The Banyan Tree: Branding the Intangible

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The Banyan Tree: branding the intangible
Jochen Wirtz

Jochen Wirtz is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Academic Director of the UCLA – NUS Executive MBA Program at the National University of Singapore, Singapore.

Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts had become a leading player in the luxury resort and spa market in Asia. As part of its growth strategy, Banyan Tree had launched new brands and brand extensions that included resorts, spas, residences, destination club memberships, retail outlets, and even museum shops. Now, the company was preparing to aggressively grow its global footprint in the Americas, Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East while preserving its distinctive Asian identity and strong brand image of Banyan Tree.
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The closing of a factory in Thailand one year after its opening – because it lost out to other low-cost producers in Indonesia – was the last straw for Ho, who then realized that a low-cost strategy was not only difficult to follow but would also lead nowhere. Determined to craft out something proprietary that would allow the company to become a price maker rather than a price taker, Ho decided that building a strong brand was the only way for him to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage. The idea of entering the luxury resorts market was inspired by the gap in the hotel industry that giant chains such as the Hilton and Shangri-La could not fill. There existed a market segment that wanted private and intimate accommodation without the expectation of glitzy chain hotels. This was fueled by the sharp price gap between the luxurious Aman Resorts and other resorts in the luxury resorts market. For example, the Amanpuri in Thailand, one of Aman’s resorts, charged in 2004 a rack rate for its villas ranging from US$650 to over US$7,000 a night, whereas the prices of other luxury resorts, such as the Shangri-La Hotel and Phuket Arcadia Beach Resort by Hilton in Thailand were priced below US$350. Noticing the big difference in prices between Aman Resorts and the other resorts in the luxury resorts market, Ho saw potential for offering an innovative niche product that could also bridge the price gap in this market.

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