In times of turmoil, brands are a necessity but companies should not overuse them, the focus should be on customer needs during a downturn.
According to panellists at the Web in Travel event, "New Ideas & Execution for Brand Building & Marketing" at ITB Asia.
"Crisis always opens new opportunities to change the way we do business. In a crisis, the company must get very focused on customers needs," said Mr Gerry Oh, Regional Vice President Southeast Asia and Australia for Jet Airways (India).
Panellists said values, loyalties and customer priorities change in a crisis. "The crisis translates into budget constraints for consumers. It generates new market segments with core values being very much the message of the day," said Mr Roland Jegge, Vice President Asia Pacific of Worldhotels.
In times of fiscal uncertainty, boosting advertising and PR activities builds up brand loyalty and stimulates consumer confidence. "Being present in advertisements shows that the company is still doing well," said Ms Kathleen Tan, Vice President Marketing for AirAsia.
Panellists said that brands in Asia have generally developed in the shadow of Western ones, which have had a longer presence in global markets. The travel experts in the session said that Asian companies have for too long paid little attention to branding. Furthermore, Asian companies often experience difficulties coping with local differences within markets.
Speakers also said that another difficult task for local brands, in part, comes from a pan-Asia preference for Western brands, which are perceived as a symbol of economic affluence.
Ms Tan said that AirAsia – probably the most recent example of a successful pan-Asian brand - had to learn a lot from differences within the region. Ms Tan said: "We had to adapt our website to different languages across the region with specific messages. In China, we had to introduce a special translation of AirAsia in Mandarin with a specific website in Chinese Mandarin once we learned from our Chinese partners that they did not understand Mandarin from Malaysia."
Nevertheless, all speakers said that Asia has been able over the years to build up strong tourism brands. "Hotels, spas and destinations around the region are perceived as high-quality, stress-free tourism products. In this sense, Asia has been doing better than many Western countries," said Mr Gordon Locke, Vice President Airline Marketing and Strategy at Sabre Airline Solutions.
Speakers said that Asian companies need to allocate more resources to digital marketing, which is today an essential tool for building up a global presence.
Read more about the event; insides, interviews, reviews and more in the exclusive 4Hoteliers.com special.
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