Comment: Your brand is still your cornerstone

Comment: Your brand is still your cornerstone

While other sectors toy with the idea of dropping brand marketing, travel companies should stick to building their brand, says Brighter PR executive chairman Steve Dunne

I read the other day about the death of the brand, a subject getting much traction in the world of sales and marketing.

The article referenced the digital world, where consumers can explore brands with the click of a mouse, making them arguably less brand loyal. It pointed at the reduced attention span of the modern consumer and their butterfly minds, caring only for an instant offer or deal.

It made depressing reading, saying customer service and staff morale account for less than in the past and will not be important in the future. But it’s a view getting much momentum from experts in the marketing world.

However, I have just experienced first-hand that the brand – and how it builds a relationship with the consumer – is the cornerstone to the success of a travel company.

I went on a cruise with Royal Caribbean, which I don’t work for and have never had a relationship with. I witnessed two things that stand the theories of ‘no such thing as brand loyalty’ on its head.

First, I noticed that people who cruise are in love with the concept. That is hardly surprising – and you might find it in other fields. But the loyalty of Royal Caribbean cruisers to the brand was incredible. I witnessed cruisers saying emphatically that they selected their holiday not on the destination or route but on the ship and, yes, the brand.

I asked what attracted them about the brand. There were myriad answers, but there was a theme – trust. From the staff and their approach to customers, to the standard of service, and from the quality of product to its ethos, there was a consistency across the brand that customers loved.

More than 1,000 passengers turned up at the captain’s Q&A, and every time the captain asked for a question, several hands went up. Between questions, there were testimonials and compliments to the brand’s power. The captain said you can’t have happy customers without happy staff and that the Royal Caribbean ethos extends from the top of the company to the deck and beyond.

Marketing experts say branding is essentially a set of promises around a product, designed to engage with the customer and differentiate it from other brands, encouraging brand loyalty.

I was staggered by the number of people who told me they had always been a Royal Caribbean customer and saw no point in looking at other players.

I now look at the travel industry with new eyes. I see lots of powerful brands delivering excellence in marketing. So while other sectors toy with the idea of dropping brand marketing and pursue packaging or product-led offers, I would tell travel companies to stick to building their brand.

Remember, the biggest cost in sales and marketing is customer acquisition, and having a powerful brand is the way to keep existing customers and attract new ones.


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