I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – strong branding is imperative for tourism sales.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – strong branding is imperative for tourism sales.

Choosing a travel experience is an emotional process. While there are tactical differentiators that come to mind when a consumer chooses your tour or attraction over another, one must remember that folks are trading much more than money for your product.

They are giving up their hard-earned PTO time… and that decision is a visceral one.

Facilitating a meaningful connection between travelers and your brand is notoriously tricky. Sometimes even professional marketers get it wrong!

Where does branding come into play?

  • Great branding helps you differentiate your company and keep the sale. The right voice and visuals help your brand connect with a potential visitor from the top of the decision-making funnel in pre-destination research all the way down to where they make that actual purchase. Without that, you risk losing ample time and effort promoting the “idea” of a tour instead of the tour itself. For instance, if your product is an alligator tour, it’s imperative to lean into brand benefits like ecologically sound or adventurous fun layered with images that speak to the unique landscape of your launch destination. No other tour will have that same combination as a selling point! Conversely, if you were to buy a billboard with a close up view of a gator, using font and colors similar to other nearby excursions, you’ll only succeed in creating a lust in folks to see the sharp-fanged creature by any old boat.
  • A clear brand provides clarity for everyone – including your team. Focusing on things like your unique selling propositions, the emotive feel of your logo colors, or even the “young and fun” or “distinct and intellectual” vibe of your company voice helps your market understand exactly what to expect and your team knows just how to sell.
  • It helps you perfect and grow your product. If you really nail down your value proposition, you’ll notice that it becomes equally as recognizable to (and communicable by) your customers. Just look at the popular mentions at the top of your review. Is a certain element of your experience resonating with a majority of your customers? That’s a good thing!

At the end of the day, if you currently work in experiences, then you do have a point of difference and you’ve already made an emotive connection with consumers. Remember – there’s a reason you’ve chosen this career path and you’re reading this!

If you’re having trouble pinpointing and communicating your key differentiators, it’s time to get back to the basics.

But, if you’re having trouble pinpointing and communicating your key differentiators, it’s time to get back to the basics.

  • Determine your target audience. It may have been a while since you stepped away from your business and thought about why you started it in the first place. Revisiting that question can help you refocus on who your experience was designed to serve.
  • Create a value proposition (What do your visitors really want?). Think about what your customers are paying for when they buy a ticket. As Steve Jobs said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward.”
  • Drill down some unique selling propositions (USP) that support your value proposition. If your value proposition speaks to luxury, then drill down specifics as to what makes your brand higher tier AND different from the rest. Does your food tour get an exclusive bite at a high-end restaurant? Make sure your brand speaks to that.
  • Then think about how to use all of your public-facing messaging to make this clear. Once your positioning and brand benefits are clear, think about how to use all of your public-facing messaging to convey these points exactly. Pick one hero image that showcases your “why” and use it across your website, brochure, print buys, and digital listings. Rework your “about” blurb to directly mention your selling points and update the text in all listings. Ensure that your brand’s colors and font choices pack power in the “feel” of your value proposition. Do everything you can to charge your messaging with the exact combination of line items that you – and only you – have to offer.

Yes, steps have been simplified. No, it will not be easy. But it’s worth it.

Tourism marketing is an entirely different beast than the rest of the crowd. And while it is unique in many ways, it also has its benefits. For instance, experiences have the ability to create a community of brand ambassadors just from simple 5 star reviews.

But this work takes intention. And time. And it often helps to get a second or third or even fourth set of eyes to help you refresh your perspective. See if you can recruit a few people who are further removed from your day-to-day operations to offer outside insights and help you identify business strengths that you may be overlooking.

What I recommend to my clients is to always remain curious. Do lots of testing if you can because you need those data points to ensure that your base message is on point.

And when your brand identity takes shape, you’ll need everyone to fully commit to bringing it to life. Bring your team together to go over things like your company voice and style guide.

You can always find ways to fine tune your value proposition and brand elements based on how they perform. Just give each iteration some time. And it’s only up from there.

Just remember that heart-string pull.

About the Author: Marica Brewster

Marica Mackenroth Brewster is an award-winning marketer who excels at helping tourism businesses grow. As founder and CEO of The Von Mack Agency, her two decades of experience is put to work leading a worldwide roster of clients through the power of cunning, personalized campaigns. Based in Louisiana, the agency's work has garnered headlines in places like Yahoo Business, Travel Daily News, and New Orleans City Business. When she's not busy "in the trenches," Marica enjoys spending time with her family on Louisiana's Northshore, including five-month-old baby Astra. She also enjoys a great family costume.

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