Creating a Unifying Parent Brand – Red River Gorge Vacations

Brian Nicholson

Red River Gorge, Kentucky is a beautiful getaway destination offering camping, climbing, sightseeing, and more. 

Several of the businesses in the gorge have shared ownership:

Lodging Companies
Red River Gorge Cabin Rentals
Cliffview (a resort offering both hotel-style accommodations and a venue for events such as weddings and corporate retreats)
Red River Gorge Inn
Natural Bridge Campground

Activity Companies
Red River Gorge Ziplines
The Gorge Underground (cave kayaking and boat tours)
Thrillsville Adventure Golf

Retail Companies
The General Store
The Gorge Outfitters
Red River Gorge Gift Shop

Having all of those businesses operated by the same company has the potential to help both customers and the parent company in the following ways:

  1. Simplified planning and booking. Customers can work with one person to book virtually their entire trip, simplifying the planning process. 
  2. Cost savings. The parent company can increase its average order value by having activity customers add lodging, or vice versa, allowing them to pass on some cost savings to the customers, and also benefit from improved margins. This is true of all kinds of customers—couples, families, friends, or group events.

Each company has its own purpose, position, and brand pillars, allowing it to stand on its own. But in order to realize the benefits of their connection, the companies needed to be unified both internally and externally. 

We created a parent company, Red River Gorge Vacations, to create this unity.

Creating a Parent Brand for Improved Operations

In order to help each company act as one, some key decisions needed to be made and communicated to the employees: 

  1. We’re one team. We all work for Red River Gorge Vacations. We’re cooperative, not competitive.
  2. With one purpose. We all help families, couples, and friends experience their perfect Red River Gorge getaway for maximum refreshment and connection.
  3. Always serving the customer. Success is defined by customer satisfaction, not by the performance of any single company. Every interaction they have—including any transfer from one company to another—is part of their experience with Red River Gorge Vacations.

As an example of how this works out operationally, we indicated that employees should use “our,” “us,” and “we” language when cross-promoting. Example: “One benefit of staying with us is that you get 20% off our two 5-star adventures: a thrilling zipline tour and an underground kayak tour.”

Creating a Parent Brand For Improved Marketing

A parent company provides several benefits for marketing, helping to win more prospects, convert more customers, and increase both the average order value and customer lifetime value—all of which contribute to a better marketing ROI.

Borrowing Trust

A single-parent company provides a way to carry the trust from one company to another. When someone has a great experience with Cliffview, and then sees that The Gorge Underground is part of the same parent company, the positive affinity carries over, which streamlines the user’s decision-making process of whether to book.

Leveraging Choice

Red River Gorge Vacations has an excellent variety of lodging options at various price points, ranging from a basic campsite to a luxury cabin. Showcasing this variety makes the brand attractive to people who aren’t quite sure which type of lodging is the right fit for their preferences or budget. The company and the customer also benefit from this variety when bookings start filling up. If the customer’s preferred lodging option is fully booked, the same person they talked to about their needs and preferences knows what other options are available, and can offer up those options. This prevents the customer from having to search for another company and makes it more likely that the company can “convert” the customer, which helps the marketing economics to work out more favorably.

Increasing the Value of Each View

Every person who visits one of the sites is made aware of the relationship between companies, which helps every company get more impressions. We created a shared multi-company navigation strip at the top of every site, as well as a shared footer. Additionally, we cross-promote where it makes sense. 

We do the same with brochures—ensuring that each individual company promotes the others.

Offering Value-Added Services

By adding a parent company, Red River Gorge Vacations can effectively add services and benefits such as:

  • Vacation planning
  • Packages
  • A single point of contact
  • A compelling loyalty program

Each of these adds to the value proposition in ways that individual companies could not. 

While there are sometimes reasons to split your brand into multiple brands, consider whether a parent brand would benefit you and your customers like the Red River Gorge Vacations brand does. There are different types of brand architectures for different scenarios, and choosing the right one is important to maximize the value of your brands.

Do you need help with your brand strategy? We’ve helped many tourism companies establish a strong brand foundation to help them win more business. Let’s talk about how we can do the same for you.

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About The Author

Brian Nicholson

Brian is a partner at Blend Marketing. He focuses on brand strategy, positioning, and analytics for the tourism industry.

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About The Author

Brian Nicholson

Brian is a partner at Blend Marketing. He focuses on brand strategy, positioning, and analytics for the tourism industry.