Marketers like to throw the word “brand” around a lot, but the reality is there remains a lot of confusion over exactly what is meant. Poorly implemented, a brand strategy can leave clients confused and unimpressed – exactly the opposite of what you intend. For that reason, TRO will spend this week looking at the basics of how to brand your travel planning practice. Whether you are the owner of a large corporate agency, an employee in a storefront or a sole practitioner working out of your home, branding is a vitally important component of your overall marketing plan.
Most simply defined, your brand is the total sum of people’s perceptions about your company. It is not whatever you say it is…it is the way that people who have come into contact with your company think about it. You can certainly shape those perceptions, but at the end of the day, the center of gravity in branding is found in the minds of the people who know, or think they know, your company. Moreover, as we discussed during our Word of Mouth series, those same people also have a great deal to do with how others will perceive your brand. Therefore, smart travel agencies spend a lot of time developing, maintaining and communicating their brand.
A brand requires diamond like clarity to be accurately communicated. There must be an explicit promise of value for the brand to resonate with the consumer; and consumers are capable of differentiating strongly between similar commercial experiences on the basis of brand. For example, can you differentiate between Wal-Mart and Target? Most people can easily and consistently differentiate between these brands. A strong brand allows you to more easily retain your loyal customers and greatly benefit from word of mouth marketing. If you want to be able to charge a premium service fee as a travel consultant, you can do so with a strong brand.
There are three critical steps to building a strong brand:
- Brand development
- Communicating the Brand
- Maintenance and Fine-tuning
In preparation to studying each of these branding exercises this week, take time to once again review your travel practice’s message – what is your unique value proposition. What do you want your brand to say about your travel consulting practice? Understanding your message is the first step in developing your brand. We will then address how best to communicate your brand and then how to properly maintain it over time.
Tomorrow – Brand Development and Clarity