Do you have a reservation? Name review of Donald Trump’s new Scion Hotels


Donald J. Trump, a man who needs no introduction, is gearing up to launch a new line of hotels in 2017. They’re called “Scion Hotels.”

The most conspicuous part of the name is actually an absence… where’s the T word?
Why not give some nod to the name Trump, which has been the cornerstone of Donald’s entire brand (and brand naming strategy) for his entire life?

Some were speculating that this is because Mr. Trump’s name has been sullied. After all, the enormous Trump Place apartment complex in Manhattan just announced that it will be removing the Trump name as soon as this week after more than 600 residents signed an online petition to the landlord. Plus, several travel sites have stated that occupancy at Trump hotels has been down since he declared his candidacy, though the Trump organization refutes that.

However, it doesn’t appear that consumer anger at the man who carries the name is the reason for its absence in the new hotel line. Consider that even if only 40-something percent of the electorate are loyal supporters of Trump, that’s an enormous consumer base to sell to — any brand would kill for that type of following. And lest we forget, the median household income of a Trump supporter (in the primaries) was $72K a year – that’s some serious buying power in most of the country. Yes, Trump’s brand has evolved, and his newer ventures have to reflect that.

The primary reason the Trump name is absent is kind of boring: he already has a line of luxury hotels with his name on them. Trump’s business advisors don’t want there to be any confusion between the extremely expensive Trump hotels and this more moderately priced brand (though at $200-$300 per night, these rooms are not what I usually think of as mid-price). Ensuring that a sub-brand is distinct from the parent is smart marketing.

Scion means “a descendant of a wealthy family,” and therefore suggests that this brand is an offshoot of the existing Trump hotel line, and also cleverly conveys luxury without being absolutely top of the line. Further, I would argue that Scion actually does play into the global Trump brand, despite the absence of the Trump name.

It’s hard not to think of Scion as also referring to Trump himself, who, though his personal wealth has vastly surpassed that of his family by now, was/is a scion (and famously received a million dollar loan from his father which started his empire). This allows the hotel chain to be completely divorced from the existing luxury brand, but still feel a part of the Trump universe, which is all about opulence and flash.

Beyond that, the Scion name is reminiscent of the other short, punchy names of new “lifestyle” hotel lines that have been created by the major hotel players in the last five years, like Hyatt Centric, Best Western Glo, Best Western Vib, Hilton Tru, Radisson Blu and Red, Marriott Moxy, but it isn’t quite as annoyingly trendy-feeling. I like that.

For some, the word scion may carry a hint of prodigality. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Scion doesn’t have the temperament to be a leader in the hotel world, but there’s a small part of me that thinks “wasting money” when I hear scion. Or at least, I think that a scion is usually not deserving the wealth, not having earned it themselves. Wasting money isn’t a good connotation when trying to get people to pay a little more for something.

Another negative for this name is the word’s obscurity. Many mid-range consumers will not be familiar with it and find no meaning there other than a vague recollection of science. They also may not know how to pronounce it, which is a tremendous challenge when building brand equity.

And what about Scion the car? You may recall that Toyota rolled out this line of compact cars in 2003. The product never gained traction with younger consumers, to whom it was marketed, however, and the company announced in August that it would be discontinuing the brand. There may be some negative associations now while the marque’s demise is in the news, but in the long run, the hotel should be able to make the name its own. (In general, Catchword advises clients not to reject a possibly fantastic brand name solely because it is being used in a different space.)

Will the public like Scion because of, or in spite of, its Trump connection? Certainly, any brand associated with the president-elect will be unpopular with a large chunk of the U.S., but hey, like the presidency, a brand’s name is not decided by popular vote.


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