Generating Innovative Ideas in a Pandemic: Marriott Bonvoy Innovates for Remote Workers


During a time of mass disruption, companies need to step out of survival mode and innovate for their customers, no matter how challenging that is.

I recently returned from a motorcycle vacation throughout the southeast U.S. It was a magical trip with multiple destinations from the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina and Cherahola skyway to Ocoee River Gorge in Tennessee and Little River Canyon in Alabama. While planning each stop, I was surprised to find 2-star hotels from companies like Hilton and Marriott charging up to $180 a night in most small towns on our route. 

That’s 30-40 percent above average rates for this time of year.

Nine months into the pandemic, that’s not surprising. The hospitality industry is still struggling with the overall decline in travel. Like millions of business owners, I know firsthand what it’s like to have to pivot a business during a time when the future is still very uncertain.

I still remember that day back in March when our CEO, Matt Dieter, walked into the RIDG office and told me his wife, Dawna, had heard through the grapevine that Marriott was planning to lay off 80 percent of its staff across the state of Florida. News about COVID-19 cases was just starting to spread in the U.S., and businesses had yet to shut down on a massive scale. Still, this was my signal something different was happening. Later that same night, the NBA canceled its season indefinitely after a player tested positive for the virus. By this point, my mind was convinced the world was closing.

Reimagining a business strategy was impossible when the unimaginable was happening. The next business day, we began our pivot. From March 12th onward, we all worked from home. Working from home meant home life was happening around me, and I was exposed to more background noise (TV commercials). I had a general sentiment: DO NOT SELL TO ME. No yoga pants or cars and indeed not anything that felt second to saving my life, which was just about every product out there. 

In my view, nobody wanted to be sold to or advertised to. Nobody was interested in new business innovation ideas. People just wanted to feel safe, to stay alive, and companies were just trying to make ends meet. That constant state of survival can make it incredibly difficult to develop innovative ideas. But those ideas are what customers need now more than ever.

Today, things are different. Businesses are beginning to pivot and adapt. Sports are back on TV. Companies are getting used to managing a remote workforce. Businesses are planning for 2021 and coming up with new business innovation ideas around what the world needs today. 

Marriott Bonvoy, for example, has innovated a program for remote employees looking for a change of scenery at one of their hotels. This is an example of innovation that requires a company not only to reinvent what it means to stay at a hotel but allow customers to book for the experience they want the most, some time away from the day-to-day. By stepping out of survival mode, Marriott Bonvoy’s team could generate new innovative ideas for what their customers need at the moment in time.

Towards the end of my trip, I stayed at a Marriott Renaissance hotel near the Atlanta Airport. It was a “treat” as the 4-star hotel hit on all the experience triggers I was looking for: creative, curious, and luxurious. Travel is not just for business or pleasure anymore. “Getting away” is not something people have to save up for. When I learned about Marriott’s new program, I thought to myself, “This is a company that’s ready for a comeback, ready to invite you back into their world.” Most importantly, they’re doing it in a way that will fit you, the end customer, and what you need now. Bravo Bonvoy, bravo.

Learn more about RIDG’s customized innovation process, which guarantees scalable product or service design and continuously identifies increased revenue opportunities. From the customer experience journey to inspiring new ways to package everything you already have, we can help your team unlock new business value. 

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