Recently, while checking in at the fabulous Taj in Mumbai, I was accosted by the familiar sight of the complimentary bottle of wine that greets every guest checking into their palace wing. At least, I think, it was complimentary or else I am now culpable for the crime of theft.
The bottle is called Palais and, last I checked, was an Italian one. The hotel F&B had made the painstaking effort to tie up with a reputed Italian producer, decided on a fairly good wine to stick a special label on and adopt it as their house wine. The bottle, with its gold-on-black print sticker, subtly outlining the hotelís silhouette reminds one of the unmistakeable facade that greets visitors to the hotel, besides the Gateway of India in Indiaís financial capital. The bottle is placed in every room along with a set of lovely wine glasses (Zwiesel trumps Riedel any day) and an opener. Most guests drink it during their stay and those who are there for a short sojourn, make it a point to pack it into their departing luggage. Wherever they open the bottle, the wine will be appreciated and the hotel will be spoken about even as nostalgia floods the room.
Full marks to the hotel and its team then for a) choosing the right wine; b) branding it fantastically; and c) creating the best marketing campaign for their hotel ever!
What I fail to understand is why donít more places do this? In fact, apart from this hotel (and also its three palace properties in Rajasthan that use a superb Bordeaux claret from the house of Chateau Cos díEstournel as their house wine) none of the other Taj properties does this. There are enough chains (hotels and restaurants) today across India that can benefit immensely from this client-centric effort to show respect and gratitude and award patronage, but the disappointing absence of more private labels across the board is just too hard to comprehend. Instead, most establishments are busy wasting time on run-of-the-mill loyalty programmes, meal coupons and discount vouchersóshoddy efforts mostly to keep clients; efforts that discount their own product and donít always bring back the most desirable guest profile.
Fratelli has designed a private label programme around their flagship wine Sette, where customers can purchase an entire barrel (equal to 300 bottles) while it is still ageing and when the wine is finally bottled, they are finished off with a customised label that bears the ownerís name on each label and the bottle number. The winery even offers to hold the stock for their privileged clients (in a temperature-and-humidity-controlled cellar) who can ask for it to be released to them as and when they desire. Now, that is one fine way of brand building.
KRSMA wines, which few know about, may never choose the conventional route to market and may prefer instead to sell a certain stock of their ware only to private clients through an exclusive guest list that is curated by the founder himself.
Private labels not only ensure that the product ends up in the right hands, they also ensure that they promote and propagate the product among the right crowd in a most appropriate manner.
But thatís just three salient efforts out there in the market. What about the remaining plethora of establishments out there that are in similar businesses and stand to gain immensely from emulating a similar programme? Why havenít more organisations latched on to this sure-fire way to get their product noticed in one most novel way? As I pour myself one last glass of the lovely Palais by Taj, I shall silently ruminate the possibilities that have escaped us for so long and hope that more interesting possibilities present themselves in the future. Being ahead of the pack sometimes isnít simply about running faster; itís about using a different route altogether.
The writer is a sommelier