Trashing Brands and Other Stuff
The idea that Bostonians would wake up one morning and find out that the Ritz-Carlton Boston was suddenly the Taj Boston is astonishing. Built in 1927, the Ritz-Carlton was to Boston what the Plaza was to New York; the Palmer House was to Chicago; and the Adams Mark was (and is) to San Francisco—a home away from home that offered unmatched elegance, service and ambiance. I’ll take it one step further: perpetual perfection.
The motto of the Ritz-Carlton staff: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”
A second Ritz-Carlton exists in Boston. But if you Google “The Ritz-Carlton Boston,” the following is what appears on the screen, under the famous, blue Ritz-Carlton logo—a lion head atop a kingly crown:
We’re sorry, but we are unable to locate the page you have requested.
Please confirm that the URL has been spelled correctly. If so, then the page you requested no
longer exists at our website.
The implication that I’m too stupid to spell “Ritz-Carlton” is an insult. People are directed to other Ritz-Carltons. But THE Ritz-Carlton is dead.
In yesterday’s New York Times, there was a full-page ad that featured a stylized, black panther wearing a diamond necklace and matching earring. The headline: “LUXURY BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS.”
The subhead: “Introducing the Taj Boston. January 11, 2007.” No mention that the new Taj is the old Ritz. No mention of the Ritz anywhere in the ad.
Is it smart to take a grand brand—with an 80-year record of excellence and a roster of rich and famous customers from all over the world—trash it, and start over?
You have to shake your head in wonderment.
The Power of Brand
Over the years, a series of large, old-line American corporations—with wonderfully evocative names—switched to initials and acronyms. For example:
—International Business Machines became IBM.
—American Machine and Foundry was turned into AMF.
—West Virginia Pulp and Paper is now Westvaco (actually MeadWestvaco).
—National Cash Register went to NCR.