A single word often stretches much beyond in deeds
Repositioning, rebranding stretches beyond the single word status they possess, are more nuanced than they seem. Often people mistake rebranding, repositioning as just a new campaign that changes the subject’s status quo till then. Actually, repositioning goes much deeper, much truer. A brand is first what a brand does, not just what it says. This is what I have often believed and advocated.
True repositioning starts miles before the communication phase. Communication should start only when the DNA of the subject has been altered, mutated and re-configured to justify the new communication, the new call out / campaign. The product, service and experience design, the brand drivers and culture, all must undergo a process of methodical and careful mutation (so that you don’t break what you are intending to mutate). And then comes communication. Simply put, the heavy-duty work with its grime, nuts & bolts starts miles before the agency is briefed, coached and worked with to produce the slick campaign pieces. This work happens often quietly behind the scenes and off the stage.
Beginning of an adventure
Our adventures in the past have often involved long and laborious yet extremely fulfilling, rewarding deep reinvention exercises. These adventures were hugely satisfying in our roles as brand custodians and brand stewards.
This story dates back to circa 2013 and a little earlier than that, when our SBU team was brought in to work on an existing hotel which was to be re-branded as a Vivanta. Vivanta by then had set a frenetic pace for launches, developments, opinion and market leadership. Wallpaper UK had declared it as a stroke of genius.
The Claridges at Surajkund which was a business hotel was to don the role of a Vivanta by Taj. The Vivanta portfolio of 27 till then, fresh after the brand new spanking product we had built at Gurgaon was to rebadge this 287 large hotel, 45 minutes from Delhi and the airport. In the state of Haryana.
Nothing excited our team more than a new product, a new address and the build of a brand new story to be narrated with the spirited work & play vibe of Vivanta. Where a “normal day is anything but”
During one of the discussions with the lead team from the owners’ side, it came as a pleasant surprise when we were told that the hotel was in fact originally built and conceived for the Taj as an ideal stop between the bustle of Delhi and the languor of Agra. But then for some reason fate took a different road. It became a business hotel to suffice for the then emerging micro market and soon developed a large following amongst diners and club members in and around. But there were challenges and opportunities that remained, some which are extraneous to this chapter.
The makeover and reinvention theme
Over months of several site visits, market visits and deliberations with the SBU team and the owners, and post some great insights we got from the latter, we felt that a hotel like this ought to be a resort, within the ambit of a city. It had to pull in a blend of work and play.
The location in the heart of the Aravallis, the proximity to historic sites like the Tughlaqabad fort, sanctuaries, the Baolis (stepwells), the mid perch between Delhi and Agra (a golden highway), the near yet not within the city perch, a fantastic spa, generous spaces, I firmly believed, all made for a fantastic city resort.
What if we went back to the original vision of the project and made that come alive? After rounds of market studies, spatial understanding of the market, segment mixes, its feeders, deliberating with internal teams of leisure and trade, veterans in the sales teams, we rallied around the fact that we can make this city resort plank realistic and a very tenable business proposition. We worked with the teams on either side and post rounds of discussions, finally presented our brand rebadge plan for how we will achieve the same while sticking to the financial numbers that are critical.
The reinvention exercise
With the circle of the brand’s friends, colleagues, the hotel team, independent allies, our task of determining the core drivers and brand motifs to support this makeover started.
Independent talents, design and experience merchants who had helped bring alive the brand in Bangalore, Gurgaon, Bekal, Coorg and more once again forged a team with us.
We honed in on 3 drivers for making this work.
1. Build the “resort within a city” experience by either creating and amplifying experiences that pushed that plank. We over time built the Vivanta Folk Studio (a co -creation retail lab with national awardee artisans) with JJ exponent Pranali Daundker leading it, conceived the highway dining menu, created the Violet Line Metro menu (extension from the Yellow Line we had created for Gurgaon), conceptualised the artisanal Deli and Oven, created experience points at the Asola bird sanctuary and the Baoli step well and worked on partnerships with the Surajkund Tourism authority, then led by a dynamic gentleman. Paranda, the brand’s signature 5 river cuisine restaurant was a natural fit for this hotel-resort. Photography was commissioned to shoot the venue as a resort capital. (some adventures like barefoot dining are tales for another day :))
Over 6 months and several meetings, adventures, meeting with artistes, trips to Uttam Nagar and negotiations we managed to get the Shilp Guru & Presidential awardee Harkishenji and National award winner craftsman Girirajji to collaborate with us to bring alive the private label retail ceramics line at the Folk Studio, the first collab of its kind. This was a first of its kind social business model and guess a story that needs a chapter of its own, for another time.
2. Make the venue into a Wedding & Renewal destination (by that time we were well into the Never Ending I dos product for Vivanta) and weaving in the magic of the product, sheer space, great dining venues, leisure hotspots in and around and the vicinity of a grand market like Delhi. This was the second time that I got the opportunity to work with design whiz Little Shilpa to build a product experience and we worked on creating the gold themed wedding nuptial suite (my pet name for it was the Gold Bug). An extensive wedding themed shoot was commissioned to seal the knot. The creative duo of Kedar and Shamika did an encore yet again.
3. Amplify and drive the Spa pitch with the Jiva Grande Spa, dwelling on its 16000 sq feet Baoli inspired status as the largest spa venue for the market. But more importantly creating 2-3 new experiences which were also a first for the Jiva Spa. With my colleague who headed Jiva marketing, we built the Uptan ceremony, created the Jiva Nidra sleep experience, crafted the spa script and built the Jiva bliss suite (a first of its kind suite which brought the Jiva experience to the suite). Later we built an IP with Jiva, Delhi Blue Pottery and Life Positive foundation around wellness and crafts called the Roots festival which saw the diplomatic circle in attendance. The esteemed mythologist Devdutt Patnaik was the keynote speaker.
Living it up with a wedding themed launch
The launch was planned as a resort wedding with our usual brand accomplices – Aditya and Rashmi, and we commissioned the immensely talented, designer Nida Mehmood to custom design the launch around a shared vision of Mehendi and Sangeet ceremonies. Style needed to wed spirit. This was not going to be a “normal business” launch – but as the new brand credo went, a sharp turn from the ordinary.
For the finale act, we reached out to good friend and UK music sensation, ShriLektric to do yet another edition of Urban Folk, (a Vivanta brand IP built with Sony Music which forged virgin collaborations between electronica and rooted folk music between artists at Vivanta locations). For the artist jam ups and preps, we created a large studio set up for nearly 2 weeks on premise for Shri and Chugge Khan so that they could start their co – lab, and present urban folk on the final night. And what a night it was.
The last mile communication
Reinvention done, DNA suitably altered, experience pegs in place, we worked with the agencies to summarise this with their usual felicity and Vivanta speak, with a triple layered campaign that underlined the address as the brand new city resort for Delhi. Often they say its tough to toe the fine line, but here this brand new address managed to be the city’s brand new resort and the highway got its dose of style & spirit.