• Transform magazine
  • October 16, 2019

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On the atoll

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A new resort in the Maldives needed to attract an audience with a different approach to luxury. The Gürallar Group worked with Landor to create the Joali brand, bringing to life a brand persona that enticed, excited and engaged consumers, using a storytelling approach to explore the luxury resort experience

The perfect blue sky. The perfect turquoise sea. The perfect coral sand. The perfect host. That’s the luxury experience the Gürallar Group hoped to build. Making the bold move from family and mass hotels in Turkey to a luxury experience in the Maldives, the group had to consider every touchpoint if it wanted to define a new kind of luxury. It turned to Landor to guide the brand development of the new property from its very foundations.

“The biggest challenge, especially in the Maldives, where each island is a hotel, was that a lot of the concepts were taken. The Maldives is the same sky, same sea, even if you change islands. The experience is hard to differentiate,” Landor’s executive creative director for central and eastern Europe the Middle East and Africa, Shaun Loftman says. “How do you differentiate the brand with a concept in a saturated market?”

True differentiation relied on all elements of the brand working together to offer something unique; from naming to implementation, the new resort had to stand out. The name itself helped lead the way. Searching for something authentically Maldivian, Landor alighted on the word ‘joali,’ a local expression for a native suspended beach chair. With the word ‘joy’ nicely hidden in the name, and the concept of suspension – of time, of stress – built in, Landor registered it and, voilà, Joali was born.

The next point of differentiation for Joali was the tone of voice and brand character. Landor centred the brand proposition on a fictional character. A travel writer and world explorer, the brand character found a home in the Maldives. She was interested in art, books, music and food. The development of her character led to the use of first-person in many of the brand’s communications. Loftman says the character was designed to “share her joy” with guests. “That is what’s giving it a different twist on luxury.”

It was this element that excited judges the most, as it offered a new way of thinking about branding in the luxury sector. The character-first approach stood out from Joali’s competitors in visual identity and strategy categories alike at the Transform Awards MENA.

The visual identity was built out from there, using a collage style designed to act like the Joali host’s artwork. The sketches and photographs showcase a personal view of luxury, a first-hand glimpse of a world suspended from the stresses of the day-to-day. Each touchpoint – from marketing to the physical environment – was crafted to bring a sense of that personality. The mystique surrounding the Joali host has led to guests noting the personal feeling of the design, almost as if there’s actually a person there, hosting them on the island.

The interior design was influenced by this approach as well. “You feel the presence of someone who’s curated this room for you, rather than a more corporate-looking standard layout, which is very important,” Loftman says. Using a signature rose copper colour along with a range of soft, fresh island colours, Joali’s interiors offer a different approach to luxury. Going beyond the more established resort route of whites and tans, ceiling fans and thick-pile rugs, Joali uses light and dark woods, woven fibres and luxuriously-styled interior elements to make the villas feel like home. Loftman says this was partially a response to the challenges posed by Airbnb on the traditional hospitality sector. Though luxury is itself a class apart, Airbnb has led to a shift in expectations. “People are looking for real homes,” he says. “We thought there was an opportunity to merge luxury hotels and a real-home kind of feeling.”

For the Gürallar Group, the project took a lot of bravery. It couldn’t approach the luxury market with anything less than a complete effort. With that in mind, brand leads the way throughout the experience.

“The biggest challenge, especially in the Maldives, where each island is a hotel, was that a lot of the concepts were taken. The Maldives is the same sky, same sea... The experience is hard to differentiate”
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Drawing from the persona and her interests, Joali has made the island into a gallery, with art pieces discoverable across the resort. The branded character/host’s curated choice of books and music are also prevalent across the island, adding another touch of personalisation to the Joali experience.

The property also differentiates itself through its communal spaces. With many Maldives resorts focusing on privacy and seclusion, Joali emphasises opportunities for interaction with other guests. There is a communal dining experience in one of the resort’s kitchens – dubbed ‘Her Kitchen’ – where guests can sit with each other and enoy a live action cooking experience. “It’s more like a creative experience designed by a character,” Idil Yenişehirli, country manager for Landor in Turkey, says about the communal space.

Judges of the Transform Awards MENA loved the brand as well. One said the strategic approach redefines luxury thorough an innovative use of a brand persona. Others called it fresh, creative and original with a well-planned strategy and rich, elegant visuals system. Another added, “I’m in love with their work and the story they’ve put behind it.”

The rebrand took home gold awards in the ‘Best use of a visual property,’ ‘Best creative strategy’ and ‘Best strategic or creative development of a new brand’ categories in addition to three silvers and a bronze for other aspects of its brand development, making it one of the most recognised entries at the awards this year.

The resulting brand is an all-encompassing experience that addresses every touchpoint throughout the user journey with a consistent and engaging storytelling-led approach. Joali has already been named to Condé Nast’s 2019 Hot List for its simple approach to a different kind of luxury. It may also help set the standard for an updated approach to luxury experiences more broadly.

Landor won gold awards for Joali and other projects at this year's Transform Awards MENA