Rebranding an American icon

Visit any Holiday Inn in 2010 and notice the same familiar lobby scent and music, bed pillows, shower curtain and blue exterior lighting. Even the breakfast meats will taste the same. And the buildings all will have a fresh new grass-green logo, affirming their identity as a relaunched Holiday Inn.

From its start in 1952 and for several decades, Holiday Inn had been the safe bet for family road trips. It promised a clean and affordable room, an outdoor pool, a tasty restaurant. It was easily accessible off interstate exits. Travelers could find a Holiday Inn almost anywhere.

But somewhere amid fast franchising efforts, brand ownership changes, loosened standards and dozens of new competitors, the iconic brand became a has-been. And so in October 2007, its Atlanta-based owner, InterContinental Hotels Group, announced plans to spend $1 billion through 2010 to make over the brand. That would include the renovation or construction of 3,400 Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels worldwide, and the disenfranchisement of nearly 1,500 underperforming ones. The plan would require every hotel owner in the system to meet a new set of exterior, lobby, room, food and customer service standards before earning the right to don the new logo and signs.

More than 2,500 hotels have made the changes so far – including all 18 Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

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