Thomson stresses financial strength as Thomas Cook brand hit

TUI Travel brand Thomson Holidays has launched a campaign distancing itself from troubled rival Thomas Cook, stressing that the company is in “strong financial shape” and that holidaymakers are in “safe hands” if they book with it.

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The press campaign comes as a study shows that Thomas Cook, locked in talks with banks about increasing its borrowings after reporting “deterioration” in trading, has suffered plummeting brand perception since news of its financial difficulties emerged earlier this week.

Ads running today (25 November) in several national newspapers stress that Thomson “customers can book holidays with confidence”. It is also intended to address any confusion between the two similarly named brands by pointing out what it claims are its unique attributes.

Jeremy Ellis, head of marketing at TUI UK and Ireland, says: “When there is uncertainty in the marketplace, consumers want to book their holiday with a company that they can trust, and we want to reassure them that Thomson is in great shape.”

BrandIndex data from YouGov shows that consumers’ impression of Thomas Cook has sunk since Tuesday (22 November) when it announced it was in need of immediate refinancing.

“General impression” scores were 1.8 yesterday (24 November), down from 12.9 at the start of the week. The Thomson brand has dropped by the same measure but less steeply, down to 9.5 from 14.3 over the same period.

Thomas Cook’s index score – an average of how customers rate the brand in terms of impression, quality, value, reputation, satisfaction and whether they would recommend the brand – has also slumped, down to 4.9 from 9.8 over the same period.

Thomson, however, has also suffered over the same period by the same measure, indicating possible contagion and need for the reassurance drive. Its index score dropped to 7.7 from 8.7 at the start of the week.

Thomas Cook moved quickly to try and reassure customers that its financial difficulties will not impact service delivery. A social media drive using Twitter and Facebook told customers that their flights, holidays and hotel bookings are not at risk.

It is also considering launching its own above the line campaign.

Thomas Cook has issued three profit warnings in 2011, blaming economic uncertainty in the UK and unrest in key Middle Eastern and North Africa destinations of Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco earlier this year.

It is currently undergoing a strategic review of its UK business covering brand positioning and product mix.

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