Yes, the title of this blog may seem like a no-brainer, but while on a Caribbean cruise last week I was reminded of branding’s importance. My travel buddies were Husband and his family and together, we’d get off the ship at each port of call in search of thrifty adventure. However, also at each port we were met (and in the case of Dominica you might say attacked) by a swarm of locals hocking tours and taxi rides–the “best” of the island and all at the “best” price. For us, tourists armed only with sunscreen and a Fodor’s of the Caribbean, these were stressful moments. From the guidebook, we always had an idea of what we wanted to do, but rarely was the actual distance, time of activity and estimated cost indicated. This resulted in us somewhat blindly putting our trust in the lucky driver chosen from the pack for that day. In St. Kitts, we chose poorly. We picked a man based on price and unwisely didn’t ask to see his van first. Upon visual inspection, there was no official insignia for the taxi or branding for himself as a company. Also, the van was on the dilapidated side and I worried about its ability to transport the six of us. But we put our dubious thoughts aside and got in. He was a nice guy, chatting with us and giving information about the island on the drive to the rainforest, but that’s where the good part stopped. The plan was to hike for 2 hours, after which he would return to pick us up. We hiked. We waited. Three hours had passed. With no cell phones, there was little we could do. After three and a half hours and much frustration, he finally returned, claiming car trouble, and brought us back to the ship.
To contrast this, I’ll reflect on our experience in Dominica. Choosing a driver was horrible. About 10 had gathered around us. Overwhelmed, we focused on one guy and were told to go outside the gate and look for his driver, a man named Bones, but Bones deserted us as we tried to tell him what the first guy had promised at x rate per person. Finally, we found a guide in travel logo-embroidered polo, with a name badge and a non-dilapidated, branded van. As we loaded the van, he gave us a business card and I was able to see the city’s taxi license prominently displayed in the window. I know I speak on behalf of the group when I say our collective relief was immense. He took us to our destination and was there waiting for us at the agreed time. It was great.
Now as a marketer, I know that it’s not hard to get a polo embroidered or to have a name badge made, but it’s amazing how much reassurance those small things provide when in a foreign place. They show effort to establish an identity and a care to present one’s livelihood in a professional manner. And most importantly branding shows pride, which on our vacation was reflected in the quality of service.
(Header image from Google Maps.)