As the web rapidly overtakes other forms of media, travel companies need to give serious consideration to their online branding efforts. Branding is a phrase that used to belong mostly in marketing 101 textbooks or Fortune 500 boardrooms. But this is no longer the case. As the internet drives down the cost of media distribution, smaller companies and even non-celebrities are building their brands online.

Think Before Spending

There are numerous ways a brand can be built online; display ads, sponsored search, organic search, blogs, online PR, etc. Individually, these channels are just one step in the branding process. Each marketing channel reinforces the brand in the consumers mind. Before a lot of money is invested in these various channels it is wise to go through some basic brand evaluation. While there are an endless amount of factors to consider, here are a few basic steps to building a successful travel brand online:

Define Business Goals

It is good practice to clearly state and narrowly define business goals. A common branding pitfall is trying to do too much or not clearly defining a niche. It is extremely hard to build a brand around “renting vacation homes,” while “renting luxury villas in Spain” is much easier.

Define Target Market

It is tempting for businesses to think of their target market as anyone who would buy their product or service. But it is impossible to target everyone. Using the luxury villa example, a good target market definition might be “affluent americans who want to travel with their family.”

Define Current Audience

One easy way to define a businesses current audience is to examine existing customers. Another basic way to do this is to take a look at web site analytic data. This will provide a much larger sample size and can provide a lot of good insight.

Reach Target Audience

After an honest analysis of a current audience businesses sometimes find out that their current audience doesn’t match up with the target audience. If this is the case, one or more components of the branding effort and marketing channels should be changed.

Define or Redefine the Brand Message

Conceptualizing and defining the brand is a vital step to carrying out all other online marketing activities. Again, this should be clear and very specific. If the current message doesn’t reflect business goals or doesn’t speak to the target market, it must be redefined.

Implement Brand Message

Once the brand is defined, everyone involved in the marketing process should know the branding message so that it can be specifically carried out throughout every marketing channel. Every piece of communication should accurately represent the brand.

Build Credibility

Delivering the promise of the brand is crucial to establishing brand credibility in the travel industry. If products or services don’t live up to the brand message, credibility is lost. Executing a business model that is consistent with the brand is difficult to achieve and takes time, but once this is established a brand builds up tremendous value in the marketplace.

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