Branding should personify your vision, values, voice, personality and looks. Your guests can relate to your brand and travellers can experience it in such a way that it leaves a long and lasting impression. How do you do this when all they remember is Trip Advisor or Booking.com?
Online Travel Agencies are great as a channel for your marketing activities but your travel business still has an identity right? You’re doing all the hard work and they experience you from your interaction with them. OTA’s can handle your bookings but if all they remember in that customer journey is the booking platform and don’t remember your name, the job of standing out becomes even harder. You have to remember that you are still only a listing to them, amongst many an OTA will position you against.
We’ll outline six powerful ways you can add differentiation to your business that should keep you top of mind to any new guest.
Craft your memorable story
We all have one and your business has too. More often than not it comes from a passion you share with the destination, for that spark of adventure or straight out of a unique and unquestionable opportunity.
Writing them down in points will sharpen that story into a credible and trusted brand story that unveils values and principles you can build a business upon. Tell people about and share it so you can flesh out what sets you apart from your competitors.
By focusing on why you started your business, the inspiration and the source of the idea, what your intentions are and how your team or staff members feel about the brand, you can find purpose that will develop over time and build customer trust.
Your ideal customer
Once you start to look at your offering it will be easier to find customers and guests that fit your brand. Everybody has a different flavour of holiday experience and your service or offering may not fit.
Using demographic and physiographic information like ideal age, where they are from, what their personalities are like and what interests in lifestyle they have will all help in creating a brand identity your target audience will completely identify with. It will also help your marketing efforts when you know how they book and how their online activities reflect the choice they make when choosing a travel destination or experience.
Local businesses can use the vast resources available to them from their relevant countries’ Destination Marketing Organisations. DMOs will define the destination brand which showcases the uniqueness of the travel experience one will have, and the travel brand you have can follow the guidelines they provide.
Aligning yourself with the DMO increases your chances of getting noticed, adds credibility to your brand and allows for the traveller to experience what the DMO promises as well as what you can deliver.
Visit Iceland and their ‘Inspired By Iceland’ brand for example has a professional section where traders can access content banks, get information on trade shows and workshops and become an Iceland specialist, which adds you to their database of travel businesses. All with a view of increasing their professional approach as well as yours.
Voice and tone
Every time your message goes out online and offline in print media, you are voicing your identity and your brand. Your mission and your values are always reflected in your messaging. The brand attitude and personality comes out when you communicate.
Make it consistent. Being funky in social media and then serious or informative in a blog post will misalign your core values and leave a confused audience. Clarity and distinctiveness will position your brand to your target audience. Brand voice is ideally the same in every single channel you use for your brand.
Defining your brand with a tone of voice can mix it up a little to provide that emotional impact. Finding brand voice and tone can be achieved by going over your company mission and values, finding themes in what you have already produced, how your audience communicates and assessing the DMO messaging being sent out. Create at least four to five words that will resonate with your audience and your travel brand and stick with them.
These characteristics will be key to developing all the messaging you want to align yourself with. All posts will be consistent, all imagery produced will have an identity you own, and all of this will give you enough flexibility to enhance your services over time and feedback.
Here’s the good part where you can play and experiment with all the elements in place, make decisions and develop your unique experiences. This will apply to you if you’re just starting out or going through a rebrand exercise to redefine your business.
Your visuality is at the core of how you stand out amongst your competitors and hopefully be the reason your branding strategy will elevate you above them. Where do you begin?
- The Logo
Every brand identity will have one whether it’s a logotype or a wordmark. It’s essential as it will present you everywhere. Your social media posts, website, merchandise, promotional material, trade show events. Aim to make it timeless through simplicity and one that is accurate against your company culture.
The palette you use will define your emotional impact and provide a framework you can use to drive meaning home. Colour psychology will have a lot to play in this so do some research or make sure the design agency is fully briefed on your desired outcome and intended audience. Your guests need to feel your brand as much as experience it.
All fonts have a personality it’s designer wanted to imbibe. This personality will reflect heavily on your identity and brand values and are as important in the decision making process for you as the logo that represents you. Choosing typography should be consistent across all print media and online and done well, will leave your audience with trust values and underpin your success.
Consistency is again key here and can enhance your brand tone of voice. Showcase the experience you want to offer your audience and leave them wanting more. They should inspire one to come and should be used along with video to fully benefit from what you have to offer. It will also allow influencers to see how you present yourself so that they can potentially promote and associate themselves with your growing brand.
Now it’s time to put this all together and push all the hard work out into the wild. Your travel brand website must be consistent once again with how you present your information, your values, your storefront or booking system experience, and how the user has first contact with you.
Make sure each page is similar in layout and structure, brand colours are used in a subtle yet commanding way, CTAs are pointing to all the right pages that you are tracking and the website rhythm is clear and simple to navigate through. The design should aspire to be in line with your logo, typography choices and colour palette you decided upon.
The copy and imagery you use will ideally be inline with the brand voice you developed. It’s the perfect opportunity to develop your voice through a blog where you can position yourself and what you offer, to the audience profile you want to attract. It’s also a great way to add email marketing into the mix by adding a CTA to the bottom of each post. Think of a blog post as a free advertisement to garner new subscribers. The more content you create, the more you can lift above the rest.
Using keywords that are relevant to your brand will also add weight to how you present yourself outwardly. Think about your URLs and headings, titles to pages as well as meta descriptions you write for each page. It will help to sprinkle these keywords across your site so you can benefit from the long term value Google will offer you.
Always try to use your own custom booking system. Based on how your site is built, it doesn’t have to be complex. Sites built using WordPress are easier to manage then most and have a vast selection of free and not so pricey premium options to choose from. Your design agency should be able to direct you to the best fit for your site, but having a custom booking system on your site will allow you to keep your guests and users on your site. After all the hard work you’ve put in, it would be a shame to send them off somewhere else to make the booking. It also allows you to retain the prices you would like to charge rather than pay out commission to OTAs. Again, not a bad thing and still lets you promote products or services you can track and follow.
Your travel brand will develop over time and should be organic. Try to collect feedback from everyone that your brand touches and use that to help maintain your brand values. As your business grows so will your strategy so keep it active and refine this first step you’ve taken.
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