TUI goes all in on digital, scrapping brochures as it looks to shake off ‘traditional’ image

As Thomson prepares to rebrand to TUI in the UK over the next 18 months, the travel company is hoping to make a break with the past by scrapping travel brochures and instead looking to provide richer content in store through virtual reality and augmented reality.

The Thomson rebrand will take place towards the end of 2017, as TUI aims to become a global brand. Other markets are already migrating, with the Netherlands already  making the shift and plans for Belgium and the Nordics set for later this year.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Jeremy Ellis, marketing director at Thomson and First Choice, explained it has been “arguably the longest brand migration in history”, having first introduced the TUI smile to the Thomson logo in 2002. And he said while TUI recognises the strength of the Thomson brand, TUI also has a “reasonable degree” of awareness and that the change is important as TUI positions itself for the future of travel.

“Thomson is a great, well loved brand, but at the same time it has a more traditional image. But from research we know TUI gives us the opportunity to reappraise what the brand is about and the opportunity to talk about new things,” Ellis said.

In light of plans to rebrand, the company said it will revaluate its in-store experience to put more of a focus on the customer, using virtual reality and augmented reality to replicate a holiday experience. Although no plans have been set in stone yet, the company has been keeping an eye on developments with Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.

TUI ship

Funds for development will be made available from the company’s decision to scrap brochures by 2020. Thomson said brochures are one of its biggest expenditures, with 4.7 million brochures currently printed every year across 58 titles.

“Brochures have served their purpose and now is the right time to reinvest the money that we are spending on paper and better investing it in our customers by creating mini holidays in-store through immersive technology. People have to be able to experience the holiday to make the right choice,” said Ellis.

“We still see a strong demand for the personal touch, which is why we see our stores continuing. Rather than being a sales and distribution centre for brochures, the stores will become experience centres”

Jeremy Ellis, marketing director, Thomson & First Choice

He believes that the success of going global relies on reassuring existing customers of any changes and making TUI well known among new customers to ensure continued growth.

“One of our ambitions is to have a global brand. In a world that is driven by digital and the internet, global brands are more powerful than local ones,” he said.

Ellis explained that going global will allow the brand to use its economies of scale to offer customers more choice and more flexibility. And it has already enabled and will continue to provide access to further data, something that will allow the company to work as an integrated tour operator from booking stage to the end of the holiday.

Ellis said that there have been no pitfalls yet and that Brexit has not halted any decisions, owing to the time span until the rebrand.

“Exchange rates fluctuate from day to day anyway so who knows what it will be like in 18 months time, I think the biggest concern is the short-term exchange rate, though people still seem very happy booking holidays, particularly all-inclusive where your pound stays in your pocket.”

Festival

Josh Newman, Head of Production, TUI Group will be speaking at the Festival of Marketing, which is running on the 5 and 6 October at Tobacco Dock, London. For more information about the event, including how to book tickets, click here.

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