Food for thought: The hard part of building a travel brand
By Martin Soler, Partner at Soler & Associates
At WTM today and tomorrow, I might catch you around. Email me (reply) if you're around I'll be at the RateGain party on Monday evening so might be a place to meet. Otherwise some interesting thoughts on travel and more. I had a recent debate with students at EHL which was interesting about building brands, the beautiful ideas that people are tired of brands and the concept of stuffocation. I mention a bit of that in the first article below. The principle is great - the reality is slightly different. Best, Martin
The hard part of building a travel brand
Interbrand's yearly review of the 100 top brands in the world was recently released and a question came up of what hotels can travel can learn from luxury brands. Actually, very little. If you go through the 100 top brands there isn't a single travel or hotel brand on the list, not even Airbnb or Uber which is a little surprising. What there is, however, is a lot of consumer goods brands. The thing is people rarely use travel brands because they love them, they use them because they love the destination and hotels are a means to an end. Whereas luxury brands are the end. So it leaves a thought that, if everyone is so enamoured by experiences rather than goods, then why are those experiences just not present? Maybe hotels and travel brands need to grow into consumer goods if they want to become great brands?
Hotel websites vs. a PDF download
Avvio's recent Principles of Personalization for Hotel Websites brings up this very controversial thought that hotel websites today are akin to a PDF brochure download with a link to a booking engine. It is a thought I have shared for a while and anyone who has been at any of my keynotes or lectures probably heard me rant about how hotel e-commerce sites make no sense. The thread on Linkedin is quite interesting with several people pitching in various attempts they have done to try and fix it. But my conclusion is that if we as hoteliers aren't willing to invest in innovating and personalising then we shouldn't complain about OTAs doing so and taking market share. I know that's not what people want to hear. But if good solutions are offered and hotels don't take them because "the old way works just fine" then one can say the future is there for those who take it.
Loyalty, not that loyal
One can only buy so much loyalty before it becomes utterly unprofitable. But buying guest loyalty is like a drug, it works because people like perks and discounts. So hotels keep doing it and the schemes become more complex every year as hotels try to retain the loyalty while trying to keep profitability. Then we have outliers like Amazon Prime and easyJet plus that are more similar to membership systems. Yet they work incredibly well. However both of these systems fixed something that people hated, it turns out people dislike paying for shipping with a passion. People don't like to pay for a seats with a passion as well. So making those free for members turned out to be a huge win. What can hotels do that will remove that level of emotional friction? But then we should also remember that one only travels on one's own budget 2-3 times a year. Which changes all the dynamics quite a lot.
Tell Trends: paper is still great
We're finalizing the layout and last pieces of analysis for Tell Trends. While the customers will get a PDF version the main use will be a paper magazine that can be read without interruptions, notifications, pinching and zooming of a tablet/phone or computer. And we think that will be the best way to get the insights.