Don't just book it
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?

9 thoughts on “Do you trust brands anymore?

  1. I trust the AITO brand - makes me feel safe & warm when I see the logo (ok, I may have been over-exaggerating a little there!) - but I can't say there are any other travel brands I trust, particularly among online agencies & price-checkers.

  2. This comes from someone who has never booked through a travel agent in their life, so I might not be the best person to comment...

    But it seems as though 'safe' is becoming a valuable brand characteristic across the board. In the financial sector, Nationwide and ING are proudly boasting how boring (and thus secure) their products are. I think something similar is happening with the holiday companies - reliable is as big a selling point as price.

    In the travel sector, I'd say the area that places a much higher value on branding is aviation. The airlines are heavily reliant on brand and reputation. They'll advertise prices, but much of their marketing is about positioning the brand.

    There's an interesting trend for the airlines starting up their own travel sites too - clearly an attempt to build up a loyal audience.

  3. I think the internet renders brands less potent because that universal gatekeeper google doesn't care about them particularly. Price comparison sites with decent user driven feedback and honest commenting e.t.c are going to appear at the top of the results. This is opposed to the past in that mythical time pre internet when if you wanted a holiday you had to use your *memory* (gasp!) in order to remember who sold holidays, in which case all that advertising with Thomas Cook = Holiday! paid off because you'd check them first. Or ask your friends for recommendations. What would you trust more a particular brand or a page with 20 comments (that look legit) saying who they are (are these people like me? can I trust their opinion?) stating how much they liked the holiday being sold.

  4. Hello all and thanks for your comments!
    @ Alistair - yep. AITO is indeed a good brand.... and for me AITO isn't just a mark of security/trust, it also means smart, dedicated tour operators who really know their destinations and offer great products :-)
    @ David - yep. Boring is the new cool!?
    Not sure I agree re airlines. I guess brand is important for business and first. For me though, routings and cost are all that matter - as an economy flier 99% of the time. I don't see any distinction between say Air France or Iberia or BA - or certainly not enough to make me pay more. Interestingly I WOULD pay more to AVOID flying with Ryanair... and have done so several times. (Does Ryanair have a brand? If so what does it stand for?)
    @ Rob - yes absolutely. I think the net is really driving the 'value' out of brands. the greater transparency that it allows (with easy price comparison and user reviews) means costly ads and the positive messages they try to convey are being neutralised. Antony Mayfield's post that I link to in the first comment here takes this discussion further. Maybe we will see more brand adveritsing budget shifting to the online enviroment soon as a result?
    @ James - thanks... will have a gander at that link

  5. You do not want to buy your holiday only to find out that the airline or hotel has gone bankrupt so it really depends what type of brand you going for. I guess with the big ones they are members of ABTA and you will be an found alternative as long as te main brand does not go down. If that would happen them hopefully people paid attention and took notice to pay by credit card for refunds when the brands in your article went down.

    Personally I use flight and hotel aggregator brands that I trust, not that it really matters because in the end you end up booking with the airline direct or pay for the hotel on check-in...ie expedia, booking.com, skyscanner.

  6. Brands matter for travel, absolutely.
    Travel companies are going bust left, right and centre so big "trusted" brands are in a good place right now. As Max (above) points out though meta search and review sites are also in a good position so long as there is still the "big 2" and the airlines. Canny offline travel agents can also benefit from the same reasons that meta search and user review sites should benefit though.

    Brands can't be built by advertising alone, they grow through heritage, experience and consistently good or excellent product delivery. I look at both pricing and online conversion for travel products a lot and can certainly say that people do pay more to travel with trusted brands.

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