With a few exceptions, most of the sector’s marketing activity is similar, says Digital Drums chief executive Steve Dunne

It could be argued that, compared to many products and services, holidays are a relatively simple thing to sell.

After all, what’s not to like about clear blue skies, beautiful sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, stunning scenery, mouth-watering food and activities that bring fun and excitement to life?

But, in a way, that is one of the challenges facing most destination, operator and retail brands when it comes to marketing their product or service. What they sell tends to be, on the surface, pretty similar to every other travel brand in the marketplace.

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How can they truly differentiate themselves?

While this thinking has been in my mind for many years, I was particularly struck by it when looking at the recent turn-of-year advertising and marketing activity of travel players, large and small.

Poor branding

With a few notable exceptions, most of the advertisements and marketing activity by destinations and operators seems the same. They all promote similar qualities, with similar imagery, and messaging that differs, at best, ever so slightly.

If you’re ever exposed to a series of back-to-back travel advertising campaigns from different holiday brands or destinations, you could be excused for being hard-pressed to spot or recall the differences.

It’s the same with travel agents and OTAs. Essentially, to the untrained eye, they all do the same thing and distribute their service similarly.

So, what is the solution?

One answer is branding. Something that, I feel, not enough travel companies and destinations do.

In other markets, branding is seen as a key way to differentiate yourself, to appeal to the personality, motivations and ambitions of the target audience in a way that resonates and, of course, generates sales.

Take price comparison websites Compare The Market and Go Compare as examples. Both services do the same thing and in the same way, with service benefits and features that are broadly similar. It’s their branding that differentiates them.

Branding gives your product or service a personality, which consumers match to their values and vision. Above all, and unlike price or product features, branding is very difficult for a competitor to replicate if done properly.

Good branding

Not all travel brands are missing out on branding their product.

Take the recent Tourism Australia ‘Matesong’ advert. It highlighted Australia’s features, but did so with the personality of Australians, using humour, song and visuals. The brand personality came through strongly. And there are several other examples of travel brands getting it right.

But the travel brands getting it right are outnumbered by the vast majority which don’t brand themselves properly. It is those brands and destinations that just merge into the crowded marketplace hoping to stand out by price, their ability to outspend others or to scramble for the same business as their competitors.

So, for 2020, brand up your business or destination and see your market grow!

Podcast: Turn-of-year TV travel ads reviewed