The Case for Every Brand Being a Travel Brand: Part 2

If you read Part 1 of this post, you have some insight as to why and how creating trust like a travel brand can benefit your business. But if you’re still skeptical or new to the conversation, keep reading. We’ve only just begun.

In case we forgot just how impressive travel is as an industry, here’s a cruise ship-sized figure to consider: By the year 2020, online travel sales are projected to hit more than $800 billion. That’s a tremendous $200 billion surge anticipated in the next three years and this only accounts for the digital sales associated with travel. With an inconceivable amount of money changing hands (or computers in this case), there’s bound to be a lesson or two to be learned from the companies shaping this rampant economy.

These types of numbers don’t grow themselves, though, and behind those dollars, there are more than 1 billion tourists keeping companies on their toes as their tastes and needs continually shift. Part 2 focuses back on the user–whether tourist, restaurant guest or app consumer–and how understanding travelers, in particular, may give you insight to your own customers.

Personas or Perish

Understanding your audience is one of the most critical and complex pillars for a business, so when it comes to your brand there’s no exception. If you’ve settled on a set of demographics to outline who you think your customer is, good. That means you’re thinking about it. But push further and you’ll find those demographics are potentially leading you astray.

With Millennials on the tip of every business tongue and many marketer’s budgets busting at the seams to capture them, it’s possible that some businesses have hastily left older spenders in their blind spot. Yet in 2016 travelers over the age of 50 spent more per booking and represented 50% of all bookings, reminding hotels and even AirBnB-types that their work doesn’t end or begin with an age bracket.

Compare demographic stereotypes to reality on your next flight.

Beyond Demographics

This doesn’t mean that gender or location function any better as indicators of your user base. Looking at demographics can be like painting with only yellow to create a sunset. It’s limiting and makes you unaware of all the impressive oranges and purples that really make a sunset spectacular. So what’s the alternative? Think of user habits and preferences as your rich color palette.

For a travel behemoth like Disney Cruises or Disney Parks and Resorts understanding their customer base extends beyond the obvious groups of children and families. Their teams most likely investigate their visitor’s hobbies, diets, music preferences, fashion choices and more, but the great news is you don’t have to be worth billions to think this granularly or gather this type of information.

Where are your users in their lives? Are there social, cultural or economic factors influencing their decisions this week? This month? This year? How do they prefer to be communicated with?

The best thing you can do is talk to your current and potential users to find out more about them. From surveys to picking up the phone, or chatting with people at the airport, there are low-cost ways to access your audience. Where are your users in their lives? Are there social, cultural or economic factors influencing their decisions this week? This month? This year? How do they prefer to be communicated with? These are just a few examples of things you can ask and research in addition to the online resources available to guide your line of questioning.

By gathering and using this level of detail, commonalities that create authentic segments will unveil themselves. Instead of age or gender stereotypes dictating a persona, these details create depth that provides oodles of insight next time your business questions its direction.

This can be seen with something as simple as amenity kits on planes, which are seeing a premium upswing as of late. For airlines understanding lifestyle choices from their customers assists them in targeting just the right brand name products with hopes that fliers will be impressed enough to keep them as a token of a superior experience. Airlines like Delta rotate in new items every couple months rewarding a return flier with a fresh surprise and providing another chance to reach someone else’s specific preferences.


With brands of all sizes dialing into more accurate visions of their customer, the ones that are turning it up a notch are the businesses offering personalization. In 2015 TAM Airlines used Facebook connectivity during the online checkout process to later create custom onboard magazines for each seat using their profile photo. The experiment was a hit and exemplifies how brands can provide delightful customized experiences without users even having to ask for it.

100% of fliers took home their custom magazine, immortalizing the TAM experience for them.

Though the early stages of personalization have involved custom or on-demand products, including the ever-so-classic monogramming solution, digital options have been interweaving their way into the physical as we interconnect our lives. Deloitte’s 2017 travel and hospitality industry outlook paints a vision where guest’s mobile phones notify hotels of their arrival for an automatic check-in and of room service trays that trigger housekeeping when it senses that the guest is finished with their food.

While these may seem like Jetson era technologies, our phones have the data available to make these personalized interactions possible. The development of the software and hardware elements that communicate with our devices still need research and refinement, but once these experiences are executed harmoniously they can quickly go from an extravagance to an expectation by busy customers who rely on seamless interactions to simplify their day.

This also includes basic digital interactions consumers have become numb to. You can see individualized marketing emerging into emails triggered by a user behavior that makes the email feel more relevant when received, intelligent tracking that leads to more pointed ads, and websites that cater to specific needs.

But Wait, What About…

By giving users the benefit of ninja-like flexibility you may wonder, “Where does this leave brand identity?” The new paradigm will also tell you that your brand no longer has the luxury of appealing to all audiences one way all the time. Then how do we actualize custom variability with invariable branding in a cohesive way?

It’s tempting to give into being everything to everyone.

There are some misguided approaches to this. For an industry like travel where the same individual may see themselves as one type of traveler one trip and then redefine that by being a totally different type of adventurer on the next, it’s tempting to give into being everything to everyone. Cruise ships have long suffered this dilution of their identities and they are not alone.

Anyone else who’s been in these shoes knows it’s an exhausting endeavor for your employees and can be confusing for your audience who lacks having a central vision to identify with in their own way. The ultimate solution is to be as multifaceted of a brand as your audience without overcomplicating it. As a great example of a mistakenly convoluted attempt at global brand positioning, see the Uber rebrand video. Uber has since simplified its app icon back to solid black.

“From the BLT to mom’s everywhere” don’t let your identity get lost in the bits and atoms.

If the fact that you offer everything under the literal or metaphorical sun keeps users feeling lost in a crowd or you feel so one-dimensional you’re afraid your niche population is on an endangered species list, it’s time to put those personas to the test. Consider where people are in their lives and pinpoint the specific ways you are or can be part of that. If you feel like you’re short of information, find out more.

Then, while finding the connecting theme throughout those items you have the core of a brand that’s central, yet has the range to reach heterogeneous groups genuinely. You may even see that you have a greater potential to grow than you anticipated and don’t have to toss out your traditions or roots to do so.

Interested in learning more about brand consistency or lasting the test of time? Follow me here or on Instagram to get updates on “The Case for Every Brand being a Travel Brand: Part 3” coming soon.