Robin Searle speaks to Yvonne Hobden about the agency’s plans after it announced a multimillion-pound investment

Its logo and the recognisable image of a friendly airline captain may be unchanged, but the overhaul of the Flight Centre brand, which started last week, is clearly more than a lick of paint.

“Technically we are repositioning the brand, but it feels like a rebrand,” explains Yvonne Hobden, who was brought in as head of marketing a year ago to oversee the strategy.

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She said: “We are still called Flight Centre, but we are changing the essence of everything we do.”

In a nutshell, that means a huge upturn in proactive marketing to establish the agency as a tailor-made specialist and put to bed the perception that its primary focus remains on its traditional stronghold of cheap flights.

In practice, this means new branding across Flight Centre’s 82-strong retail estate, its website and social channels, with press, outdoor and its first television advertising campaign in the pipeline.

Hobden admits there are challenges in overcoming perceptions when the company’s name focuses so heavily on one particular product, but she is confident that the core taglines of the brand refresh: ‘All Travel, No Worries’ and ‘We’ll Tailor-Make it Easy’, will achieve that goal.

“We know everything there is to know about flights and our scale means we have access to the best rates, but beyond our established customers, people don’t know about our expertise in tailor-making holidays,” she says.

“We need to tell a different story and do so in a way that sets us apart from our competitors.”

Unlike many in the Flight Centre senior team, Hobden hasn’t risen through the ranks, instead being brought in from the telecoms and IT industry to offer a fresh view of the company and how it is perceived.

She says the first thing that struck her was the company’s culture and approach, which she says empowers staff from shop floor to boardroom to contribute and progress with the mantra: ‘We take business seriously, but not ourselves’.

“We wanted to embrace that in this branding and campaign,” she says. “So many travel adverts feature the same beach photos, and when you get on to companies’ websites they are quite functional and boring.

“We wanted to put our people at the centre of the campaign, so our consultants feature in the adverts alongside a wide range of destinations, and we wanted a fun, conversational tone that said ‘we take travel seriously, but not ourselves’.”

She adds: “It’s a major challenge to reposition a company such as Flight Centre, but we have seen massive organic growth [in tailor-made sales] over the past five years, so to take our next step with a multimillion-pound investment and new brand position is hugely exciting.”

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