Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Take a moment to think about McDonald's. The Golden Arches. It's fast food. You won't spend a fortune on it. You can order through the drive-thru and never leave your car. There's usually a playground for kids.

Most of us have similar thoughts about McDonald's, and that's because they follow some of the core tenets of good branding.

That's the example Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations in Bethlehem, Pa., gave on a recent episode of Trade Secrets, a new podcast from Travel Weekly and TravelAge West.

"Branding isn't a logo. It isn't just a tagline. It isn't your website. It's not visual," she said. "It is more of a feeling -- a feeling that consumers have."

VIP Vacations president Jennifer Doncsecz wearing her signature pink.
VIP Vacations president Jennifer Doncsecz wearing her signature pink. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Doncsecz

Doncsecz uses the "four C's" when she talks about branding: credibility, consistency, customer service and clout.

Recognition and brand awareness starts with consistency, she said. Years ago, to ensure people would remember her and her company, she started to wear the color pink. She would have her agents wear pink, too. VIP's logo includes a splash of pink, and it's also on the agency's website.

When Doncsecz bought a Victorian to house her agency, she painted it pink. Their cars? Pink. That splash of pink can be found, consistently, wherever you see VIP Vacations.

She encouraged agents to use a "look book" when designing their websites: Use consistent fonts and the same hex code for colors. Then apply that look to your logo and your email signature.

"A brand is something people can remember really well," she said.

That's where customer service plays a role. VIP's goal is to build up a memory of the agency, so when they think about their excellent honeymoon, they think of VIP fondly, Doncsecz said. That customer service element is necessary to build those memories.

As far as credibility, she said, "You have to know what you're doing. Have that experience, that expertise behind it."

For instance, Doncsecz puts CTIE -- which designates that she is a Certified Travel Industry Executive, as certified by the Travel Institute -- after her name in her email signature (which, by the way, includes a photo of herself, dressed in pink). VIP's website includes her many certifications.

Along with advisors' certifications, VIP's website also displays reviews and testimonials.

As for the final C, clout, that comes with time, Doncsecz said. Turning back to the McDonald's example, for years they establish clout by printing how many billions of hamburgers they've sold. 

For VIP Vacations, clout is demonstrated by displaying the agency's many awards on its website and in email signatures. Here is an excerpt from Doncsecz's signature:

Here are some VIP accolades:
• Top 10 Selling agency in the World for Sandals/Beaches resorts 2011-2019!
• #1 selling Beaches Agency for 2016
• #1 selling destination wedding agency in the world for Sandals and Beaches Resorts for 2016-2019

VIP's complete listing of over 200 awards can be found here: https://www.vacationsbyvip.com/awards-list

She encouraged advisors to use their email signature like a business card and treat their social media and online presences like storefronts. The latter point is especially salient for home-based advisors who don't have physical locations.

"I still think, from all the advertising we do, the majority of our clientele is a repeat or a refer," Doncsecz said. "So even though you might not have the billboards, you might not have the cars or the storefront, taking care of your customers will be the biggest return on any kind of investment."

For more from Doncsecz, including branding strategies for new advisors, check out Trade Secrets, episode three.


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