Lish Kennedy, Vrbo
"It was time to refresh our brand to better reflect that we’ve become both a household name in travel and a modern technology company."
Quote from Lish Kennedy, vice president of global brand marketing at Vrbo, in a story on PhocusWire this week on the decision to change its brand name and marketing focus.
Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered on our site that week.
Executives at Expedia Group and its private accommodation division would certainly have spent months (perhaps longer) figuring out what to once a rebrand was suggested.
The decision to put the company's marketing power behind the Vrbo brand earlier this year, rather than HomeAway, was a bit of a 180-degree turn from comments made a year earlier.
Expedia Group CEO Mark Okerstrom had previously admitted there was some "degree of complexity operationally" with having two vacation rental brands in the portfolio, so it was assumed by many that Vrbo would be the one to fade away into the sunset.
Six months on from the relaunch of Vrbo (now pronounced Ver-boh, rather than VRBO) and, as Lish Kennedy explains, by "focusing on Vrbo as our primary vacation rental brand, we can make a much greater impact and reach more customers on a global scale."
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The historic attachment to Vrbo (and the reason why it was selected for the marketing push) goes back to 1995, when it was launched.
These 24 years of brand equity are enough, it says, to push it ahead of HomeAway, which started in 2004.
This is a valid decision, of course, but in a world of huge power resting in the strength of platforms in online travel, perhaps there was an even braver move that was eventually ruled out.
Expedia Group's two biggest competitors in the private accommodation sector are Airbnb and Booking.com.
Both these businesses handle multiple types of accommodation (hotels, private accommodation, etc.) under one brand.
In fact, Booking.com, which admittedly didn't have the legacy of private accommodation brands to figure out, experimented with Villas.com for two years before quietly folding everything under the core brand.
There are always question marks over brand loyalty in travel, especially as it's generally not a frequent purchase for leisure-based trips and price remains incredibly important.
Expedia itself in a global, well-known brand name with as much recognition as Booking.com or Airbnb, arguably even more given its decade or so headstart.
Yet perhaps the biggest opportunity (and, indeed, the risk) to simply run everything under the Expedia brand, with the power that its platform has in the marketplace, was dismissed too quickly.
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