What is a brand? It used to be that branding was something ranchers did to their livestock so they were easily identifiable.
Since that time, brand has come to mean the name of a product or service, or almost anything. And today, even people are considered to be their own “brand." You hear about rock stars such as Beyonce or Justin Timberlake as being a “brand.”
Well, the same is true in the travel industry; we have many retail brands and now, as more and more travel agents move to becoming independent travel professionals, some are becoming brands themselves.
Your brand could be the name of your business, as in Faraway Places Travel, or it could be simply your name, Claire Korchinsky.
Once you are known to your clients and in your community by your brand, it has value. It represents something -- perhaps trust, expertise, reliability, good customer service, etc.
So when you join an organization, either as an agency owner, or as an independent agent, it will be very important to understand what your options are with regard to branding. You may like the host agency’s brand a lot, in which case, go with that.
If you are not certain, ask some questions. Do you lose your brand completely if you join this group? Can you keep your brand and if so, to what extent? Completely or just as a secondary name?
Whose name will appear on your invoices, on your website and on your business cards?
Yes, you do have to consider the regulatory issues, but usually a “doing business as” option is always available.
The important thing is you need to ask a lot of questions before signing an agreement and ask yourself: How important is keeping your own brand? If you’ve done a good job building your brand, it should be pretty important; you have what’s known as “brand equity” and that has a value to you.
Many travel companies and host agencies just want to promote their own brand, and hey, that may have advantages if you think that brand has more value than your own. Other groups will allow you to retain your own branding on all your touch points with the customer.
Make sure you know what your options are and be sure to weigh them! Go with the brand that will serve you best.