Part 4: 4 Things Destination Marketing Can Learn From The Best Corporate Brands

This is part 4. Check out part 1 in which we discuss the quantitative and qualitative value of your brand, part 2 in which we discuss why you should spend the money and trust the experts, and part 3 in which we discuss why it’s important to tellyour story.

Part 4: Jealously Guard Your Brand

With your dragon-slaying, silver-bullet brand well in hand, it’s time to take protecting it seriously. Understand that as you create a brand story that you are proud to tell, maintaining cohesion across multiple channels (including partnerships) is key to creating long-term brand equity.

Brand Equity

David Aaker defines brand equity as the set of brand assets and liabilities linked to the brand—its name and symbols—that add value to, or subtract value from, a product or service. These assets include brand loyalty, name awareness, perceived quality, and associations.

From the sign on the visitor center, to the visitor experience itself, every touch point must parallel the essence of the brand.

Forbes posted a great article that everyone who has a visitor-centric business model should read: 20 Ways Apple Masters Customer Touchpoints And Why It’s Great For Business.

“The lesson of all of this is that for firms to win the loyalty and devotion of their customers, they need to experience their brands as their consumers do to determine all the ways they can make the product or service experience better, more pleasant, more human, and more productive. Each brand should develop a detailed customer touchpoint or journey map with all the stops along the way before, during, and after purchase. They should think of ways to differentiate beyond the obvious to surprise and delight customers. Maximizing touchpoints doesn’t have to be more costly. In some cases it can save money in customer service and advertising due to more favorable word of mouth. It just might have the highest return on investment of any marketing aspect!”

So, what are a DMO’s customer touch points? It’s every interaction with your brand you can conceivably control or influence. From your website, to advertising, to partner programs, to the way hoteliers and restaurateurs talk about your destination. It’s the way your staff and volunteers communicate on social media, in person at visitor centers and events. Every time you’re able to tell the story, even in a few words, it’s vital to plan that interaction to build as much equity as possible with as few touch points as possible.

Brand Universe

Building brand loyalty, a key metric of brand equity, can have significant impact on the conversion and retention of visitors.

“First, consider the measure of price premiums. According to a 1995 consumer branding study by management consultants Kuczmarski & Associates, 72 percent of customers will pay a 20 percent premium for their brand of choice over the closest competitor. To a substantial 25 percent, price is inconsequential if they are buying a branded product that ‘owns’ their loyalty. Such premiums allow for higher price points and higher profit margins. Starbucks is an example of one company that has tightly managed such strategic brand drives as quality, consistency and the authenticity of its coffeehouse experience. This has allowed Starbucks to charge an average of $1.60 for a medium coffee, at least 60 cents more than a similarly sized java picked up at the neighborhood convenience store. Small surprise that Starbucks is one of today’s hottest and most successful brands.”— Prophet

Proof that brand loyalty and attention to visitor experience can pay off big. For example, North Dallas suburb Addison has a signature 4th of July celebration— KaboomTown!—that is an important part of a brand story they tightly control. Pulling in an estimated 450,000 attendees annually, it has become a key differentiator for this compact but well-known city, and is a top choice even though Kaboomtown! is more expensive, harder to access, and more trouble to attend that other major July 4th event in the area.

How You Can Apply This To Your Brand

Be a master storyteller. Build a brand evangelism program around that story. Learn to spin it with all the nuance, romance, and impact you can muster. The best brands build brand evangelism by telling an inclusive story that is echoed across all touch points. Think Nike, Apple, BMW, Las Vegas, Paris, the Bahamas. They don’t tell you about the product, they tell you about you! And, you can do the same by:

  1. Making what you want from your brand evangelists clear
  2. Making your brand story clear, persuasive, easy to remember and repeat
  3. Making your evangelist’s actions simple: tweet, tag, share, etc.,
  4. Making it worth their while: give them exclusive access to “back-stage” info; make them part of the team by giving them t-shirts, stickers, wearables that are fashionable

The Big Takeaway

We’ve already made the argument that your brand is one of your most valuable assets. It’s that unifying language that you use to frame all of your stories. It’s the collection of impressions you set in the mind of visitors. Because there is so much weight underlying your brand, it is critical to develop a plan of action to protect your it. Protecting your brand should be top of mind in every decision across every touchpoint. It should be first.

Stay tuned for our bonus round 5 of this series, or…

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June 26, 2014