Last updated: 03:30 PM ET, Wed November 04 2015

Report: Travel Industry Produces Least Intimate Brand Relationships

Features & Advice | Patrick Clarke | November 04, 2015

Report: Travel Industry Produces Least Intimate Brand Relationships

Leading airlines, hotel chains and the travel industry in general are coming up short when it comes to forming intimate brand relationships with consumers.

According to MBLM's Brand Intimacy 2015 Report, the travel industry ranks ninth behind eight other industries in brand intimacy — the relationship between a person and a brand that goes beyond usage, purchase and loyalty — in the U.S. 

Automotive, retail, health and beauty, tech and telecom, entertainment, financial services, consumer packaged goods and apparel all outperformed the travel industry.

For perspective, the top-performing travel brand, British Airways, ranks 70th out of 200 total brands.

Other well-known airlines including Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines were joined in the travel industry top 10 by Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Hilton and Holiday Inn.

While the travel industry ranked slightly higher in brand intimacy in Mexico and the United Arab Emirates, its dismal performance in the U.S. and overall can likely be attributed to a series of shortcomings, according to MBLM.

Two of the contributing factors pointed out by MBLM are the "disintermediation of purchase and dialogue." For example, the growing popularity of travel agents and travel aggregator sites has led to travelers bypassing brands during the booking process. Meanwhile the emergence of social media and traveler review aggregators like TripAdvisor have pushed brands out of the discussion. 

MBLM also cites "diminished usage and changing habits" as reasons for the industry's lack of brand intimacy, with travelers taking fewer leisure trips in 2015 and many already complicated loyalty programs changing far too often.

Finally, reduced quality and quantity brought on by unwelcome fees and mergers have likely contributed to the industry's struggles.

"We do firmly believe that travel and leisure can improve and establish strong mutual bonds with customers," MBLM Managing Partner Mario Natarelli said in a statement. "Focusing on delighting users in big and small ways, demonstrating dialogue and inviting conversation, finding meaningful ways to reward those consumers who have selected a particular brand can all help the category improve its ability to connect."

"Seeking ways to create greater intimacy is the best defense a category has to improve and grow," he concluded. 

The report found that the most intimate brands tend to experience enhanced business performance, often excel in profit and revenue growth and benefit from greater price resilience.


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