Travel and destination brands operate in a complex environment. Not only do they compete within the world of travel, but also with many other categories that vie for our personal free and leisure time. This includes TV, movies, video, computer games, the comforts of home, recreational and leisure activities, family time, soccer, even shopping.
Before starting an identity project, it is essential that you analyze the competitive set and then determine what gives your brand distinction. Since the competition is so broad, its important that travel and destination brands understand where they fit so they can successfully stand out from all of their competitors.
Distinctive design can give a brand a unique presence and expression.
While a logo is only one component of a brand, it’s purpose can be thought of as a visual ambassador. The right logo will help create desire. It will have a point of view. And set the standard. It should represent a body of core ideas, yet rarely can it perform this task literally. The best logos imply meaning through representation and metaphor. They can take their form as wordmarks, or letterforms, as graphic symbols or a combination of words, letters and symbols. They range from the literal to the illustrative to the abstract.
With so many possibilities, how do you choose the right direction?
When creating a travel or destination logo, we examine the competitive environment and then consider three elements – shape, color and content. It is unrealistic to expect a logo to represent every detail of your brand, but developing a logo that is a good ambassador with a unique, authentic expression will serve your destination well for years to come.
Competitive logo review
Given the benefits of a distinctive identity, it’s a wonder that so many travel and destination brands within a competitive set use similar iconography in their logos. Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Days Inn all have a sun icon. The MGM Grand and Ritz Carlton logos both sport a beautiful lion.
Many cities utilize a rendering of their skyline. Golf course logos all too often incorporate complex illustrations or clip art of golf clubs. According to Logo Design Guru, a website where you can buy a logo starting at just $99: “A golf course logo graphic should be very creative and must highlight the salient features of golf, like clubs, balls, etc.” In other words — make it look like every other golf course.
A few years back, when the Wanderlust team was rebranding Windham Mountain, we collected the marketing materials of 52 competitors, to better understand their competitive set and search for an opportunity to create meaningful differentiation. What we found was nothing short of cliché: 90% of the competition had a mountain in their logo. The mountain iconography ranged from the abstract to the literal, but in the end each of these resorts built an identity around what makes them similar, not what makes them different.
The folks at Windham learned from this exercise that mountain imagery in whatever form was something they needed to stay away from in order to stand out from the crowd. The place to draw inspiration for their identity was their unique brand positioning — that differentiating, relevant, deliverable and ownable mojo that makes Windham Mountain desirable to its customers.
There are actually a handful of ski resorts who have gone so far as to eliminate references to anything to do with skiing and snowboarding in their logos. The ones that have done this are attempting to communicate their brand essence, what makes them different. Now one might argue, for example, that a logo like Beaver Creek’s has nothing to do with skiing and therefore doesn’t communicate to skiers, especially if you had never heard of Beaver Creek before.
Beaver Creek’s logo is about luxury. Its monogram of interlocking ‘B’ and ‘C’ letterforms are reminiscent of Coco Channel’s C’s or Gucci’s G’s. The script typographic wordmark would more likely be found on a bottle of champagne.
While Beaver Creek’s logo is effective at differentiating the resort, script type and monograms are not necessarily the best way to communicate luxury in all situations. In fact, scripts and monograms are actually pretty common in the broad category of luxury. However, Beaver Creek was the first to successfully and sustainably position themselves as a luxury ski resort and, as a result, they own it. No competitor can take this position away from them as long as they remain true to the promise.