Brand designs: Insignia's Gaurav Sinha

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You only have to glance at Gaurav Sinha to understand he is a creative man. Like many a businessman, Sinha arrives at the Arabian Business office dressed professionally, but this is no ordinary outfit.

The flamboyant Indian has punctuated his white shirt and blue jacket ensemble with a striped necktie, a polka-dot pocket handkerchief and a buttonhole, in a deliberate expression of his ornate nature.

It is with this elaborate enthusiasm that the ex-hotelier also has developed the marketing strategies for some of the most revered brands in the world of luxury hospitality over the past decade. His company, Insignia, was one of the first to set up in Dubai Media City as a fully independent organisation in 2003. It has since branched out to India, Sydney and London, with plans to also open an office in Los Angeles by the end of the year.

With 60 five-star hotels across 20 countries, 120 restaurants and 30 lifestyle and leisure outlets on its books, the company has turned over $55m worth of business in the past decade. Clients include Viceroy Hotels, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Westin hotels in Australia, the Burj Al Arab and the Dhow & Anchor restaurant.

But there’s a distinct difference in Insignia’s marketing, Sinha explains. It’s not about a product but a destination, and luring a potential customer to experience that destination and, hopefully, to return. The strategy is far different to that of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), such as soft drinks, electronics and consumables.

“In FMCG a product should be competitively priced, easily accessible, well promoted and unique in its product proposition. In destination marketing we believe in marketing the enduring essence of the place,” Sinha, who established the company with his British wife Lucy Bruce, says.

“The enduring essence of the place requires a completely different matrix, which involves understanding cultural implications, how civilisation plays an impact, the natural DNA of the place and so on.

“I have a chronic sense of discontent in terms such as ‘creative brand advertising’. I think they’re a very lethargic posture on our own vocabulary in the industry. I like to call ourselves a brand enrichment company; we use design, media and technology to enrich brand experiences.

“Today we’re looking at creating social value for brands, not just value for brands; you’re looking at enriching equity. So it’s not about brand communication it’s rather about brand conversations and it’s about creating worthy conversation.”

Selling experiences has become increasingly popular in marketing internationally, from sports clothing brands associating themselves with feelings of power and heroism to car manufacturers promising freedom and adventure.

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Posted by: Priyadarshini Vig

A wonderful article! Gaurav has surely come a long long way from what I knew of him at High school! Luxury is time... precious time for oneself.... love the idea of disconnecting!

Posted by: Nick Rice

I wouldn't say Gaurav Sinha is eccentric - a bow tie and a snappy dress sense doesn't qualify as eccentric - he's more insightful and obviously has a forensic knowledge of the media landscape. I'm sure Insignia will continue to expand rapidly.

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