Dean Harvey, digital development director of Designate, outlines the opportunities and challenges involved in adopting a one-brand strategy

Earlier this year, both Monarch and Tui announced they would be moving to a ‘one-brand strategy’, effectively dissolving their sub brands, including Thomson and Cosmos Holidays.

Both companies defended this decision at last month’s Abta conference, claiming the move would have considerable benefits for their brand and their consumers.

There is much about this decision to be admired, as having a consistent brand approach is vital when developing and delivering strong messages that connect brands with their target audiences.

A one-brand strategy will mean that all activity can be aligned, therefore more likely to leave a lasting and memorable impression on consumers.

That said, there is a danger involved with this approach. Eradicating sub-brands, which in some cases may be well-established and well-loved can lead to confusion and disappointment amongst consumers, and unless it’s very clearly signposted and managed, the move could result in a loss of engagement, or worse, a loss of custom.

Especially where digital brand legacies are involved, brands need to be careful to curate and transfer any relationships, conversations and approaches used in their digital marketing once the one brand strategy has been realised.

Consumers who are used to interacting with brands online and via social media are often very engaged with the brand and will be valuable customers to keep (or lose), so it’s vital that these groups are kept well informed of what’s happening with the brand and why.

Moving to a single brand doesn’t mean you have to lose people, but it will happen unless you manage the situation carefully and clearly.

Today’s successful marketing campaigns are those which are focused on building, embedding and refreshing strong brands that have a lasting impression on audiences.

Successful brands are those which project a strong image, often underpinned by a memorable phrase or ethos, and who are known for championing a particular cause or belief.

With travel brands in particular, consumers are less likely to be loyal and will often look for the best deal and the most appealing choices based on peer reviews and opinions.

So travel businesses considering merging their sub-brands need to remember that once these brands come together, customers may have had different experiences throughout the group, and are looking for consistency and quality.

What brands like Monarch and Tui need to do is to look closely at what is and what isn’t working with their sub-brands and their group brands, and make sure that the brand alignment takes these successes and learnings into consideration.

For example, if there has been a surge in engagement during a promotion or specific period of marketing activity for a sub-brand, this activity can be repeated with a clear marker that the brand identity is changing.

This means that the brand benefits from the increased engagement but also uses the opportunity to communicate what’s happening to an audience which is switched on and listening to what it has to say.

Similarly, image and tone of voice needs to be considered. The whole reason behind creating sub-brands in the first place is often to change these aspects of a brand to suit a specific demographic, such as the under 25s or the over 50s.

It’s essential when switching to a one-brand approach that these groups are not alienated or ignored when these sub-brands are folded into the group branding. The solution here is to continue to develop and deliver tailored content to these groups, even if the brand is now an umbrella one.

Continuous communication, tailored offers and deals and bespoke marketing campaigns will ensure that each audience still feels catered for and valued once the change has taken place.

When justifying their decisions, the chief executives at both Monarch and Tui said that the new approach had been designed with brand clarity in mind.

What they need to do now is make sure that they use this opportunity to refresh and refine what these group brands stand for, and align this with powerful, memorable marketing activity which reminds customers why they chose the brand in the first place and why they should continue to do so.