When And How To Split Your Tourism Brand Into Multiple Brands

Brian Nicholson

Turning 1 Royal Gorge Brand Into 5

Royal Gorge Rafting & Ziplines was a successful company operating in the Royal Gorge region of Colorado—a location world-renowned for whitewater rafting. Business was going great. So great, in fact, that the rafting & ziplining brand was a bit too small to represent what the company had become.

The Awareness Issue

As the company grew to include lodging, fly fishing, and other services, the name Royal Gorge Rafting & Ziplines obscured the breadth of services offered. It’s not easy to market vacation rentals under a rafting and ziplining brand. (Fly fishing doesn’t exactly fit either). It was obvious that a separate lodging company—Royal Gorge Vacation Rentals—was needed. The owners had made this decision informally and had begun using that name, but hadn’t yet made it official. There was no logo, the online presence was limited, and no decision had been made about whether or how this brand related to the rafting and ziplining brand. 

Additionally, we were considering the potential SEO benefits of having separate companies with separate websites focused entirely on different things, such as rafting, ziplining, and vacation rentals. 

The Trust Issue

By separating the lodging brand from the rafting and ziplining brand, we were no longer asking people to trust that a zipline company could run a good lodging company. But rafting and ziplining were still connected, and we wondered: for high-adventure activities such as rafting and ziplining, do prospective customers view either activity as subpar—in terms of quality and/or safety—when one company provides both activities? We had experienced the products, read the reviews, and we know how passionate the owners are about quality; so we knew that each product was top-tier. But would new guests believe that?

Bringing prospective customer input into the decision

To find out whether splitting the brands would create more trust, we ran surveys to gauge perceptions, and we learned that there are people who believe that quality or safety are compromised if one company is running multiple high-adventure activities. Separating the rafting and ziplining companies would potentially increase trust among some prospective customers.

Creating the Brand Architecture

Now, we knew that we were going to need at least three brands: rafting, ziplining, and lodging. We also had to work through some decisions about smaller services such as fly fishing, and the owners also run “The Best Damn Bar & Grill in Colorado.” Ultimately we ended up with 5 brands:

  • Royal Gorge Rafting
  • Royal Gorge Zipline Tours
  • Royal Gorge Vacation Rentals
  • Royal Gorge Fly Fishing
  • Whitewater Bar & Grill

We had to define how these brands relate to each other. What’s their relationship? Are they partners with no visible shared ownership? Are they related brands but with no shared visual identity? Are they siblings? If so, siblings in what family?

A key question then became: As each brand becomes distinct, how do we cross-sell other offerings and fully leverage the benefits of having the same top-notch operations across all of the brands? We had just separated the brands to improve awareness and trust of individual brands; but all along, we knew that once someone had selected one brand, the other brands would benefit from being connected.

Single-brand Awareness and TrustRelated-brand Awareness and Trust
(When a customer is looking for a specific activity or service, such as a rafting company)(When a customer is on one website, but we want to introduce other activities and services)
A company and website dedicated to one activity/service may be able to rank better for specific terms. Also, no services are left obscured (e.g., lodging could be obscured in a Rafting & Ziplining name)
Curated Discovery
We can surface individual brands, or the entire family of brands, only when appropriate. For example, we can recommend the lodging brand on the zipline booking confirmation page, or we can promote stay-and-play packages.
Perception of quality
Prospective guests can think: If they’re a dedicated [rafting or ziplining or lodging] company, I can probably trust their quality.
Showcasing benefits
Features such as the close proximity of all the services—rafting, ziplining, lodging, and dining—can be introduced when we show the family of brands.
Perception of safety
Prospective guests can think: A [zipline or rafting] company likely has dialed in the safety procedures for that activity.
Borrowed Trust
When a customer sees the quality of an individual brand, the brand equity can be carefully leveraged to carry over some trust in the sibling brands.

We decided that this was the right situation for a parent brand—an umbrella under which all of the other brands would live: Royal Gorge Epic Adventures.

Building the Brands

We needed to determine what each brand stood for (brand strategy), and then craft the visual and verbal expression (brand identity) to match.

While there was a lot of overlap, there were some differences that needed to come through. For example, one of the rafting company’s important competitive distinctions is that it has the most inclusive pricing in its region since all equipment is included. Additionally, they’re the only rafting company in the region to offer in-house photo services. The lodging company operates in the same amazing location, but its focus is on “even relaxation can be epic”—touting the combination of views, comfort, and proximity to trails and activities.

We worked carefully through each brand, establishing a purpose, core values, brand personality/attitude, brand promise, brand pillars, and more.

Visual Identity

Our team crafted an identity system to reflect their positioning as a premium adventure brand that would resonate with both thrill-seekers and family vacationers. 

We created a series of distinct logos that shared a common framework to unify the brands, since they were going to frequently appear next to each other online, on building signs, and in brochures. 

The overall brand expression aimed to convey a fun and professional tone that was flexible enough to represent each activity from rafting to relaxation. The result is a simple and bold system that is anchored on the rich portrayal of their experiences through photography and video. We created a range of unique visual elements such as iconography, typographic treatments, and secondary graphics that allowed each brand to have its own distinct visual language.

Verbal Identity

To ensure that the brands sounded just right, we developed:

  • Primary and secondary headlines, ensuring that the main messages were front-and-center.
  • Formal company descriptions that consistently conveyed the right message, attitude, and benefits. 
  • Other supporting messages related to individual aspects of each company—such as safety, choice, location, etc.

The Cross-Selling Plan

With each brand now established, the respective websites were built primarily to allow each company to shine on its own. But cross-selling and upselling were important to us and the owners. Once we’ve paid to acquire a customer, and once one of the brands in the family has earned the trust of that customer, we have an opportunity to increase revenue per customer in a few ways:

Directly Selling Packages

We surface rafting+ziplining packages on both the rafting site and ziplining site.

Directly Cross-Selling Vacation Rentals and the Bar & Grill

A user that spends enough time on the site will come across our “The Ultimate Gorge Experience” section, promoting the fact that there’s a lot to do all in one place.

Indirectly Cross-Selling

We mention the family of brands in three out-of-the-way areas on the websites:

Categories in Shared Top Navigation

Each site will show that it is part of a broader set of services.

Categories in Shared Footer

We created a Royal Gorge Epic Adventures footer that links to each sub brand.

Trip Planning and Things To Do Pages

Each site has a section that helps people looking for other things to do while they’re in the area, which is another opportunity for us to promote the other brands.

A Brand Built For Expansion

The owners of Royal Gorge Epic Adventures are prolific visionaries, and their new parent brand is ready for whatever they create next.

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.

Email Brian

About The Author

Brian Nicholson

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