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November 11, 2006

Brand Naming: The Taj Comes to Boston; RIP Ritz-Carlton

Boston Ritz-CarltonThe Indian hotel chain will finalize its acquisition of the in January, and plans on renaming the legendary hotel "The Taj Boston."

No other significant changes are planned for the hotel, but this name change brings into relief the pros and cons of renaming a legendary brand that has deep associations with one place. Chuck Dennis at Customer View thinks renaming the legendary hotel is a bad idea, saying that it "makes about as much sense as poking yourself in the eye with a pointed stick."

Taj HotelsOn the other hand, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces have a tremendous reputation as one of Asia’s largest hotel groups and is owned by the , India’s largest industrial conglomerate. Most Americans do not know much about the Tata Group, but everyone in India, China and Europe does. The company, which was founded in 1868 and employs over 200,000 people worldwide, wants to ride the crest of the "third wave of globalization."

Under the Tata wing, the Ritz-Carlton has, in one sense, been kicked into the stratosphere of brand names after being owned by the New York based Millennium Group for the past seven years.

The ChaiTeaLatte blog suggests that there will be lots of jokes out now about "Boston Brahmins," but this acquisition does show us, once again, that when it comes to naming global brands, nostalgia just doesn’t factor in.

The Ritz-Carlton has a grand name and history but neither of these pay the bills. The Taj name is known worldwide and brings the grand olde hotel into the twenty-first century with flash and style. I’m checking in.

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Posted by William Lozito at November 11, 2006 11:45 AM
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3 Comments

You write that, "when it comes to naming global brands, nostalgia just doesn’t factor in," but don't you think that maybe it ought to?

The name of the Ritz-Carlton carries a great deal of meaning, of luxury without glitz, and Boston is not a glitzy city. What does the Taj name carry? One can either think of the beautiful structure in Agra, India (which is a mausoleum, don't forget), or a Donald Trump casino in Atlantic City. One is very classy, but it connotes death, and the other screams flash and unearned wealth. I'd like to believe neither one fits with Boston.

It's also somewhat problematic that Boston's new Ritz-Carlton -- a luxury condo in what used to be the so-called "Combat Zone" is now going to become the Ritz-Carlton -- a name many people feel the building doesn't deserve in the first place.

Have to say I wish nostalgia DID work. Think about the Hilton owned Waldorf Astoria, for instance. But the fact is that many of the best known, beloved names in the hotel industry do not pull customers. goodness, the Plaza is now half condo. It is sad, but it seems to me to be unavoidable that many of the old fashioned hotel names just do not earn enough money through sheer nostalgia value.

The reference to the Ritz-Carlton name as one with "nostalgic" value implies that it does not have contemporary value, and I don't know if I agree with that. Especially where it concerns a city like Boston, which, frankly, gets a lot of attention for its historical roots.

While I am all for globalization, and experiencing the best that other continents have to offer, I feel that dropping the Ritz-Carlton name is like slaughtering the goose that lays the golden eggs because you feel like having some goose pate.

No, a grand name and history do not pay the bills. But solid marketing does increase revenues, and marketing with a beloved and historical brand name makes that effort a little easier. It seems like a real waste of assets not to exploit the Ritz-Carlton name.

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