Thomas Cook to use marketing to differentiate brand portfolio

Thomas Cook plans to increase marketing activity to present a more differentiated and varied product portfolio as the company looks to bolster revenue from more sources and reverse the fortunes of its struggling UK business.

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Thomas Cook wants the 25 independently run but owned companies such as Nielsen and Airtours to account for 50% of its business in the next few years, up from 40% at the moment.

It is, however, looking to simplify and consolidate this portfolio. It has already axed its Sunset holiday brand and further brands could be rebranded or consolidated to improve efficiency.

The company also wants to increase awareness of its city breaks and flights-only services and show that it can provide choice for all consumers’ travel needs not just summer holidays and package deals.

Marketing director Michael Johnson says: “Part of our business transformation journey is recognising that there is not one proposition that that suits all people, and acknowledge that we need 3 or 4 propositions on our channels to satisfy customers.”

“We will upweight things like city breaks but it’s not a quick fix. We need to get more people to know about the things that we already do as a business. We will also need to simplify the brand structure as there might be better ways to articulate what we do, but it’s a two or three year process.”

The move towards differentiation is in line with rival travel group TUI’s strategy to offer more differentiated and exclusive products.

Thomas Cook reported pre-tax losses of £398m in its last financial year and was forced to renegotiate its finances with banks following deterioration in UK trading. In contrast, Thomson and First Choice owner TUI reported an 18% increase in operating profit to £471m in its last financial year.

Separately, the travel company, which is an Olympic partner, is planning a marketing push in February to raise awareness that consumers can still buy tickets and accommodation packages for the London 2012 Games from Thomas Cook, despite tickets being sold out elsewhere.

The holiday operator has also partnered with TV chef James Martin to improve the quality of its in-flight meals. It will offer a range of traditional menu items from £6 form summer in a bid to improve the experience holidaymakers have on its aircraft.

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