunity: being newly unique, they can brand themselves as such and play to the advantages their position confers.
So Hyatt has been on a mission to differentiate and distinguish itself (especially among frequent travelers who value experience and treatment over the convenience of thousands more properties to choose from). Discarding the now-common tier names, which really only convey relative value, was probably a no-brainer for Hyatt. “Everyone else is doing metals and stones? Fine. We’ll make this about people instead.” To me, this thinking makes perfect sense.
This is where that key word comes in: “story.” Allow me to pretend to be a Hyatt marketing guru (or, as they would call it, an Explainist) for a paragraph:
“World of Hyatt’s new tiers tell a story–actually, TWO stories. It’s the story of an individual person, and in a larger sense, the story of humanity. In our infancy, we were in one place, unaware it was not the only place. A room, a building, a town, a family, a corner of a continent. But we grew up, and we began to discover that our place was not the only place. We wandered into new neighborhoods, investigated new cities, floated down rivers and across seas just to see what was there, and landed on distant shores. And from there, our purpose was clear. To explore these new places. To uncover hidden gems, meet new people, make new friends, try new foods, to find both new adventure and quiet relaxation. But where is our ultimate destination? Everywhere. For the true explorers, the journey doesn’t end until you’ve seen it all, until you’ve circled the globe and come home again to rest. It’s the story of every curious child, and the story of our bravest ancestors. We discover. We explore. We traverse the globe and see the world. And at Hyatt, we want to be part of the journey. So welcome to the world…and to the World of Hyatt.”
In my mind, that’s what they’re saying, or at least trying to say (so far, it would seem, somewhat unsuccessfully). It certainly would go hand-in-hand with the messaging in this promotional video shared by Mr. Zidell. Hyatt wants to position itself not as a place to crash after you have amazing experiences, but as a provider of hotels that can become PART of those experiences and enhance them.
And that, I believe, is where Discoverist, Explorist, and Globalist come from.
[PS – As to why “Explorist” and not “Explorer,” I can think of three possibilities: (1) Explorer’s twin-R sound is a bit clunky and doesn’t roll of the tongue; (2) they started with globalist and wanted to keep the endings consistent for branding purposes, and “Explorist” sounded better than “Globaler”; or (3) they’re about to introduce an amazing animated spokes-character called “Doris the Explorist.” It’s probably #2, but I’m really hoping for #3…]