Travel Brands are Stuck in ‘Efficiency Traps’

Guerillascope’s travel and tourism team recently had the pleasure of being at ABTA’s annual Travel Convention. Sunny Seville was the destination; strengthening our industry expertise the mission.

Our busy three-day schedule included catch-ups with old friends, networking with new friends, and filling our heads with fresh insights from a host of keynote speeches. One in particular stood out to us: ‘The Psychology of Shopping’ by Rory Sutherland.

Addressing a packed-out room of delegates, Sutherland, vice-chairman of the Ogilvy Group, applied his expertise in behavioural psychology to a discussion on ‘who we trust and how we choose’ in the era of digital innovation.

Sutherland warned industry leaders about the pitfalls of “allowing accountants to run their business,” stating that “efficiency is inimical to trust.” Focusing on one-off transactions alone undermines efforts to nurture trust and brand loyalty – the real drivers of profit – with one problem being that price seems to be the only prominent variable offered to consumers.

He argued that one way of escaping this ‘efficiency trap’ is to instead focus on behavioural psychology: in particular, understanding that what consumers really dislike is uncertainty. As marketers, we should pay less attention to what we think the customer wants, and more on making the journey to a destination as simple and straightforward as possible.

This means focusing our efforts on what is good about the brand and service – the quality of the experience – and minimising the sense of risk. Sutherland urged the industry to be more positive, and “stop assuming that people’s behaviour reflects what they actually want.” Take the airline industry, for example, which “is being forced by web developers into a race to the bottom.” Why is it that booking sites only filter by price, and not by quality or time of journey?

Research by the BDRC Group shows that price is not the biggest motivating factor in choosing a holiday, with weather leading the way. For long-haul getaways, culture and history is increasingly important; authentic local experiences, safety and scenery & landscape also trump cost. Focusing more on how your brand can be a facilitator for customers to enjoy these experiences in comfort will ultimately lead to trust and loyalty.

It’s marketing teams and agencies – not accountants – that have the skills and know-how to enact this much-needed shift.