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January 23, 2006

Brand Naming: End of an Era - The Waldorf-Astoria

Hilton Hotel’s January 20, 2006 announcement that it would be launching a luxury brand name built upon the Waldorf-Astoria brand is sure to be a milestone in brand management.

HiltonHilton will be taking a number of its high end resorts and marketing them as part of the “Waldorf-Astoria” collection. This is meant to create an instant exclusivity for properties ranging from Hawaii to Arizona, but it does make me wonder if Hilton isn’t going to have quite a challenge in getting people to disassociate “New York” from the Waldorf-Astoria brand name.

The Waldorf-Hotel is pretty much about as dyed in the wool as New York tradition as Yankee Stadium or the Empire State Building, which is actually built on the original site of the first Waldorf-Astoria. The brand masterminds behind the move are quick to say that they are not “over-promising" the original Waldorf experience, which is surely a unique one - how many hotels can say they had a movie starring Al Pacino filmed there (Scent of a Woman) or that Ginger Rogers danced there in a movie called Weekend at the Waldorf? For many, the Waldorf is so much more than exclusivity—I think it's the lavish heart of New York itself.Waldorf

But because Hilton does not have strong luxury brand names in its chains, I feel this is a logical move, leveraging the century of tradition built into the Waldorf-Astoria name into the mix of high-end resorts that fall under the Hilton banner. And using a hoary old hotel brand name to jazz up the whole chain is not a new strategy these days: the St. Regis was acquired by Starwood in 1998, and since then 12 more have appeared. Even the Ritz-Carlton, which traces its linage back to 1927, has seen its name above the doors of 57 locations worldwide since its 1995 acquisition by Marriot.

Still, I think, there is something about one famous brand name being associated with one hotel.

Check out further comments on Hilton's move to leverage the Waldorf brand at A Luxury Travel Blog and VagaBlond.

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Posted by William Lozito at January 23, 2006 9:34 AM
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The name Waldorf has already been lifted by the Waldorf schools. As I understand it, they were given that name in order to make people associate them with America, whereas the schools are based on a philosophy that was created in Switzerland.

Astoria, while there's apparently one in Oregon, is a decidedly New York name. It's a section of the borough of Queens, and there are many local businesses with that word in their name.

I don't think this is a good strategy, myself. Maybe it's because I'm originally from NY, but the name "Waldorf-Astoria" makes me think of the city, not the quality of service.

And Waldorf salad has nothing to do with Arizona.

If Hilton brings the Waldorf Astoria to other locals, over time it will be second nature to us.
Think of the New York Times. It's home delivered to many homes throughout the US, and we don't give in origin, New York a second thought. Rather than meaning New York it means very liberal. Likewise, the Waldorf Astoria will convey luxury more than New York.

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