Metal pool steps with a contrasting turquoise and yellow background

The digital challenges of reinventing a heritage travel brand

What happens when a well-known brand acknowledges it has become outdated and tries to reinvent itself for a new audience?

While it may sound like a gamble, everyone in marketing has heard the phrase ‘adapt or die’ and there’s no point in holding onto something that’s simply not working anymore, no matter how recognisable it has become.

A pink pool inflatable floats on the water

This is exactly the situation with First Choice, a brand once synonymous with all-inclusive holidays, but now competing with its sister company Tui. Since Tui seems to have a clearer all-inclusive vision that translates well into its brand messaging, the decision has been made for First Choice to move into a different area of travel.

Experience-based holidays have been a huge trend in next-generation travellers for a while now and it doesn’t show any signs of disappearing. The decision makers at First Choice have therefore settled on this segment of the industry to concentrate on, which means marketers have been working on a total rebrand.

As First Choice steps away from its all-inclusive offering and towards experience-based travel, we look at the challenges and techniques its digital marketing team will need to address to make it a success.

Consistent messaging

When your brand is synonymous with one thing but is looking to make a name for itself with something else, consistency in messaging is key. Every article, social media post and piece of sponsored content that goes live must follow new brand guidelines, reinforcing the new message incrementally each time.

New brand assets and logo

With a new brand comes a reinvented image, which is exactly what First Choice has done. Gone is the teal background once sported by the ‘the home of all inclusive’ to be replaced by a hot pink that isn’t adorned with stylised sun and beach motifs, but icons representing more active pursuits. There’s a mountain and a building, but interestingly, still a palm tree and some waves, which could nod to the brand’s past.

Bart Quinton Smith, managing director of First Choice, told The Drum: “It’s clearly not just in colours, fonts, logo and images. It’s about how we turn this idea into something that’s really clear and coherent for the whole business to get behind and that we communicate really clearly to consumers.”

Behind the scenes, marketing materials are being completely recreated, tone of voice documents circulated and style guides reviewed. These materials, which will be used to create brand assets going forward and influence all communications with the new audience, are essential in transforming the image of a heritage brand.

Audience research

It’s all well and good to say that your brand is no longer meeting a need and in fact your sister company is doing it better, but such a huge leap into a different market direction requires research. Yes, experience-based travel is a huge trend, but how will your brand fit into it, and most importantly, what’s missing for the audience you’re trying to reach?

Audience research is important not just for redefining your offering but also for creating your marketing strategy. Use data to find out what your target audience should look like, where they can be found online, the types of content they engage with and the questions they want answered. While some brands have this capability in-house, calling in data insights specialists will mean your actions are based on data-driven learnings.

Tap into nostalgia, but acknowledge the change

Once you’ve got all the foundations in place, it’s time to wave the flag for your new direction. Yes, many people will know you for your old offering and the instinct is not to alienate them, but they’re not your audience anymore, so be prepared to wave them goodbye. Trying to hold onto the past and the future leads to a diluted message that doesn’t attract either demographic.

Your marketing can acknowledge the nostalgia of the past and the fact it’s been providing a quality service since 1994, or whenever, but there must be a clear line drawn in the sand. That was the past and this is the future. Ensure your messaging focuses on your future direction for a successful rebrand.

Creative content

One of the most exciting things about reinventing a heritage brand is the opportunity to do things a bit differently. Not only is this more interesting, but it’s imperative to set your new identity apart from the old one. As creatives, it’s a brief that we relish and one that allows us to help shape the image of a brand with its finger on the pulse.

Consider content types like animation, infographics or podcasts that you didn’t use in the old iteration of your brand. Reinvention is the perfect time to experiment and over time, you’ll begin to understand what chimes with your target audience, bringing them on board with the new concept.