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.
Hilton 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.
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.
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