Tru By Hilton: A New Desk-Less “Millennial” Hotel Brand

When hotel chains come up with new brands, their direct goal isn’t to sell to consumers, but rather to sell to investors. After all, hotel chains just manage a vast majority of their properties, and don’t actually own them. Instead they get a percent of revenue, so they obviously have an incentive to create as many brands as possible.

It’s much easier to sell an investor on opening up the first property of a particular brand in a city, rather than opening a third Sheraton or fourth Hilton, for example. That also keeps existing properties they manage happier, because obviously they don’t want direct competition. When the Marriott and Starwood merger is complete, the two hotels will have 30 brands. 30. That’s sort of insane.

Brands-Marriott Brands-Starwood

Which brings us to Tru by Hilton, which is Hilton’s newly announced 13th brand. Hilton has already signed on 102 hotels to the brand, with 30 more in various stages of approval. That’s pretty impressive for a brand which has just been announced to the public.

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What is Tru by Hilton?

Before I share my thoughts, here’s an infographic about the brand:

Tru-Hotels-Hilton

Here’s the video about their “brand essence:”

And then here’s a virtual tour of one of their hotels:

Tru by Hilton is targeting those with a “millennial mindset:”

Hilton Worldwide today unveiled Tru by Hilton, a brand that is simplified, spirited and grounded in value, filling a massive void in the midscale category in the U.S. and Canada. Built from a belief that being cost conscious and having a great stay don’t have to be mutually exclusive, Tru by Hilton offers an experience unlike anything in its space, consistently delivered in a surprisingly affordable way.

The brand will appeal to a broad range of travelers who span generations but think alike; they are united by a millennial mindset – a youthful energy, a zest for life and a desire for human connection. No brand is meeting their needs in their price point today.

Here’s what Tru by Hilton explains as their “innovative features:”

  • The Hive, a first floor experience that’s more than a lobby – 2,770 square-feet of open space with unique ways for guests to engage with others or spend time alone – in one of four distinct zones for lounging, working, eating or playing.
  • The Play Zone, filled with table games, a large-screen TV (featuring DIRECTV), and tiered, stadium-inspired seating.
  • A centrally located Command Center – a re-envisioned front desk – featuring a social media wall with real-time content to foster engagement among guests, and a 24/7 market offering fun snacks and refreshments, single-serve wine and beer*, healthy light meal options and sundries for purchase.
  • A complimentary “Build Your Own” breakfast consisting of a toppings bar with 30 sweet and savory items allowing guests to customize bagels, donuts, Greek yogurt and oatmeal to satisfy their taste buds and cravings.
  • Smart and efficiently designed guest rooms full of the things that matter most – all-white comfortable platform beds, 55″ TVs, eight-foot wide windows, access to power everywhere, and surprisingly spacious bathrooms.
  • A fitness center that defines wellness trends, rather than follows them, with a concept focused on cardio, strength and flexibility.
  • A technology-forward mentality featuring segment-leading complimentary Wi-Fi bandwidth allowing guests to download and stream content on their devices, plentiful power sources, and mobile check-in, room selection and Digital Key available through the Hilton HHonors mobile app.
  • A collaboration with DIRECTV, offering guests more than 150 channels, like they have at home.
  • Rooms and linens cleaned by P&G Professional’s (NYSE: PG) top hospitality brands, including Tide® ProfessionalTM, Swiffer® ProfessionalTMand Febreze® ProfessionalTM to help enhance the guest experience and drive operational efficiencies.
  • A brand personality that’s full of life with a spirited culture grounded in a thoughtful, reliable and unflappable approach to guest service.

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My thoughts on Tru by Hilton

Hilton claims that Tru is “changing the game with a revolutionary midscale brand.” To me this seems like an Aloft Hotel with complimentary breakfast. As it stands, Hilton doesn’t really have a direct competitor to Aloft, so this seems to be their answer.

I’m not meaning to bash Hilton here, because I actually like the core of what they’re doing. I love the Aloft brand, because it’s modern, reasonably priced, and they do a great job managing expectations. They also do a good job of incorporating the amenities I value most.

And I see much of the same with Tru by Hilton, though they have free breakfast on top of that, which is great.

But what sort of annoys me is the stereotyping and impracticality of the brand. Am I the only one who is put off by the branding? Does everything have to be three letters? Does anyone like mindless phrases littered all over the lobby?

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I guess what borderline offends me about it is what Hilton thinks of us as consumers that makes them think these three letter phrases resonate with us? Does anyone walk into a property like this and say “oh, look at all these three letter words… this is totally my speed.” I don’t know, maybe I’m in the minority, as I’m sure they’ve done a lot of market research.

But here’s my real problem. The one thing I hate about Tru by Hilton is that their rooms won’t have desks. Which is ironic, since the infographic depicts someone working at a deskI wrote about this last month with Marriott, as they seem to be removing desks from many of their hotel rooms as well.

Tru-By-Hilton-2

I really don’t get it. Seemingly whenever hotels target millennials they remove desks from rooms. What does that say about what the major hotel brands think of millennials?

Bottom line

I think the core of this concept is a good one, as it’s basically an updated version of a Hampton Inn, and a competitor to Aloft Hotels. I do wish they’d tone down the branding a bit in terms of all the quotes and three letter phrases. Less is more.

But my real gripe is that Tru by Hilton rooms won’t have desks. For me that’s a deal killer, and I really don’t get what hotels are thinking with this trend.

What do you make of the Tru by Hilton concept?

Comments

  1. When I see those giant phrase stickers I feel sorry for you Millennials. Whoever is doing the marketing at Hilton does not think much of you.

    In their graphic there’s a guy working on a laptop at a desk. Presumably in one of the common areas since they won’t have them in rooms?

  2. I’m well past Millenial status but I rarely work at a desk in a hotel room. I’d prefer a sofa that’s cleaned periodically since I tend to slouch there and do my work. I do like a desk to use as a luggage rack if needed…

    Seems like less than 2 acres will make parking tight…

  3. Here’s the video about their “brand essence:”
    OK, Whoever made that piece of S*&T video and got paid to do it is laughing all the way to the bank with Hilton’s money, I’m only 32 and that video is a complete waste of time.

    I think Hilton are basically saying that anyone born after 1990 is a complete sucker and just likes to do everything on a phone and will just waste money at their terrible properties. This entire brand product just makes me feel insulted and they are saying all millennials are basically jumped up kids with money.

    I dunno…..

  4. @Bort, I totally agree – and was struck by the same guy at the “desk”, in shorts and a tuxedo jacket?

  5. My take on that meeting…

    “Millennials don’t need desks, they use ipads.”
    “Get this guys, let’s put in a chair with a stand for their ipads!”
    “High fives all around!”

  6. Ben, great analysis. I really like Aloft hotels, too, but I can’t imagine not having a desk. I tend to log in more than a few times to keep up with work while away. I don’t mind working from a coffee shop, but if I need quiet, I always go back to my room. I would never consider the lobby of a hotel as a decent work space, nor do I find most business centers helpful except for printing. A desk is such a standard hotel room feature…

  7. Maybe I’m an outlier millennial, but I would never stay at this brand. It seems to childish to me. I’m a young professional millennial with a consulting gig. I don’t need a foosball table in the lobby and I certainly need a desk in my room. I’m not one for sitting in the lobby, doing my work next to a breakfast bar.

    When traveling, I tend to stay with Renaissance. Many of their newer and recently refreshed properties have a trendy “wanderlust” vibe while still retaining a decent premium experience. That’s my style.

    Maybe I sound like a grumpy old man, but I just don’t want to be treated like a little kid when out on business or leisure travel.

  8. I think you are missing the price point and the target. This is not in the same price point as Aloft. This is in the same price point as La Quinta, Fairfield, or Best Western. According to Hilton, the average Hampton rate is $119. This will have an average rate below $90. I think it will attract families with young children who are finding the Hampton Inns becoming too pricey. I don’t think it will have a big impact on the biz travel crowd. Its like if Aloft became affordable. But, hey, the chair has a table attached!

  9. Millenials hate desks. All the market research says so. Apparently.

    Even though I do a lot of non desk work… Even a majority – when I newer a desk I need one, and this has driven my choice of brands.

    Inconsistent/poor desks and annoyingly cutesy, ever present, and overcooked branding actually did a lot to make me start avoiding hamptons. So I guess they are doubling down on that.

    Aloft gets it right. Simple, compact, but USABLE.

  10. But Hilton does already have a director competitor to Aloft – it’s called Home2 Suites. So this new concept is just basically a rehash of the Home2 concept, but with smaller rooms. At least the Home2 rooms do have a desk, though.

  11. Maybe the genius A team can removed beds and lobbies next and breakfast other than a toaster and pop tarts
    And get this only 90,000 points for a night @ Tru 🙂

  12. Lol. As a 23 year old, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, Tru feels like an upscale kids camp with a bit more privacy–a bit insulting. On the other, the teenager in me thinks this could be a lot of fun for leisure travel with my wife or a few buds. Let’s hope none of these properties cost more than 30,000 points per night. Otherwise, I’ll opt for any DT, HGI, or Hilton with a lounge. And free breakfast is nice, but as HH Diamond I’m sure it’s a serious step down from typical properties. I think this new brand is an overall C+. Bummer.

  13. One of my favorite features about the Aloft is the W XYZ bar. It provides a gathering place for guests in the lobby. It is interesting that Hilton decided to forego that and opt for a vending machine in its place when the whole vision of the brand is to create a space for bringing people together.

    That said, I would give Tru by Hilton a go if the price and location were right.

  14. I’m a millennial and I find the whole concept to be somewhat childish and insulting. I’ll stick to my regular Hyatt or Westin, thank you.

  15. Agree with others, as a working millennial, this is shit. I stopped the video half way through because it’s annoying as hell and completely lacks of any info (but tries to make up for it in colors, I suppose).

    And are they really touting 55 inch TVs and a junk food snack area to folks that don’t watch TV and choose the healthier options?

  16. 1. “luxury vinyl”? WTF? You can’t call toxic fecal matter “luxury” no matter how you spruce it up.

    2. Groutless shower – nice idea.

    3. No desks in office – I’m at the older end of millenial and I think this is a terrible idea. All the folks upthread talking about how they work at a sofa – wait till we’re all 45 and see what that did to (a) your back and (b) your ability to reproduce with your laptop sitting on your family jewels for 5 hours a day.

  17. This looks like an ibis style hotel by Accor: bright colors, modern interior, practical.
    I think they are going overboard with the loud stickers (which some ibis do, too) and I do like a functional desk. I bet their research was done in New York or San Francisco, pointing to people working at coffee shops or at trendy co-working spaces…
    Other than that, I’d take this over a stodgy Hampton any day…

  18. Just terrible. The most immature marketing I’ve seen. Looks like a kiddie-table hotel! Millennial’s don’t want to feel like they’re a cheesy subset of society. They had every opportunity to sex it up. Unfortunately Hilton will learn this the hard way.

    JRL

  19. I don’t think I’ve ever wished something to fail as much as this brand. Why would I want my hotel lobby look like my office? Bam! What’s wrong with calling a front desk, a front desk? POW!

    DIE, TRU, DIE!

  20. As a millennial I absolutely hate this idea, it reminds me much more of a hostel with individual rooms than a hotel. When I travel for business I (like Lucky) enjoy having a desk to sit and eat at, after getting back to the hotel after traveling or working I like to be able to sit down catch up on emails and eat some takeout food at a desk and not on the bed. I do enjoy the improved Wi-Fi speeds to stream, however at many Hilton properties being Gold I get free WiFi that is enough to stream a show on. I don’t know how the common areas could be popular with millenials traveling for business (besides the new ones how are a few months into the job). I much more care about a comfortable bed and having the ability to watch SportsCenter at night than having common areas go hang out at. The only places I could see this being popular is tourist heavy areas where millenials go on vacation, but they would need to match hostel prices or offer significantly improved amenities. All things being equal I would much rather stay at a DoubleTree, Hilton, or Hilton Garden Inn than at Tru, but might still have to give it a try as you never know until you try it.

  21. First thing I go to when I get to my room is…the desk. I guess that little round circle thingy is the desk. If this new idea has a high price point, I think it will be an epic fail. The architecture (from the outside) looks very similar to Home2Suites. Hate the commercial. Pure, millenial, crap.

  22. Their brand essence video is seizure-inducing but after watching it, I have a feeling that they may not be targeting business travelers, millennials or otherwise, so it sort of makes sense that they would feel that a desk isn’t necessary for leisure travelers. I’m a millennial, and I travel for business, but my company would never stay somewhere like this. I would, however, stay somewhere like this if I were traveling for leisure by myself and the price (and location) was right.

    This actually reminds me of the branding for Moxy hotels, which are part of Marriott. They don’t have them in many cities yet, but I stayed at the one by MXP and was happy with what I received for the price paid. It, too, had lots of pictures of twenty-somethings on the walls/in the elevators, lots of references to social media, dance music playing on the TV when I walked in, bright colors, Ikea-esque furniture, an open buffet where you could create a healthy meal of sorts, a bar, and the ability to hook up your phone/iPad/tablet/etc. to the TV in your room. But in the lobby was a real mix of people (as you might expect at a hotel by the airport), not just millennials.

  23. Maybe I am who they are marketing to. I don’t understand the need for a desk anymore. I don’t have one at home, why would I need one in my hotel room? We all have laptops now that you can use on your lap while sitting on a chair or the bed. I never used my hotel room desk except for storing things and charging my laptop.

  24. I’ll hold my final judgment until I stay at one, but I have the same feeling I get when someone buys me a really awful Christmas present. And the entryway looks like a daycare center.

  25. This reminds me a lot of Novotel/Mercure/Ibis, Motel One, B&B, and the like in Europe. It is obviously not targeted at the typical reader of OMAAT, who compares it to the Grand Hyatt. Come on, this is a budget hotel, and if Hilton does reliably well with basics such as cleanliness, fast WIFI, and solid breakfast, it will do for many people. The design concepts look extremely cheap though, even for this category. They should have looked at the Motel One London to see what is possible in terms of design in the budget category.

    Another letdown is that the pictures show out-of-town hotels, very unattractive for the supposed target group of hip individual travelers. In the end, it might be frequented more by traveling families with younger children and sales representatives, who look more at the practical benefits.

  26. This concept is really strange and doesn’t seem like anything I would want to stay at, and I’m 23. It’s childish and reminds me of a daycare. Pretty insulting to think that that is what millennials want in a hotel…

  27. A “play” area? This hotel may appeal to certain types, but I wouldn’t set foot in any of these hotels. A good desk is a must for me. Play areas I can do without.

  28. Note to self…I’m guessing waving a glossy copy of the upgrade T&Cs in the hotel manager’s face won’t be as effective in a millennial-targeted hotel as maybe a tablet.

  29. “Maybe I am who they are marketing to. I don’t understand the need for a desk anymore. I don’t have one at home, why would I need one in my hotel room?”

    you also (presumably) have a bed at home, does that mean you don’t need one when you’re in a hotel? 😀

    overall, a perfect example of branding gone haywire with clearly no effort at even thinking about focus testing before launch.

    a silly, misguided concept that already feels dated. i shudder to think what these properties will look like in five years.

  30. It looks like their target demographic is the tail end of the millennial generation. I read elsewhere “Prices will range from $75 to $90 per night”. It looks alright but I’d ditch the 3 letter words.

  31. Perhaps DCS will convince them to include suites as well since he “owns” a Conrad. I’m sure the Diamond amenity here will be a free yogurt topping. Why would anyone choose tru over AirBnB?

  32. I’m old enough to be a parent of millenials, but I like cheap new hotels for one night stays.

    Lobby concept: Mostly stupid will all the bright colors and catchy words. But if I’m travelling with family, I do like to work in a common area while they sleep. Personally, I’d rather that they stick a Waffle House in each lobby. We’ll see if the oatmeal and the toppings for it are any good.

    Room concept: Fine for nights where I just want to crash. I could see staying at airport versions of these when a Hyatt Place is too expensive. It’ll depend on the quality of the bed, and the phrase “platform bed” reminds me of the cheap bedding in a Candlewood Suites. I can do it for 1 night a month, but that’s about it.

    I think that while they SAY they are targeting this at millenials, they may be really targeting this at 9-13 year olds and the parents who shuttle them to stuff like baseball/softball travel team tournaments. Key question will be how many 2-bed rooms there are.

  33. When you are offering a bare bones product you will be forced to compete on price, which doesnt strike me as a very good strategy in a crowded market. You can try and eyewash it with colors and stupid three-letter words but I dont think it’ll fool too many customers. And, yes, the video is absolutely ridiculous.

  34. Uh how is this different from Canopy? Which one is higher priced? Both are aimed at hip Millenials

    I wish they would include a one-two line no-nonsense explanation of the brand which gives you the exact positioning in terms of price and style, such as “budget range contemporary ambience” which would immediately allow us to differentiate it from Aloft which is often a 3/3.5/4 star version of the same and W which is a 5 star version of the same thing.

    Right now I had to look up the brand hierarchy to understand how this is different from Canopy

  35. This idea has potential, but I really don’t understand the branding. I am a millennial who primarily travels for business, but like most here, also travel for leisure. I’m with the consensus on this not really being an option for business travel.

    But what really puts it outside of any appeal to me is the abhorrent branding. If no one told me what the video was for in advance, I would have thought it was an Old Navy commercial. There’s a middle ground between being stuffy and being just way too over-the-top, and I think for the most part, Aloft hits that pretty well. I’m not sure what the goal was here.

    Regarding desks in rooms – for me that’s a must. I don’t understand how that takes away from someone’s experience. Before I traveled for business, I simply ignored the desk and sat on the bed. Desks are definite value-added, in my opinion, so why not leave it in there for those who do use them?

    Ugh, hopefully they’ll tweak this down the road and get it right, because it does have potential.

  36. Ah, read up on it and apparently Tru slots in below/on par with Hampton whereas Canopy sits above Garden Inn/DoubleTree

  37. Presumably Hilton has noticed, and wants a piece of, the huge successes that new and comparable brands like Citizen M in Europe and Ovolo in Australia and Hong Kong are having. When done right – with good prices, well-designed functional rooms. and loads of extras like free drinks, minibars and 3D TVs thrown in – this approach really can offer something genuinely new. Have to agree with the majority though that this is an inauspicious start by Hilton…

  38. Tru looks more like upscale hostel. There is a market for non-dormotory style upscale hostel, particularly their popularity among young European & Australian backpackers/travelers. This brand sure does not target American clienteles, but there is a demand for it. I’m just surprise at Hilton’s decision to tap into this market since no other chain has consider this market before. I’m not gonna lie I’m (along most OMAAT readers are) probably too high maintenance for Tru. But hey, if Donald Trump can enjoy Holiday Inn Express for one night… *speak with sarcasm*

  39. @Mike, you definitely aren’t the only mellenial (I mean Lucky is one of us to…)

    The video is gag inducing. Honestly doing some bam wow and mmms were supposed to attract me? And I am a mellenial that lives in the Bay Area (working at a nonprofit)…so while it’s true I like shared “co working” spaces I do also value a desk/table of sorts, especially with easy access to power outlets and USB ports. Aloft does all of this right, but the price point is hit or miss since I can rarely afford $180+ a night. In fact most Sheratons seem to be cheaper in the sane geographic markets I travel to.

    So…it’s likely I’ll hold my nose on the marketing and stay for the price, but definitely will do lots of social media reactions so they actually hear and reflect from their target market. Otherwise I’m totally fine staying at some “boring” chain brand at the same or similar price point.

  40. Looks pretty ridiculous. Pretty offensive styling and a terrible message. I don’t see how this brand will be attractive other than the free breakfast and the price.

  41. I think it’s been said, but I’ll mention it again. It looks like a youth hostel. This concept needs to go back to the drawing board.

  42. There is only one thing appealing about this brand, and that is the price point. When I need a few more stays to lock in a status, I can check in here and not actually have to stay. Otherwise, makes millennial’s look uneducated and pliable and will fall for any half-@$$ marketing plan. This is embarrassing……

  43. If Starwood had somehow been able to “register or trademark” a design concept for aloft then Hilton would be in BIG trouble with this new hotel concept. The common areas are almost identical IMHO down to the pool table and the round reception desk! Desk issue in the room could have been solved by lowering one part of the ledge that the tv sits on and making it a tad deeper. Hilton really seems to be on the “me too” bandwagon lately as the Home2Suite concept is a knockoff of Starwoods element concept. Guess with Marriott introducing Moxy they really had to offer something they could sell their potential investors to as more modern and to target that ever popular group of millennials.

    As far as aloft is concerned, I am not as big of a fan as Ben is. Does it serve a purpose and is it a concept with potential? Yes BUT I think it needs some improvement. I personally would pick an aloft more often if it had better sheets, pillows, full size ironing board and most of all an AC unit that didn’t make as much noise as a freight train zooming by.

  44. Wow, 90% of the replies make you people sound like stodgy old farts. I get that this blog is about high end travel, but give it a rest. I’m a little older their core demographic and I’d love to try the place at least once. And if it saves me a few bucks in the process, even better.

  45. I just have an issue with companies trying to view millennials as a single, monolithic demographic. I got a training at work a while back on “intergenerational communications,” in which we were taught about how to work with people who were in a different age group. It listed age ranges and characteristics of people in each age range. Millennials, it said, are technology-minded, have short attention spans, and are not very loyal. This seemed to give everyone in the office carte blanche to talk to me like I’m a moron. We generally try to avoid sweeping generalizations about people of a particular race or ethnicity these days, because we’ve realized that unique individuals often defy categorization. Why can’t we recognize that that’s also true with age groups?

    Also, it seems to me like the biggest existential threat to hotels these days is the sharing economy (i.e. AirBnB). How are hotels responding to this trend, aside from just hoping it’ll go away?

  46. The video makes the hotel look like a playroom for children. I like Lucky’s comment about Tru being an updated Hampton – that’s exactly what I was thinking. Regardless, let’s wait and see what these hotels cost. With the always annoying dynamic pricing in use these days, you might end up paying 300 bucks for a room at Tru. What good would that be?

  47. Wow! I thought for sure those moron consultants that suggested Marriott remove desks from their rooms would have been fired – apparently they used the experience to secure Hilton business.

    I certainly wouldn’t be doing any work in a public area which is prohibited by my employer, I also wouldn’t be sitting on a bed hunched over a laptop – that’s great for your lower back… :-\

    I never liked SPG’s Aloft chain and I certainly wouldn’t stay at TRU.

  48. WTF is up with those videos? “Tic Tac Toe…ooh”. Are you kidding me?

    I certainly wouldn’t stay at one of those hotels, which is fine as they are clearly geared towards a different demographic, but those videos are just embarrassing.

  49. Ugh! It’s got the A/C unit next to the window. Was hoping for central A/C. In my experience those units are too noisy.

  50. That had to have been the stupidest marketing video I’ve ever seen. Seriously. And if it’s geared toward millennials then why did it have all those old people? Millennials value heritage and quality–not cheap crap.

    As for the hotel mock-up, the lobby looks like the bastard child of Courtyard and Aloft.

  51. I agree, no desk, not interested. I recently stayed at Aloft Excel London. Loved their simplified approach and great service. There were TWO desks in the room. I was traveling alone and did not need it, but these days many couple traveling are both working from the road, of course they need two desks! Hotels with no desks get immediately written off of my list!

  52. @Matt: “concepted” is not a word.

    This is awful, from the stupid name to the childish graphics to the room decor. It looks like an upscale hostel more than anything else.

  53. Citizen M, Motel One in Germany…The Line in Koreatown, Los Angeles
    Discourage individualizing, enforce socializing, It’s the way of the world.

  54. I would be embarrassed to stay here! mmm, wow, pop! Did I land in a retro comic book? Will this be as dated in five years as a space ship diner? Yes! And please don’t dare to sit in your room. Where would I sit without a desk or chair? Did anyone notice that the rooms not only lack a desk but a chair! The hangers on a piece of pipe got me. Why don’t we just use the shower curtain rod? That video was gag inducing, but I can just see all their young marketing professionals currying favor with the senior staff, “That really pops!”

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