In today’s world of marketing, authenticity is becoming increasingly essential to your brand’s success. Today’s consumers don’t want your brand’s corporate message pushed on them and they don’t need to listen. Due to the huge digital revolution that has occurred in the last decade which is only set to become more prominent, unwavering brand loyalty is becoming a thing of the past. In fact many suggest the type of loyalty that many brands enjoyed for decades may have died forever and will never return.

You only have to take a look at certain statistics to see that this is occurring in all sectors of the economy. For example in terms of the household: “90% of the leading household goods brands are losing market share on consistently low-growth categories.Just because people always used to buy Kelloggs or Nestle in the past, this doesn’t mean they will now, especially younger generations. Tastes, aspirations and mindsets are altering dramatically due to huge changes that are taking place across the globe. It no longer makes sense to remain loyal to a brand, because it doesn’t automatically benefit consumers and they have so many other choices.

As further evidence within the food and grocery market, observe how discount stores like Lidl and Aldi have arrived in recent years in the UK and massively disrupted the market. While their profits have risen dramatically, established brands such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s have seen market share and profits tumble. As well as offering great value, Lidl and Aldi have both placed social media at the centre of their marketing strategies across all the major networks including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Of course this is all part of a fundamental, wider shift away from the concept of sticking with what has always seemed the safe bet to embracing change in our daily lives. Change is not seen as something to be afraid of and avoid, but something to aspire to because it leads to innovation and improvement. This is occurring within the world of work, relationships, education, religion, politics and where people choose to live. This is being driven by technological advancements, the internet, social media and globalisation  and shows no sign of slowing down.

People are embracing change:

In these changing times, unwavering loyalty to a brand is now something that appears misguided and old fashioned, because it can increase your chances of missing out on something more interesting, useful and/or better value. This is certainly the case within the travel and tourism market, where increasingly people are searching for new experiences and different ways to holiday. A clear indicator of this is the huge growth of AirBnb which offers a totally different concept of finding holiday accommodation than in the past. Travellers have embraced Airbnb, because of the freedom, convenience and savings that it offers.

Ultimately what brands need to understand, is that consumers care increasingly less about your brand. While Airbnb has seen massive growth, it is not the brand that people love but the way of travel that it offers them. If a new, more innovative product came along that improved on this concept then consumers would be quite willing to switch, much more so than they would have in the past. What Airbnb has managed to do though is connect with its guests and potential guests in a highly effective and authentic way via social media and digital marketing.

You have to fight for people’s attention:

Big brands no longer have a monopoly on people’s attention. In the past as fewer forms of entertainment existed ie. television, radio and print, big brands could monopolise these because of the high cost barrier that existed for advertising. Now with the advent of mobile, cheap, speedy internet, and multiple forms of entertainment such as social media, YouTube, Spotify, streaming television services and countless other digital media driven by technological changes, these barriers have been lifted.

People no longer have to watch a commercial about how amazing the latest unhealthy burger is at a fast food chain, or how a soft drink will apparently make their summer amazing. Instead consumers connect on social media with brands that offer value to them and communicate in a human, authentic way.

People don’t trust brands, they trust people.

What many brands within the travel and tourism industry still seem to fail to fully appreciate is what an incredibly powerful tool social media is to connect with guests and potential future guests. While future generations will likely not choose a certain hotel or resort simply because it’s with the brand they have always known, they will choose your brand if you are able to effectively communicate to them why they should. With effective social media and digital marketing strategies the people that work for your company should become your biggest advocates and engage with your followers in a human, authentic way.

Your hotel or resort should definitely be using all of the major social media channels and ideally have a team of specialists monitoring and updating these for conversation around your brand or destination. Do not just sit on the sidelines and watch and then pump out the corporate message. Consumers are increasingly bored of bland advertising telling them how good your product is, with no evidence to back this up.

Your resort should be reaching out to and working with travel influencers. These can be bloggers, film-makers, photographers or social media influencers; ideally they should be able to do all of these things. By connecting with these type of influencers and offering them stays at your resort, this creates an authentic buzz around your brand. They will share photos, videos, blog posts and social media updates which their followers will see and share and you can then share across your brand accounts.

Social Media is the perfect communication tool

For a resort or hotel brand use social media to engage and converse with your guests, people talking about the destination you are based and talking about your brand online. By doing this your company becomes more authentic as it shows your team are listening and not just broadcasting. Too many brands just see social media as another box to tick, such as, ok we need to post this tweet today using this hashtag, then our social media work is complete for the day. This is a completely wasted opportunity and appears incredibly formulaic and boring.

Of course you should tap into the trending hashtags, but tap into events in real time. This is why it’s very useful to use tools such as Hootsuite or Mention to monitor what is being said about your brand in real time. Your team can then jump into a conversation by answering questions, sharing content and averting any possible brand crises. People now expect to be able to reach your brand via social media and not just at the normal 9-5 hours. Some brands are now exceptionally good at social media response such as KLM Airlines who guarantee a reply on Twitter within 11 minutes, across 10 different languages!

A big response that seems to be heard within many companies by employees when they are asked to use social media, is that they don’t have time. What you will find though is that if your team don’t have time for social media, then people won’t have time for your company. This isn’t the future, this is the here and now. They expect a response as quickly as possible, that effectively deals with their question or criticism. If your brand ignores them or is slow this will annoy people and could turn them away from you, potentially losing a customer. It could also lead to further negative comments thus becoming bigger problem. Social media shouldn’t be an add on, but an integral part of your marketing and corporate communication strategy.

Ultimately, customer loyalty is in no ways guaranteed now, but if you are loyal to your customers in an authentic, entertaining, human way offering real value to their lives, then they are much more likely to become repeat customers and recommend your brand to others. The good thing about this is that people very much trust the recommendations of friends, family and to a lesser extent their wider social media connections. Even if they don’t trust brand corporate messages, if others are recommending your brand who they do trust then they will be inclined to try your brand such as staying at your hotel or resort. Rather than treating them merely as customers, think of them as your friends or family and advocates of your brand to the world.

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