Cinnamon : Brand-led Business Growth

October 14, 2016

As Sri Lanka entered the international eye as a holiday destination, so did it become the destination for many international hotel chains. With the influx of competition in the hospitality space, Cinnamon had to prepare to compete with global standards. We helped them find what they stood for, and to craft a brand portfolio story that could be the leading tourism brand in Sri Lanka.


In 2009, the Sri Lankan Civil War came to an end. Finally, there was peace and prosperity on the island. Many industries started to flourish in post-war Sri Lanka. The tourism industry was one of them. Tourists from neighbouring countries such as India and China had discovered the beautiful beaches, luscious tea plantations and host of other natural attractions that Sri Lanka had to offer. The Keells Hotel Group was in the right place at the right time – it was time to ride the wave.

Cinnamon Lifestyle

Cinnamon Lifestyle

The Challenge

Landor and Brand Finance were enlisted to advise on a portfolio strategy that would establish a competitive advantage for the Keells Hotel Group, so as to maximise the business opportunities in the new political and economical environment – where tourism was expected to surge. It was important that the new brand established Keells Hotel Group as a leader in the tourism market.

But there was a challenge – the Keells Hotel Group had a variety of properties in different locations with different offerings, under the brand names of Cinnamon and Chaaya. The customer was unclear about the difference between the two brands, what they stood for and what they were offering. A streamlined, clear portfolio was the need of the hour.

We started to ask ourselves: how could we unlock the power of their brands to drive business growth?

What We Did

We focussed on four key areas – reconfiguring the brand portfolio to maximise value creation, creating a compelling brand story that would create a competitive advantage, reimagining the customer experience and inspiring employees to deliver the brand story – so that the brands stood out from the clutter of hospitality offerings that were bound to come up.

Reconfiguring The Portfolio Strategy and Brand Story

After in-depth brand valuation and scenario analysis, it was decided that the group must put all their efforts and resources into building one strong brand – a master brand approach, with Cinnamon as the master brand. This brought impact, clarity and synergy to the portfolio. The Chaaya brand would be transitioned to Cinnamon over a period of time.

The refreshed Cinnamon brand would be used for all types of hospitality experiences and also go beyond hospitality; it would be a true lifestyle brand.

By Cinnamon

By Cinnamon

It was clear that the brand needed to be built for the new and emerging Asia, targeting the Indian middle class that was modern, youthful and wealthy. The brand had to focus on people who were seeking a way to enjoy quality time with friends and family.

Additionally, it had to lend itself to modern, iconic and vibrant spaces that were designed around the needs of the guests. In this way, the brand would redefine the best of contemporary Sri Lankan culture, entertainment, hospitality and cuisine.

Finally, Cinnamon had to be established as the coolest place to enjoy life’s best moments in the hottest cities and travel destinations.

This strategic direction led to the recommended brand positioning for the Cinnamon master brand – Inspired Living. A brand that uses every moment to enrich, a brand that is built on vibrancy (in people, spaces and experiences), a brand that wants to take contemporary Sri Lankan culture to the world. Unique experiences were created to bring ‘Inspired Living’ to life at every touch point – Central Reservations, Cinnamon Drive, Lifestylists, Cinnamon Box Office, Lifestyle Brand Builders, as well as thinking through every detail of the airport arrival, elevators, uniforms, hotel art, tonality and language, in-room dining and special events, created a unique brand experience.

Through the lens of Inspired Living, individual positioning directions were built for each vertical of the group – Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, Cinnamon Air, Cinnamon Holidays and Cinnamon Life.

The portfolio of properties under Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts was organised into four categories – Luxury, Rustic Luxury, Lean Luxury and Cinnamon Boutique. In each of these categories, ‘Inspired Living’ was brought to life in a distinct manner.

Creating The Brand Architecture and Visual Language

Luxury is the core offering of Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts. In this category, Inspired Living manifests itself through a vibrant experience, enabling people to discover new places in a setting that suits their style. It’s active, fun and stylish. To create a unique visual language, we played with the letter ‘a’ within the Cinnamon identity, using it to create distinct experiences at every touch point from food to wine.

Within the Rustic Luxury category, Inspired Living is brought to life through an experience that is easy going, comfortable, soulful and charming. In this category, we wanted to bring the true Sri Lanka experience to life through the visual language. We used three icons of the island – the blue sapphire, the butterfly and the blue lily to create unique patterns for the visual language.


Cinnamon Red

The Lean Luxury offering brought Inspired Living to life through an independent, cool, bold and innovative experience; where customers can discover new places with less fuss, more independence. This sub-brand was named Cinnamon Red. We created a visual system that reflected the perfect balance between head and heart; a bright, aspirational and vibrant visual language that appeals to young business travellers.

In Cinnamon Boutique properties, Inspired Living comes to life through the finest luxury in Sri Lanka’s exclusive and unique locations; an experience that is curated, personal and private, yet active. The brand was aptly named Cinnamon White.

We wanted to create a visual language that was the antithesis of white, maintaining the luxurious feel of the brand, while infusing it with energy. We used the art of marbling to create dynamic patterns that we cropped to use across applications, resulting in a visual language that was both bespoke and vibrant, like the category itself.

Putting The Brand In Action

In order to ensure that every employee of the group delivered the promise of Inspired Living, they needed to understand and imbibe the brand. We created a Brand Spirit Book that encapsulates the essence of the Cinnamon brand. We crafted a unique brand voice for each of the brands under the Cinnamon master brand. We also built brand guidelines for each of the Cinnamon brands, so that managers, vendors and partners could execute the new brand in a consistent manner.

Finally, we worked with the Cinnamon team to roll out the new brand, with an engaging launch campaign for Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts that showcased unique ‘Inspired Living’ experiences. We also created the launch campaign for Cinnamon Life, and an inspiring brand film.


The Results

The new Cinnamon brand was met with great enthusiasm from guests, who absolutely loved the experience and voiced their positive opinions on websites such as Tripadvisor and on social media. New guest services such as Cinnamon Drive, in-room dining with “comfort food” and casual meeting points with beanbags, have been implemented and highly appreciated by guests.

The new brand has also resonated strongly with employees. Through effective training and orientation, employees are now talking about the brand and how it relates to their job function. In fact, there’s been an increase in the number of employees wanting to join Cinnamon since the new brand launched.

The brand also sparked a new energy within the organisation. The most important success was that it gave the business a very clear sense of purpose. The business has a very clear plan of what needs to be done in terms of enhancing the brand, and they are working towards it. Having a single minded idea of what the brand stands for has enabled them to set out all their current and future actions, giving them a clear focus and return on investments.

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