Friday, July 27, 2007

What do Brand Lists say about the travel industry?

One of the most prestigious and well respected brand ranking surveys has released its collection for 2007 .

The Interbrand-BusinessWeek survey of Best Global Brands eclipses other efforts such as the Superbrands-run list [it is, er, puzzling how Eurostar makes a list of "Superbrands" but Google doesn't].

Topping the list are the usual suspects - the giants of the consumer world including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, IBM, GE, Nokia, Toyota, Intel, McDonald's, Disney and Mercedes-Benz.

[Full list available as a PDF. Nice slideshow, too]

Google makes the top 20 for the first time; Ebay is in 48th position; Yahoo! gets a respectable 55th; Amazon in 62nd.

And the highest travel brand? Hertz, in a lowly 100th position.

Should we be appalled/suprised/worried by this?

Well, if you are in charge of marketing or branding for Expedia or some of the biggest airlines in the world (British Airways, American Airlines et al) you might be a tad disappointed to not make the lower reaches of the 100.

But the reality is this: travel companies will have to go a long, long way before they can gain any of the brand power associated with the giants of the FMCG, tech, entertainment and car industries.

This is unlikely to change, some might suggest. Commoditisation has damaged brands.

At the moment the web does a fantastic job of diluting a travel product into its simplest form, and in this order of priority for the consumer: price, availability, and perhaps brand.

Until travel companies reverse this trend, they will not challenge anyone in the top 100.

Of course, the flipside to all this list nonsense might be that the theories associated with the Long Tail of Travel mean branding shouldn't really matter for the sector. Go niche, diversify from the mass market.

But those brand managers at some of the biggest travel companies in the world will probably be seething that a car hire company (a reputable one, we hasten to add) is still ranking higher than them.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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Joe Buhler said...

This just shows once more how futile it is for most travel marketers to obsess about branding, at least on a global basis. I share your assessment about commoditisation being a factor, after all who needs a brand when the lowest price is all you're looking for!

More useful would be to try and establish a strong brand position in whatever market segment, country or niche you find most of your potential customers.

I'd say that Kuoni is a good example of a travel brand that fits that profile.

Anonymous said...

Airlines are specifically excluded from Interbrand's list because "it’s too hard to separate their brands’ impact on sales from factors such as routes and schedules."

It's not clear why this is any harder to do than splitting out the impact of, say, software development, sound management or Coca-Cola's secret recipe.

I imagine that if they included airlines, some of the bigger brands would get a look in. BA would have to be in the running.