One of the fun, ten-minute debate sessions at the WebinTravel conference in Singapore this week asked that exact, if rather simplistic, question.
It is, of course, a far more complex question than just that. And, indeed, any answer should be a lot more than just a straightforward "yes" or "no".
But, still, it is a question, not least in front of a room full of online travel executives, which stirs the emotions.
Arguing for the motion was Timothy O'Neil-Dunne, managing partner at T2Impact and a Tnooz Node (full presentation here)...
- Consumers have moved away from the value of the brand to the value of the fellow consumer/traveller.
- Consumers are better as ambassadors for products than brands themselves.
- End of travel agent has meant there is less of a human connection between consumers and retailers.
- Travel has become a technology brand type rather than a retail brand type.
- Consumers use search engines (such as Google!) to find product rather than branded dot-coms.
Arguing against the motion was Hermione Joye, one of the travel managers at Google
- Brand queries in search are actually growing, not least in Asia-Pacific where they have increased by 50% year-on-year.
- Advertisements on Google (PPC) where a brand name is mentioned are more effective than those without (users are 60% more likely to click on an ad when it contains the brand name).
- A brand name gives a product a voice, allowing it to "cut through clutter".
- Brand gives a product more meaning that just a price point - being able to push its experience and trustworthiness.
The audience vote, captured via a poll on the event's app, saw Joye win the debate.
The reality, as noted above, is obviously a lot more difficult to give it such a black and white answer.
For example, a startup relies so much on its brand (and integrity) that it is arguably more important than later in a business's lifespan, where product and price are arguably more important considerations.
But what do you think?
NB:Dead online image via Shutterstock.