Decades ago when I was working in marketing... brands were a bit of a holy grail. The thinking among the trendy people with big shoulder pads (it was the 80s) was that if you could create a certain 'something' about a product or service that people could relate to and feel good about you added immeasurable value to it. The more people felt an emotional attachment to something (even as mundane as say gravy powder - remember the Bisto family?) the more they'd like it and purchase it.
These days global branding company Interbrand actually attempts to put a monetary value upon this certain 'something'. Apparently Coca Cola is the number one brand by value - at USD 66,667 million. I have no idea how they calculate this.
The thinking goes that a brand is hugely valuable and should be nurtured and maintained.
But I think the relationships people have with brands are changing. Does anyone believe anything a banks or insurers say these days? All that baloney about being on our side, helping us build for our futures... it's meaningless. In certain sectors many large companies now have such dissonance between what they trumpet with their advertising and the reality of their products that I'd suggest brand can have a negative impact. I'm thinking fast food, banking, utilities even some retailers (supermarkets). I now go out of my way to seek out the smaller independents when I can. I just don't trust the big guys.
Where does this leave the travel sector?
Following the collapse of XL and airlines like Zoom and Silverjet last year damage has been done here too. But I'd suggest that generally travel sector brands remain fairly true to their promises. Trust is a crucial part of the mix when it comes to booking a holiday, particularly in these more uncertain times. It's been interesting to see that big tour companies like Thomson and Thomas Cook have majored on more old-school brand ads of late rather than shouting about specific products and prices. Cooks even reverted to the old slogan 'Don't just book it'. I'm not surprised to see this.
Going back to that Interbrand survey - there isn't a single travel company brand in the Interbrand Top 100. So maybe the travel sector has a long way to go yet when it comes to building great brands.
Does brand matter these days for travel?
Or has the Net - in particular the price comparison sites - driven people's perceptions of the value of holidays and flights down to nothing more than how much they cost?
And which travel brands work?
Who would you pay a bit more to go on holiday with or fly with because you trust them that bit more than a cheaper competitor offering a similar product?