Sampson strengthens First Choice

One of last year’s most public identity changes was the metamorphosis of holiday company Owners Abroad into First Choice.

Following a troubled 1992/93 season, during which the company had been subject to a hostile takeover bid, lost market share and its share price fell, Owners Abroad commissioned research into its market position, with disappointing results. The corporate name, which did not reflect the nature of the business, was shown to have little consumer recognition and the many product brands were competing with each other – externally for consumer spend and internally for promotional spend.

Group chief executive Francis Baron, who had been charged with reviving the company to meet the challenges of a growing holiday sector, decided on a radical restructure. He appointed Sampson Tyrrell as part of an agency team, including sister WPP companies Ogilvy & Mather, Hill & Knowlton and Promotional Campaigns, to help him relaunch the company under a new corporate name with a drastically reduced portfolio of three key brands.

Within five months Sampson Tyrrell had created a new corporate name and identity – First Choice Holidays – and three product brands: First Choice, Sovereign and Freespirit. This work was carried through everything from brochures to advertising, public relations and promotional literature.

“Our contribution was far more than simply creating new names and logos,” explains Sampson Tyrrell consultant Clare Fuller. “We gave the company a new banner under which to group. This helped to give employees a new sense of purpose and optimism. Among other material, we produced a video and internal newsletters to involve and motivate them, and to ensure that they supported the changes. The visual change was a springboard for cultural change.”

Three months after launch, the new name was recognised by more consumers than the old (in spite of its long history) and sales were up by 35 per cent. First Choice is tracking its corporate image through consultancy Millward Brown.

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