Commentary

Travel + Leisure: Extending A Venerable Brand

It’s an age-old question: How do you take a venerable brand name and extend it, particularly to relatively unrelated products?

In the case of Travel + Leisure, the recent brand extension has been dramatic. Known as a magazine catering to high-spending travelers for about a half century, the name was purchased by vacation club and exchange company Wyndham,  with the Travel + Leisure name to replace Wyndham Destinations. It also now lends itself to:

-- The magazine (including online content), which has been licensed back to Meredith Corporation, and will publish with complete editorial independence, according to Noah Brodsky, president, Travel + Leisure Group and chief brand officer.

-- Time-share brands Wyndham Destinations, Club Wyndham and Margaritaville.

-- Panorama, which offers vacation exchange as well as travel club memberships and includes vacation exchange company RCI.

All told, there are nearly 20 travel brands across a sprawling resort, travel club and lifestyle portfolio under the T+L umbrella, with more to come.

A major launch was booktandl.com, a platform on which consumers can plan and book a trip. The beauty of having the connection to the magazine, said Brodsky, is that “people can be inspired by the magazine and can then book on the platform.”

The “play” around the booking platform, said Brodsky, centers on the magazine’s expert content, including guidance for traveling to just about every city in the world. There are “actual editorial recommendations,” rather than amorphous stars or other ratings.

The booking platform will lay the foundation for a summer launch of a Travel + Leisure subscription travel club, offering benefits and perks when traveling or at home for a monthly fee of $10.

Members of the club will have exclusive privileges to travel products closely tied to editorial content in the magazine. If, for example, there’s an article about Greece that mentions a restaurant, readers will be able to get special access and possibly a discount for that establishment.

The goal is to move customers from the booking platform into the club and perhaps to a relationship with the A List, travel advisors who have been certified by the magazine as the best in their specialties. 

As with entertainment like video, subscriptions seem to be a dominant trend, according to Brodsky. Research shows that people with multiple subscriptions of any kind want more, including a travel subscription. In the near future, said Brodsky, there will be a number of major players in travel subscription, delivering content and value, “and that is where we want to be.”

The reasons for capitalizing on the T+L brand are myriad, according to Brodsky. He said the name is iconic and represents “trust, likeability and a global presence.“ It also has 50 years of content, which is being digitized. “You can get lost on the site" because there are thousands of reviews, and extensive and reliable content.

Brodsky foresees a society-wide “explosion of content” in the form of movies, TV, print and more. He said travelers are hungry for information because they are looking for something different. The days of crossing the world to stay in a big-box hotel you could have stayed at in your own neighborhood, are over, he said. It is now the age of Instagrammable travel -- but amazingly, the number of T+L magazine subscriptions have actually been going up. “People have been stuck at home and now they can get out and refer back to all those ripped-out articles and online bookmarks,” said Brodsky.

The T+L name will not be placed on lodging properties. Existing resort brands remain as they are, said Brodsky, because  T+L is an “additive” new business and there is no crossover.  

The marketing opportunity the company has, said Brodsky, “is to convert this incredibly high awareness of the brand to consideration for booking their next trip." People go to the magazine to be inspired, “and we can now activate our print and online media with campaigns to convert them from browsing to booking."

It might work like this. If a subscriber is reading an article, she might see a booking widget or a banner ad with an offer. “We can connect those dots for consumers,” said Brodsky.

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