Ritz-Carlton introduced a brand refresh this past week with a new look, logo and voice. While the luxury hospitality experience that defines the brand has evolved throughout the years, this is the first time in its 32-year history that its visual and verbal identity has changed. The official press release defines the launch as “Timeless legacy demands attention to build relevance for the next generation of luxury consumers,” and the actual visual changes are distinctively subtle.
In the brand logo, the hierarchy flips with “The Ritz-Carlton” getting more space, set in all caps and a heavier weight, while the legendary lion has receded, less densely, above. The new brand voice is really a refreshed design language. Simple, typographic moments washed in a new, delicate shade of blue that they call ‘memorable.’ Memorable, perhaps, because it evokes the aesthetic of another familiar and respected luxury brand: Tiffany & Co. (Blue boxes, black serif fonts—it’s impossible not to go there.)
As an aside, the Ritz-Carlton “memorable blue” does have its own legacy, and a lovely one at that. A story starting when wealthy Bostonians imported windows from Europe in the 1920s, and the New England air turned them from clear to blue. Blue became a color representative of taste and luxury, the color of the ballroom chandelier in the very first Ritz-Carlton hotel, the color that inspired this refresh.
Ritz-Carlton does have its own legacy too—and it had to be protected even as its identity shifted. A legacy founded firmly in the hospitality industry, its influence felt in service delivery far and wide. Around the world, Ritz-Carlton is a living case study for customer(guest)-centricity. That hasn’t changed, according to Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Ed French, who says “If we don’t evolve to reflect the changing priorities of how the guests we serve are living their lives, we won’t be living up to our purpose and values as an organization.”
The new identity by Pentagram aims to “clarify, simplify, and amplify” the customer experience from a usability standpoint. From what they’ve revealed so far, that means minimalist statements that serve as cues, not content. They’re pulling back to push forward, or as the brand puts it, its new expression is “distinctive, desirable and timeless” — a brand voice, if you will, with very few words.
Overall, the update feels decidedly different than the benevolent for-the-user tweaks that we’ve see recently from brands like Google, Verizon, Facebook and Airbnb. It’s streamlining for style, rather than usability and flexibility, at least in what we’ve seen so far. And even the “for the next generation of luxury consumers” declaration is later interpreted from a leadership angle, “As an iconic brand that it is our responsibility to provide thought leadership to drive change in the luxury and hospitality arena.”
The true test of this brand will be how it’s activated. And with new properties under development right now, it will be revealing to see how the new brand logo and brand voice come to life in their guest experiences. How it changes (or doesn’t) the service that is so distinctively Ritz-Carlton. So while this launch quietly rolls out, we’ll watch and wait, and see what’s next for the guest.
Corey Lewis is a writer and consultant in New York who is really bad at talking about herself in the third person. Follow her @hewey_lewey on Twitter.