Thursday, May 22, 2008

Brand bidding drama is fair to some, an abomination to others

Our latest column in Travel Weekly [penned before the latest twist]:

It would take a brave soul to write with any conviction about what will happen over the Google trademark/brand bidding issue.

Since Google made its dramatic announcement in April allowing companies to bid on the brand name of other organisations, marketers from around the industry have been reacting with a mixture of unbridled glee or absolute horror.

This unfolding drama for the travel industry has been particularly intense given that Google is such a pivotal player in digital marketing terms for small, medium and large travel companies.

Travolution’s experience of talking to many senior executives around the industry can be summarised with this simple formula: the smaller the company, the more receptive to the policy change.

There are a number of major issues at play here. Big travel firms are desperate to protect their identity.

In the chaotic world of the internet, where the ‘brand’ can easily get lost amid a sea of seemingly similar players,

Google’s sponsored links allowed companies to have a place of their own when consumers were searching for a particular company.

This, in the mind of Google (and, it is worth mentioning, at Yahoo! for many years), is unfair on other companies who should be given the opportunity to advertise to consumers.

As someone from a small travel provider, hugely supportive of Google’s move, said last week: “Consumers don’t recoil in horror when they see a billboard for Ryanair next to one for EasyJet.”

To groups of economic liberalists it would sound like a fundamentally stable and fair theory.

For those that invest huge sums of money in brand building, however, it is nothing short of an abomination.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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olasnavigator said...

it's sound unfair for a small travel company.

thanks, interesting story.

Richard Hartigan said...

Brands that have invested significantly in brand building should not be as concerned as those that have not. With the addition of sitelinks, universal search and most recently, search within search, it is far easier for a major brand to have a significant presence in the SERP's for a branded term.

The emotional attachment that brand owners have to their intellectual property has perhaps led to a bit of panic within the industry before any constructive analysis has taken place. Has anyone reported any commercial losses as a result of the trademark amendments?

If a user searches for your brand term but clicks on a competitor, this tells you a great deal about the effectiveness of your own marketing activity. In fact, I would even encourage many brands to remove their own paid listings on branded terms and evaluate the drop-off in traffic and sales. How significant is it?

Consumers are not daft. They are generally aware of the relevant competitors in a particular sector and will consult them one way or another. With increased activity from meta search engines, price comparison sites and travel review sites the user journey has become far more complicated than a simple branded search before booking.

In short, there are far greater challenges facing the online travel industry.

Travolution Blogger said...

Richard: Thanks for comments.

Whilst Travolution has deliberately not taken a stance over this issue (despite pleas for a "campaign" from various and opposing quarters), one thing we will say - and where we completely agree with you - is that there are indeed much bigger issues.

The reason why we have given it so much coverage is that it has become THE hot topic of the past month or so.

What is First Choice's approach to all this?