Authenticity is determined by connection, not just content.
There is a temptation in the travel industry to become campaign driven: constantly responding to competitors and the shifting sands of trends.
A campaign is a series of operations with an intended goal. The “intended goal” determines the operations but not necessarily the tactics.
Brands are similar to people looking for love. If you want to make someone love you, you become the kind of person that someone would love, or you pretend to be in lieu of an authentic transformation–which pop-psychology warns almost never happens.
Often in the name of relevancy (disguised reactionaryism), an organisation will invest in a series of marketing campaigns espousing a value-set not found in the culture of the organisation.
When a brand’s marketing assimilates the values of a subculture that are not reflected in their own culture, they have begun to compromise their authenticity; they are undermining the very agent of loyalty in an attempt to inspire loyalty. It is the epitome of a quick fix mentality.
Relevancy will always be determined by an organisation's comprehensive understanding and commitment to solving the problems their customers face. For travel brands, the answer lies in the Why of travel.
What happens when a hotel group identifies a subculture like the Hipster movement (by virtue of mentioning it here, I have officially pronounced it passe)?
They hire a design firm of cool kids to up-cycle some building in an emerging neighbourhood with a shady history come good. The design is often inspired by a broad cross-section of perceived generational values that become faddish before the project is launched. Or, they simply purchase a brand that fills that gap in their portfolio.
Ironically, the advent of the lifestyle brand was to cultivate authenticity. However, authenticity is determined by connection. Brands do not connect with customers, people do.
Observe Marriott and Hilton in their race to own a brand that corresponds to every variation of lifestyle traveller. The problem is all these brands are “centrally controlled” says Two Roads Hospitality CEO, Niki Leondakis. They all begin to feel the same.
Similarly, creating lifestyle marketing campaigns can be disingenuous if they are not borne of a culture that celebrates the values of the target audience.
How does a brand inspire loyalty? Or as Seth Godin calls it: “the brand crush.”
Loyalty is belonging. It requires an emotional connection.
One rarely makes a genuine connection with something that is inauthentic, and if they do, it doesn’t last long. The lack of loyalty in the travel industry is not a result of online search and booking, as some have said. Rather, the migration to online travel has exposed a lack of authenticity latent in the travel sphere.
Travel brands have forgotten why people travel.