Photo: Anna Bratiychuk

A powerful new narrative for a household name


When Marriott International inherited Sheraton as part of its 2016 acquisition of Starwood Hotels, they knew they needed to do something more than merely refresh the 80-year-old service brand: They needed to transform it completely. Nearly 1 in 10 premium hotel rooms around the world belong to Sheraton, yet much to the dismay of its investors, developers and operators, the brand had become generic. And after three years of fruitless revitalization attempts, the brand team realized it needed to use different methods.


Sheraton hired Humanise, led by L’Institut Idée, to unlock the emotional DNA behind the brand through its proprietary Structural Mapping Process® (SMP) approach. The SMP exercise involved team members from every functional area across multiple continents. When coupled with qualitative research into consumer perceptions of the brand and brand category, Sheraton’s new “map” served as key input to inform strategic workshops bringing together a cross-functional client team. These workshops resulted in a daring new positioning for the brand as “The Modern Public Square” – an enabler of community and togetherness as an antidote to social division and isolation. This new notion was then developed into a powerful new brand narrative and revealed through an essence video that would align and inspire all stakeholder groups.


The new positioning, narrative and essence video debuted at the global developers conference and were met with enthusiastic, unanimous approval. Owner groups and employees alike have called this “the new meaning behind Sheraton that we’ve all been waiting for.” And it now informs billions of dollars of renovations, new builds and marketing activities across five continents.

Moral of the story

Big and ubiquitous isn’t enough. You have to stand for something that matters in today’s era.