January 28, 2007

Sticks & Stones

I hear that Bostonians are kicking up a stink because the new owners of one of the city's institutions, the Ritz Carlton, are renaming the hotel as the Taj Boston and (as locals see it) tossing out some eighty years of tradition and local pride.

But what's in a name? You could argue that it's only natural that the Mumbai-based Taj Group wish to brand the hotel to reflect their own pride of ownership. Or that business-entities change their names with such regularity that this local storm in a teacup will soon pass.

However, I'm not sure that this particular storm is easily weathered. Landmark brands, whether places, products or services, almost always stand for something more than legal ownership in the minds of their customers and hospitality brands in particular need to tread very carefully in this contentious space.

Here in Dublin, the much-loved Shelbourne Hotel, was lumbered with clumsy (and forgettable) tags of ownership by some of its more recent landlords but I understand that its newest owners are calling it simply The Shelbourne, which should ensure at least that it will keep its place in local affections following its current facelift.

What's your take on this? Which of your own favourite brands have you seen renamed at the cost of your loyalty?

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