Denizen Hotel – Video Game or New Brand?

A picture of a dictionary viewed with a lens o...
Image via Wikipedia

Hilton has officially rolled out its new brand – Denizen. I always thought the term was somewhat pejorative, but branding folks should know better so I went on a web search expedition.

Visits to three dictionaries (and some great art you can see in the video below) make me wonder how much global and modern appeal this new brand generates. Merriam-Webster, Random House (via the always useful dictionary.com from Ask.com) and the Oxford English Dictionary all pretty much agree that a denizen is an inhabitant of something.

Some noted an older British meaning that was not very polite.    The funniest similarity was how often alcohol played into the definition.  M-W included this as part of its definition, “one that frequents a place <nightclub denizens>”.  Not to be outdone, dictionary.com weighed in with “the denizens of a local bar”.  And since no one outdoes the OED, consider one type of non-human denizen, “<the tapeworm is an inhabitant of the intestine>”. After that excursion, I thought it best to look at pictures of denizens.  Our screencast below shows that the dictionary editors were polite. Those denizens, they’re pretty scary.

So now the big question is if Hilton has made a horrible branding mistake and can redefine the term.  What do you think? Silver Beacon’s web tour of the word “denizen”

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4 comments

  • David

    David

    Reply

    One of the classic branding challenges was Chevrolet and the Nova, where "nova" means does not go in Spanish. A key there is that 99.9% of Spanish speakers know the meaning of "no va" in Spanish.

    With "denizen" I wonder how many people know it as an English word. I suspect that for much of the population their first exposure, or conscious exposure, to the word will be via Hilton's advertising.

    It has a nice play – "den" is a cozy word and "izen" has allusions to citizens and new words like netizen which, according to WIkipedia is a "a portmanteau of Internet and citizen." I have no idea what the meaning of "portmanteau" is. Maybe it is the name of a new Westin owned hotel?

    • George Bounacos

      George Bounacos

      Reply

      I love the Chevy story. It's classic. And I agree about denizen to a point. The challenge is taking an existing word and recreating an image for that word. Had it been a homonym, I might have been sold. I'm sure that citizen played into the mix somewhere, and I'll never profess to be a naming expert, but I think they have a spelling and pronunciation challenge before they even get to the image. One very cool site to play with (not taking the place of a naming consultant) is MakeWords.com. Ultimately, the world is a big, and I don't know that Hilton needed to take on several hundred years of meaning attributed to a single common noun. But you raise some great points. Westin: now there's a good made-up name for a hotel. When you think of the franchises, with the exception of W, they all conjure other images: Embassy Suites, Towne Place, Express, Courtyard (brilliant choice), Select or the brand equity built into Hyatt or Sheraton. Heck, they could have used an H, but that's too derivative. I just think they went against the grain and didn't pick a “Summerfield” or some nice sounding name.And frankly, those who do know the word and probably crinkling their nose and saying, “They named it what?”

  • David

    David

    Reply

    One of the classic branding challenges was Chevrolet and the Nova, where "nova" means does not go in Spanish. A key there is that 99.9% of Spanish speakers know the meaning of "no va" in Spanish.

    With "denizen" I wonder how many people know it as an English word. I suspect that for much of the population their first exposure, or conscious exposure, to the word will be via Hilton's advertising.

    It has a nice play – "den" is a cozy word and "izen" has allusions to citizens and new words like netizen which, according to WIkipedia is a "a portmanteau of Internet and citizen." I have no idea what the meaning of "portmanteau" is. Maybe it is the name of a new Westin owned hotel?

    • georgebounacos

      georgebounacos

      Reply

      I love the Chevy story. It's classic. And I agree about denizen to a point. The challenge is taking an existing word and recreating an image for that word. Had it been a homonym, I might have been sold. I'm sure that citizen played into the mix somewhere, and I'll never profess to be a naming expert, but I think they have a spelling and pronunciation challenge before they even get to the image. One very cool site to play with (not taking the place of a naming consultant) is MakeWords.com. Ultimately, the world is a big, and I don't know that Hilton needed to take on several hundred years of meaning attributed to a single common noun.

      But you raise some great points. Westin: now there's a good made-up name for a hotel. When you think of the franchises, with the exception of W, they all conjure other images: Embassy Suites, Towne Place, Express, Courtyard (brilliant choice), Select or the brand equity built into Hyatt or Sheraton. Heck, they could have used an H, but that's too derivative. I just think they went against the grain and didn't pick a “Summerfield” or some nice sounding name.

      And frankly, those who do know the word and probably crinkling their nose and saying, “They named it what?”

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