How to Become an Everyday Travel Brand



This article was written by Jamie Perry, Client Partner 


A travel industry client said something in a meeting recently which has really stuck with me. She said: “Not many people travel every day, but a lot of people dream about travel every day!” I found this inspiring because she’s right. Travel is aspirational to many, but a relatively infrequent purchase for most. My client’s comment started me thinking about how brands can take advantage of her insight.
How can brands in categories which have relatively infrequent purchases, like travel, ensure they remain top of mind when consumers are ready to make a purchase? There is also a tension here – brands don’t want travel to become boring or routine.  How can brands ensure travel remains exciting and special, but also so familiar that engaging with your brand makes it feel easy and accessible?  We call this balance “optimal distinctiveness.”
It’s an interesting question and one that is integral to something we talk about a lot here at Material: Relevance.


The relevance of relevance
In a world of ubiquitous connectivity, time is consumers’ most scarce resource. They are busy, distracted and exposed to a huge number of brands and ads. The first thing brands must do is stand out from the noise, which means getting consumers’ attention, and that requires you to be relevant.
Relevance both captures and rewards consumers’ attention. Consumers notice brands that are relevant to their identities and remember those that align with their goals and identity. You cannot buy demand, but you can align your products and messaging to meet consumers’ needs and improve their lives.
To connect to consumers’ identities, brands must deliver on what we call “Big R” relevance and “little r” relevance:
“Big R” Relevance is about connecting to consumers’ identity. Identity shapes what we pay attention to, how we think, how we behave and how we react to norms and expectations in our environment. You must know who your consumer is, what they need, and then deliver it memorably to become the go-to brand in their everyday and aspirational lives. Ring cameras are a good example. The makers of ring cameras took something as boring as a doorbell and made it a “must have” by positioning them as not only a way to keep tech-connected families safe but with the bonus of capturing funny moments, catching thieves and providing a community service.
“Little r” relevance is about the moment – about being there in the small moments, like habits and rituals that shape how consumers make decisions. You must know how your consumer decides, anticipate their needs and have the right offering available at the right moment.
Being the aspirational, identity motivated choice means that consumers will plan and intend to purchase you, even outside their moment of need. Being the easy, automatic choice means that even when consumers aren’t being intentional, they will choose you. But Little R relevance without big R is susceptible to disruption and big R without little R is susceptible to competing habits and forgotten intentions.  The goal is to create consumer experiences where the minor details are easy and habitual, while the focal experience is emotionally engaging and memorable. Positive memories create strong emotional connections, which ultimately drives loyalty and advocacy.


Loyalty is more than a program
Historically, the travel industry has focused on rewarding choice with points which can be redeemed later and rewarding big spenders with status perks. However, there is a third, often under-considered, function of loyalty programs: driving a genuine, active, ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship.  You know, not just rewards, but actual loyalty!
To drive genuine loyalty, brands must make it easy and worthwhile for customers to be loyal. You will know that you have genuine customer loyalty when their behaviors, not just their stated intentions, show repeated and ongoing engagement. Given the longer latencies between travel purchases, loyalty programs that encourage consumers to think of and engage with the brand between travel occasions will benefit by being top of mind when travel choices are being made.
Loyalty programs play a critical role. By truly understanding consumers’ needs and motivations, loyalty programs can create a series of micro-engagements and experiences which bring consumers back and it rewards their behavior. These habits are automatic and form over time when a behavior is consistently paired with a cue and a reinforcer. Because they are automatic, they operate without explicit, conscious intention, and they drive about 40% of our daily behaviors. It’s essential to understand consumer habits and design experiences that drive consumers to return to increase “little r” relevance.


Be there today so you’re top of mind tomorrow
Brands that tend to score highest with consumers are the ones we use every day, such as Huggies, Cheerios, Apple, etc. The more you can be part of consumers’ daily lives, the more you are on their mind but also the more you are part of who they are (and how they see themselves).
The key to “Big R” relevance and being top of mind when consumers are ready to make large but infrequent travel purchases, is little r relevance. In our research, we consistently see the brands that consumers connect with and use every day, like Apple and Huggies, are the ones with which consumers most closely identify. By creating these small, everyday moments, rituals and routines – with your brand at the center as consumers dream of travel – brands can connect to consumer identity and ensure they are top of mind when consumers are ready to spread their wings.


Want to learn more about “Big R” and “little r” relevance and how Material’s proprietary science-based approach unlocks the secrets of consumer behavior, paving the way for nimble actions and continuous learning? Get in touch here.