In Branding, Google is King

Brand directionIn an economy of competition and ‘do it yourself’ options, many brands are returning to their roots to reassess where they stand in the market and what they offer to their customers.

This is particularly evident in the travel sector, where online companies such as Expedia and have managed to move the market from travel agent focused to ‘do it yourself’, independent travel. However, I’d argue this move is not sustainable; yes, people can book online but having done so for a few years now, they will run out of ideas. I believe the travel consumer will return to the tour operators because they need the expertise therein to help them craft new and exciting trips.

This raises an interesting ‘chicken-and-egg’ conundrum. Whilst a move back toward tour operators and their expertise may seem fairly intuitive, it is intuitive within a culture where Google emphasises the value of personalisation and expertise. Does Google drive change, or does change drive Google? Do we seek expertise and personalisation because Google’s algorithms (particularly since the Panda update) encourage it or do Google’s algorithms simply reflect an existing cultural shift?

In reality, the answer to this doesn’t matter. But acknowledging it brings up a two key opportunities for businesses:

1) Craft the brand based on Google’s algorithms – so when expertise is key, focus on expertise;

2) Buck the trend and stand out from the crowd by taking another route.

In option one, a business may craft its brand based on the cultural drivers we see reflected in Google’s algorithms. This is evident already in the way slogans are changing: Thomson has ‘Holidays designed just for you’; Audley Travel offers ‘personal service and expert advice’. The focus on ‘you’ is clear – reflecting the personalisation pushed via Google.

There is a risk here that brands start to look a lot like each other though, and where the key selling point is that the product is driven by ‘you’, it is ‘you’ that becomes the USP and as the customer, you take ‘you’ with you everywhere and thus lose that need to select one brand over another, since they all offer the same thing! Option two provides the opportunity to buck the trend and stand out.

My prediction is that option two will become the dominant choice over the next few years. Particularly in travel, brands will need to develop the focus on ‘you’ to a more shared focus, where yes, ‘you’ are important but essentially the reason ‘you’ need to choose ‘us’ must be clear – and in this environment, it is those brands who can be experts and communicate that through every medium that will thrive.


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