As consumers we make brand choices. Some of those choices are fleeting. They are inconsequential and are limited to that moment in time. But other choices we carry with us, wear as a badge, use to define our preferences. These choices have major longevity. They are often price insensitive and, at the peak of their behavioural influence on us, result in us defending and promoting them to our peer group. These brands tend to be more emotional in their impact on us because they centre on experiences. Travel brands fit neatly into this category. Choosing an airline or a hotel brand is functional in that it gets us from A-Z or a hot shower and 6 hours of rest but it is also akin to joining a club.
When I look at my peer group I know that Josh, Brad and Emily are 'Team United' whereas Lori, Kai and Larry are 'Team American'.....that's their air carrier choices. All live in the same metro area but they've delineated and formed tribes.
Hotels are the same and here I'm 'Team Starwood'. Before the cynics draw conclusions on loyalty schemes influencing choice I would say at best that's the third motivator, first is a sense of 'brand fit', with locational convenience number two. For me I would always chose a Westin over a Marriott, a Sheraton over a Hyatt a Luxury Collection over a Four Seasons. That's based entirely on the various brands working for me individually and as a group.
It's one of the reasons why I responded positively to their call to 'Preferred Guest' members to appear in their advertising campaign. I'm happy to say I moved along the process and ended up being selected - I'm writing this on the Eurostar on the way back from Paris where I spent the day being photographed. Like every other participant the motivation was supporting a brand we love. Hopefully my picture will make it through but even if it doesn't it's been one of those brand affirming moments.
Confident brands are able to turn themselves inside out and look to their customer to help define their positioning. It's clever, it's smart and it's fun. When a brand can convert a transactional customer into a brand advocate they've moved one step closer to being iconic.
Becoming iconic means longevity and resilience. If you are reading this and are responsible for a brand that's something you want to achieve, for certain your competitor does.