marriottFor years there has been frustrated chatter among PPC media buyers regarding draconian big brand franchise PPC trademark rules. After experimenting all over the world for 2 years, Marriott is now taking assertive steps to standardize and solidify global policies. Whether SEMs like the new US rules or not, Marriott’s taking an industry leading role in organizing an approval process for hotel franchisee trademark usage.

Global Progression
It is widely known that in late 2005 Marriott filed a North American trademark grievance with Google. The correspondence authorized advertisers to use corporate trademarks in PPC ads, excepting a list of rouge users. Earlier this year Marriott again complained to Google regarding France, India, UK, Australia and the EU, choosing the opposite approach-refusing advertisers’ trademark usage absent inclusion on Marriott’s approval list.

Now Marriott has notified its US franchisees that they will flip their US trademark policy with Google to an approved list approach. Marriott asserts that the rules have worked internationally and will provide all players with a consistent global trademark strategy.

Preferred Marriot SEM Agencies?
Only Marriott approved agencies will be allowed to use marks in ad copy, which opens interesting questions as to what criteria they will use to determine which SEM firms will be authorized. Marriott plans on identifying shops to which they will distribute a Trademark Agreement. They’ve informed franchisees that so long as their agency is included on the letter to Google, there should be no problems with existing Paid Search campaigns.

Apparently if your “agency” is on the approved list you’ll be required to fill out Marriott’s agreement which they will then submit to Google. It remains to be seen how Marriott will treat in-house PPC folks from small hotel groups, individual hotels, and search marketing agencies. However, the changes are initially seen by hotel owners and SEM firms alike in a positive light because at least there are clear rules and procedures in place-unlike some other hotel chains.

  • Scott Clark

    A classic friction between franchisees and franchisers.

    The trademark-use agreements are struck between franchisee and franchiser, and search engines can’t be asked to scrutinize those. If a franchise sits on it’s ass and doesn’t enable modern marketing techniques, it’s really just tough cookies for the franchisee. Google and others will use the federal law default and call it a day.

    I have learned that franchises have to assume the worst in cases like this, and there is wisdom in it. In many <$1m franchises, IMO, many (most?) of the people buying into these *should not* be running *any* business, and there's a real danger of knee jerk web marketing which can disrupt national efforts. It would be nice to think the web development / agency crowd would come to the rescue, but it doesn't always happen. I've seen local web design companies buy a national, broad-match PPC ad for a strictly local market at least five times. Internet-based advertising such as geotargeted PPC could be discussed like print marketing. This is imperfect as well, as geotargeting is horribly inaccurate at the zip code level. I've worked with franchises to solve this by developing (with much pain) "metro hub" landing pages which share paid search costs by region. The PPC targeting gets them close, and the hub page goes the final mile. I think that it will change if potential franchisees begin asking about it during the sales process. If enough people ask the question "What about PPC trademark usage" as a part of due diligence, franchisers will be compelled to decide what they want to do, and add language in agreements. On my desk right now is a tangled mess of paperwork where a franchisee filed a trademark complaint against another PPC advertiser with Google on their own rather than asking the franchiser to do it. Google did the right thing by rejecting the complaint, and the legal department of the franchiser is now handling the issue. It just shows you how fd up it can get. BTW: A similar issue arises with domain names. Someday, perhaps, a niche registrar will emerge which is sensitive to these needs.

  • Marty Weintraub

    Thanks for the insight Scott.

  • ryanol

    tell me you don’t market for that Marriott with the rotating restaurant I was up their and thoroughly disappointed. Ive never waited longer for an elevator in my entire life.