Is your brand helping or hurting your tourism business attract customers and achieve future growth? Companies often hesitate to rebrand because they don’t understand the concept as clearly as something like tour design or operations, even though it can be crucial to a company’s success. The process can also feel uncertain and maybe even a little scary.
In this post, we’ll guide you through the details to make an informed decision about when it’s right for your tourism business to rebrand (or not), and the steps you can take to get your project off the ground and heading in the right direction.
In this post, you will learn:
- Why Branding Even Matters
- What Branding Really Is
- The Signs It’s Time for a Rebrand
- Different Approaches to Rebranding
- How To Get Started
Before we share when it’s the right time for a rebrand, let’s cover why tourism brands should even bother with branding and answer an equally common question—what exactly does branding mean?
Why Branding Even Matters
When branding is done well, it can deliver massive benefits to all areas of your business. Good branding can make your company:
- Stand out from your competitors.
- Attract customers to your business.
- Motivate customers to book.
- Emotionally connect to customers, which creates sales and lasting loyalty.
- Command a higher price point for tours and activities.
- Be recognizable and memorable.
- Build trust and customer loyalty, leading to more and stronger recommendations from existing customers.
- Cultivate successful company values which lead to solid company culture and highly-engaged employees.
The immense value of that list is why the world’s most loved and successful brands invest in their brand, and why it’s worth your time and money to build a brand of your own. But what do we mean by brand?
What is Branding?
A common misconception is that branding is your name and a logo and that’s it, but consider branding like the manual for your business. It’s how you represent yourself to customers, employees, and the general public. Branding communicates what your company does, how you run your tourism business, and why you do it. And ultimately, it represents what customers feel when they interact with your business.
Your branding will offer a promise to your customers, and your brand’s success will determine how well you uphold your promise. It includes your brand identity – the visual, verbal, and experiential elements.
Let’s explain branding with an example everyone knows—Disney World. Sure, they are a huge global brand, but it’s a great example to explain how branding and brand identity works.
Disney World’s brand promise is fun, family entertainment. They execute this promise with messages differentiating them from other theme parks with “Happiness through Magical Experiences.” How Disney looks—the visual expression, includes its logo and brand marks as well as typography, iconography, color palette, backgrounds, photography, patterns, and other graphical elements. Across all their designs, the brand elements are unmistakably Disney, even without a logo. All these visual queues are meant to bring alive feelings of happiness and magical moments.
What Disney says and how they say it is the verbal expression. These are the messages that connect with their audience. Verbal expression includes the words they use, the specific dialogue and phrasing, the tone of voice, and the cadence (the length of sentences and the rhythm of how the words are delivered). Disney uses an easy vocabulary with happy, friendly, and joyful words and tone. The cadence of their sentences is short because they want to connect to children and adults alike. The words, like the visuals, convey that feeling of youthful happiness and magic.
Every experience or customer interaction at Disney World is also part of its brand identity. The brand ensures the guest feels happy every time they interact with it—when guests are greeted by Mickey Mouse at the park, when they interact with staff in a restaurant, and even when there is a problem that Disney World needs to resolve. They do this with an extensive staff training program. They execute with a high level of detail to ensure that even an everyday experience that may seem normal to any other brand, is surprising and delightful for Disney customers.
What Successful Brands Do
All successful brands have two important components to their branding formula: consistency and emotion.
Disney’s deliberate consistency across every application and point of interaction helps to create loyal customers who visit their parks and purchase their products for generations. Those customers count on the experience being predictably amazing.
Branding is compromised when customers experience a brand (like going on a tour), and the experience doesn’t match how they initially thought or felt about the brand before. Branding efforts are also diluted when the visual and verbal expression is different across marketing platforms such as websites, signage, print ads, digital advertising, apparel, and vehicles. The inconsistency makes it difficult to identify the brand and reduces the marketing dollars’ impact.
Humans are emotional, and we connect to things (and brands) the most when we have positive feelings about them and they align with our values. The most successful brands use emotion effectively in their branding because they understand how to tap into the emotions of their customers, which leads to loyalty, ongoing business, and future customers.
The Signs That It Might Be Time for a Rebrand
Rebranding is a regular cycle of business. Every brand should change and evolve to address shifts in the market to stay relevant to their customers.
It’s a good time to evaluate a rebrand for your business when…
- Your target audience has changed or grown, and the current brand does not resonate with them anymore.
- Your tours or activities have changed in some way and may not align with the existing brand—or you have difficulty explaining the new offerings to your target audience in a way that’s consistent with your existing messaging.
- Your brand no longer reflects who you are or who you aspire to be.
- You fail to differentiate from the competition and gain your fair share of the market to be successful. (You may need new positioning—part of a brand strategy.)
- Your brand is confusing or looks outdated or mismatched. People might assume the same about your company, and ultimately choose your competitor instead.
Some businesses may experience one or several of these branding issues.
Highlands Aerial Park wasn’t clearly communicating who it was, and why it was the right brand for its target audience of multi-generational families. The brand’s identity was most appropriate for thrill-seekers rather than connecting with the target audience they intended to reach.
In this project, we modernized the brand and established a friendlier color palette, a professional-meets-casual font pairing, with new messaging that brought the multi-generational focus to the forefront.
Read more about Highlands Aerial Park rebranding project.
Different Approaches to Rebranding
Not all rebranding projects require a complete overhaul of the entire brand identity. The scope of a rebrand is dependent on the situation and the scale of change the company needs to better serve its audience and stay ahead of the competition.
We always aim to retain brand equity while improving areas that are not performing well.
Common types of rebranding include:
- Repositioning: A change in purpose or vision of the company that may lead to a repositioning effort such as redefining the brand values, where the brand is going strategically, and how the brand relates to its direct and indirect competitors.
- Identity Update: A brand with strong values and purpose may require only a refresh of its identity to stay modern and relevant.
- Complete Rebrand: A company that has outgrown its brand might need a complete rebrand to be competitive.
The EDGE Ziplines and Adventures underwent a complete rebrand in 2020. With multiple names and logos across the web, the company sometimes known as Castle Rock Zipline Tours was not providing a single, cohesive identity for people to find and share. This confusion was also increasing advertising dollars to drive awareness. In addition, its brand identity didn’t communicate what it is —a bold and high-energy brand.
The brand name changed from Castle Rock Adventure Park to The EDGE—a nod to Castle Rock’s location on “the edge of the Front Range” of the Rockies. The bolder color palette was a better match for the high energy of the experiences, and the visual patterns represented the region and the distinctive Sky Trek adventure park structure. The verbal expression was carefully selected to strike a balance between clarity (the there are 4 distinct adventures available) and a call to excitement.
Read about the EDGE Zipline and Adventures’ tourism branding a case study.
How to Get Started on a Rebrand
Rebranding often begins with research and always with analysis. Having good insights and data about the brand’s current perceptions and performance is essential to ensure you address the problem and meet the needs of your customers.
Your branding must also be future-focused, or you won’t attract the customers that you genuinely want and grow for the future. Once a shared understanding of the current state of the brand is established, charting a new brand path begins. It involves defining the desired positioning, articulating points of differentiation, and defining the brand story.
These steps include strategy sessions to:
- Know the company’s purpose and vision, so that the new brand is rooted and will remain relevant as the company grows.
- Understand the desired target audience’s needs and desires.
- Understand the competition’s brand, products, communications, consumers, and pricing.
- Define the brand pillars—the messages that define and differentiate the brand AND resonate with the target audience.
Example Strategy Session Outcome:
Highlands Aerial Park, from the previous example, uncovered an important insight in the brand strategy sessions with our team. Highlands Aerial Park existed to serve a multi-generational audience of families from 5-80 years who want to have fun together. This purpose defined the target audience and was transformational in how we represented the company from that point forward. Target audience strategies are just one example of the kinds of insights discovered during brand strategy sessions.
The end goal of rebranding is always to establish a meaningful differentiation from the competition and clearly communicate the brand pillars.
This foundational work is what guides the new brand identity. Depending on the outcomes of the strategy work, the process can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months depending on the scale of the rebrand.
Branding is the manual for your business because of its weighty and lasting impact on your customers, employees, and future business. All the branding elements need to work together to portray a relevant and attractive brand. With so many parts riding on its success, is it the right time in your business life cycle to consider a rebrand? Let’s have a chat.