Opportunity in the market
India’s hospitality market was in major flux. Explosive growth in the middle class was joined by a huge surge in business and leisure travel among domestic and foreign tourists. Ambitious international hotel brands were establishing themselves on the subcontinent. Tata-owned Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces (THRP), India’s most celebrated luxury hotel brand, realized it had an opportunity to serve new segments of the market.
- 41% Of the population expected to be middle class by 2025
- By 2025, domestic luxury class will reach 24 million
A mixed bag of brands
The Taj brand had been diluted by years of opportunistic growth. The hotels in its portfolio—all Taj branded—offered two-star experiences, five-star experiences, and everything in between. Taj’s “mixed bag” of brands was confusing customer perceptions at a time when competition was fiercest.
Missing emotional appeal
BrandAsset Valuator (BAV) data and focus group findings revealed that although the Taj brand retained celebrity status, it was losing the emotional appeal critical for a top-end luxury brand.
India was perceived internationally as neither welcoming nor responsive, two of the most powerful drivers of esteem for hotel brands.
By building on perceptions of its brand as welcoming and responsive, Taj could both regain travelers’ love and mitigate the negative image of India.
A roadmap for the future
Based on our insights, Landor outlined six strategic principles:
- Move from a mono-brand structure to a sun-and-planets model.
- Reserve the Taj brand for the luxury segment only.
- Create distinct brands for other viable market segments.
- Carefully manage and limit the use of the Taj name.
- Differentiate between the luxury brand and the corporate entity.
- Name the corporate entity Taj Group.
New brands clarify tiers of service
Our recommendation for Taj’s brand architecture was a sun-and-planets model, falling between a branded house and a house of brands. At the center, the “sun” was Taj, remaining a top-tier luxury brand. Two new brands would fall under the Taj Group umbrella: one a full-service, Taj-endorsed upscale brand (Vivanta by Taj) and the other a mid-market business travel brand (The Gateway Hotel). A third new brand, Ginger, would offer two-star economy stays as a separate subsidiary not connected with the Taj name.
Reserving Taj for opulence
Landor recommended that Taj distinguish the Taj Group (the corporate brand) from Taj HRP (the luxury hotel brand), both visually and verbally. After creating a Taj Group identity, we developed a decision tree to limit the use of “Taj” in naming new properties and services, such as Taj Air.
A brand for every guest
New opportunities for luxury
With the Taj brand reserved for the most opulent hotels in the portfolio, Landor found ways to heighten its luxury experience for guests. We identified several key ownable opportunities, including the traditional greeting of the dvaar paalaka, the Taj Turndown menu, the Royal Shoeshine, and the Fond Farewell.
“The welcoming durbaans set a certain expectation for foreign visitors. Guests are about to start an India experience; they are not just entering a set of revolving doors.”Divia Thani Daswani, editor Condé Nast Traveller India
Vivanta by Taj for the upper upscale guest
Vivanta by Taj was designed to capture an emerging high-end segment. This younger, more cosmopolitan group of travelers wanted something new, contemporary, and technologically savvy.
Landor created the name, identity, positioning, customer journey, and look and feel for this stylishly smart hotel. Amenities include airport pickup, soothing music, and massage chairs. STR reports and Gallup surveys show that Vivanta has the highest RevPAR and customer engagement among its competitive set.
Condé Nast Traveler named Vivanta by Taj the third best hotel brand in the world.
The Gateway Hotel for the mid-market traveler
India’s booming market had given rise to a large number of domestic business travelers. Taj Group created the Gateway Hotel, a three-star national brand, to cater to this segment and fill the gap in its portfolio. Although it falls under the corporate umbrella, The Gateway is not endorsed by Taj, keeping its identity separate from the Taj’s luxury positioning.
The Gateway brand idea, Welcome perfection, succinctly expresses the hotel promise, and a clean, crisp identity system carries the message of contemporary environments with hassle-free service.
According to Nielsen research, Gateway was the third strongest brand in India only a year after its launch.
Ginger for the budget traveler
Ginger, a two-star economy brand, focuses on secondary and tertiary cities in India, where the hospitality sector can be disorganized and unpredictable. To avoid having Taj associated with a budget chain, Ginger functions as a separate subsidiary outside the purview of the Taj Group.
Its name and visual identity evoke a simple, practical hotel experience that strikes a balance between being Indian and being international—the sweet spot many Indian brands hope to achieve. Properties feature laundry and gym facilities as well as business centers to meet a variety of needs.
The South Asian Travel Tourism Expo named Ginger the best budget hotel chain in India.
Leadership faced a challenge in selling the new brand architecture to its staff, since many employees felt proud of working for the Taj brand. The core branding team painstakingly engaged each stakeholder group to instill confidence in the new strategy before launching publicly. Landor produced a brand spirit book and a 20-minute brand film to help employees embrace the transition.
Internal acceptance of the new structure has been extraordinary, and IHCL, Taj’s parent company, was recently named a Gallup Great Workplace. The success of the new brand architecture strategy has renewed the company’s commitment to international expansion, and it hopes to double its inventory in the next five years.
Credit Suisse named Taj one of only 27 Great Brands of Tomorrow expected to significantly outperform the market in the next three to five years.