LEADERSHIP LAB 2015: DESIGNING THE EVOLUTION OF TRAVEL
For our last three Limited Editions, LE Miami has asked the contemporary travel industry’s hotshots to design the evolution of travel. We do this by inviting a group of founders, CEOs and influencers to swap insights at the annual Leadership Lab, a closed event held in Miami during the show.
At this year’s Lab, we decided to shake things up by throwing in a consumer psychologist, some marker pens and a bit of friendly competition, dividing our leaders into four teams, directed by advertising mastermind Adam Ferrier, before asking them to state their case for the future of the industry.
Now, we’ve divided the outcome into three debates that explore the next step for contemporary travel. We’re releasing the full report in print, exclusively for our 2016 collective – if you’re one of the lucky few, keep an eye on your postbox and if not, request your copy here.
However, to give you a preview of the themes covered, we’ve spoken to a few Lab attendees to get their post-match perspective. First up: Adam Ferrier, Global Chief Strategy Officer for cummins&partners, consumer psychologist and our Lab moderator, gives us his take on why being brand-centric is a crucial part of being contemporary.
Adam Ferrier – Consumer Psychologist and Global Chief Strategy Officer, cummins&partners
What do you think it means to be a brand with a point of view?
Having a point of view means you have a strong central organising thought that guides all business decisions from a brand perspective. What does your staff wear, how do you advertise, what experiences will guests have when they stay at your place, what beds should you buy: all can be guided by an internal point of view on what your brand stands for. It doesn’t have to be overly lofty, emotional or esoteric. You don’t have to save the world, or be ultra-hip. You just need to know what your brand stands for and, perhaps more importantly, develop systems and processes that allow you to deliver on it.
Do you think travellers want personalisation?
I’m wary of personalisation. I want anonymity from a hotel experience, and I’m sure many others do too. Too often the desire of travel brands to offer personalised services outstrips their ability (the number of times I’ve been thanked for staying by a handwritten note to a completely different person waiting for me in my room is frightening). I’d advise focusing on creating a uniform and standardised experience across your hotel. People crave consistency and simplicity more than personalisation. However, if you believe you can truly get both right, then go for it.
In a world when everything is so instantaneous and customisable, do you think there’s value in making people work to understand your brand?
I think people need to immediately get your proposition and then discover layers of experiences beyond that that keep surprising and delighting them. Being familiar with a twist is the perennial change for service brands. Be familiar and consistent, but mix it up a bit to keep reminding them why they like you so much.
Has the definition of branding/marketing changed in recent years? If branding is about embodying a point of view, how do you communicate that to potential travellers?
The principles of branding haven’t changed; however how to do it effectively has flipped on its head. Instead of marketing to your customers I’d suggest marketing with them. Get them invested in your hotel at some level (emotionally of course) and ensure you ask them to promote your travel brand, and be vested in its success.
How can brands be authentic with this approach?
Brands need to not be so ‘perfect’ and manufactured. Consumers enjoy imperfections and brands being vulnerable. Invite consumers in, ask for their feedback, and help them see you take their feedback seriously. People are shying away from perfection – it feels fake.
Are there any travel brands that you think are good examples of the ‘brand-centric’ approach?
There are three world-class leaders of brands taking a brand-centric approach. Ace Hotel has a POV and shares it with the world. Customers either buy into it or not. Ace doesn’t care. They know who they stand for and make it easy for people to buy into that proposition or not. The other is The Standard: everything they do proves they are indeed the standard for others to measure themselves against. ‘One Night Standard’ for example is a booking app that others can all learn from. The other (declaration of conflict of interest as I work closely with them) is Art Series Hotels in Australia. They know their brand’s POV so well that creating ideas for them (such as Steal Banksy, Overstay Checkout, and Reverse Reviews) is relatively easy.