During these COVID-blighted times, there will be some brands that will do extremely well and others that may lag.
The brand strategy would heighten the distance between the ones who made it past the goalpost and the ones who lagged. You need to build ‘Brand Trawell for Grand Travel’. A focus on ensuring the wellness of the consumer but also offering a grand travel experience is crucial for success.
From hotels to restaurants, airlines to trains or tourist buses, from travel agencies to cruises, a brand’s success or failure is going to depend on appropriate and relevant brand strategy.
In pre-COVID days, everything was free-flowing. Whether you wanted to travel to a distant land internationally, enjoy the beaches and the mountains within your own country, set out on a nice cruise across several nations or embark on a pilgrimage, it was all free-flowing. There were no restrictions except for the need for a regular passport and visa. All you had to do was book a ticket and reserve a suite in a hotel.
Now, everything has changed.
But have brand strategies changed? Have they been adapted to the new environment? The answer to these questions will determine the success or failure of the travel and tourism industries and the brands therein.
Trawell Brand Mantras
I would like to recommend my four ‘Trawell Brand Mantras’ on the occasion of World Tourism Day. Practical and strategic, they can be implemented immediately. There is this one suggestion: “When everything in the world is closed down, you need to keep one thing open – your mind.”
Focus on what you can do; do not cry about what you cannot.
Most stakeholders are focusing, rather inappropriately, on things that cannot be done. They cry about the glorious days of the past. Instead, they need to be able to get their act together and strategise what can be done and implement those strategies.
The travel and tourism industries spawn hotels, restaurants and bars, airlines, buses, trains, cruises, entertainment, adventures, besides family get-togethers and outings. There is a way of opening each of these segments, safely, legally and in keeping with the sanitation, health and hygiene and immunity protocols. You must “try and not cry.”
New product configurations and innovations can be developed. I recently read that in Australia, Qantas Airways launched a wonderful program called “Flight to Nowhere!’’
People are fed up of being at home. They want to experience heading out to the airport, checking in, taking a flight, enjoying the take-off and landing experience, and then coming back home. When travelling across nations is not an option, a flight like this is a joyride, an exhilarating experience. It is innovative, meets the legal and safety standards, and offers a wonderful brand experience.
If the consumer cannot come to you, go to the consumer.
This is particularly relevant for hotels, restaurants, bars and coffee houses. While eating out at a restaurant at a hotel or heading to a coffee café with a book to spend time, or even meeting a friend at a bar may be out of bounds, for now, there is nothing to stop you from enjoying delicious food, drinking a beverage you love, enjoying your cup of coffee or indulging in a dessert.
Many such dining experiences make our life better and the hospitality and restaurant industries can market these experiences. Instead of expecting the traveller or customer to come to you, reach out to them and delight them with interesting dining and beverage experiences.
Offer consumers a smorgasbord of experiences. For instance, they could dial in a hotel and order a veritable feast, ranging from Indian to Lebanese, thus enjoying the best of four worlds! Or they could pick a starter from one restaurant, the main course from another, and dessert from the third, all delivered as a full package. This would not have been possible in normal times.
Go after the segment meant for you
Segmentation is the most under-used weapon in the brand marketing arsenal. Even though some attempts have been made, pure segmentation continues to be elusive. While demographic and geographic segmentation is still visible, there is very little being done to understand psychographic segmentation.
In the tourism industry, demographically we all know that senior citizens are the target market for cruises. They have the money, they have the time, they are done with their responsibilities and obligations towards their children, and desire to relax and enjoy a wonderful cruise experience.
Similarly, the millennial consumer or the young are a big segment for restaurants and bars. Eating out is a particularly youth culture across the globe. Or, those interested in sports can be a target segment during the soccer, football or cricket World Cups, or during Wimbledon, French Open and Olympics seasons.
Such attempts at segmenting the market help immensely. But there have to be deeper ways of segmenting by understanding values and lifestyles, the cornerstone of the travel and tourism industries.
Some like to travel in groups. Some communities in India travel only in large groups for the sense of comfort it offers them. They look at being able to maintain their customs and traditions.
Then, there is an adventure-loving segment that loves to travel to unfamiliar destinations and shuns the company of friends and family while travelling. The industry needs to understand the values and lifestyles of the various audiences and cater to their needs.
Some enjoy the buzz of dining out with a large group of friends or family, while some like to enjoy quiet moments and dine alone, or maybe in the company of a goldfish! This segment is growing rapidly and in the times that require social distancing, would be an ideal segment to target.
This solo traveller segment does not mind paying a premium as long as they can enjoy privacy and can relish those quiet moments. Identifying the new segments offers a road to success.
Don’t only focus on ‘ever-used’ consumers. Also, focus on ‘never-used consumers
Many-a-times the travel and hospitality industries reach out to the same set of customers and consumers. They are what I call the ‘ever-used consumers’. They are important; they can be depended on to be regular and form a large chunk of your business.
But why miss out on the larger chunk of ‘never-used’ consumers—those who never been in a position to enjoy the pleasure of travelling, staying in a hotel or dining out at a great restaurant.
They may be young consumers who have just graduated or they may even be middle-aged consumers who were too busy making ends meet, running their businesses, working at a job or looking after their family and have had no time to take a break.
Or, they could be pilgrims who only travelled to one of several pilgrimage destinations, giving leisure travel a miss in the bargain. It could be the other way round, too. Maybe some travelled for adventure, enjoyment, entertainment, and have never been on a pilgrimage.
At a moment when education and medical tourism is restricted, there are many out there who have never enjoyed the full bandwidth of different travel experiences. My recommendation is, look at these ‘never-used consumers’. They form a large base and their expectations are not as high as those of the ‘ever-used consumers’.
To experience travel and hospitality during touch COVID times, even if it is in a rather limited manner, could make for a grand brand story.
People are social animals and are itching to travel again, dine out again and indulge their love for experiencing different cultures. When the consumer is ready to adapt to reconfigured offerings, why are the industries not reaching out to them and adapting to their needs?
If you adapt, so will the consumer!
Jagdeep Kapoor, Founder Chairman & MD, Samsika Marketing Consultants, a leading brand marketing consultancy, has contributed immensely to the brand building and marketing domains for the past 25 years.