Acknowledging Knowledge Culture

I was thinking last night about the essence of what we are doing with Travelstart – trying to distill it down to something tangible and simple.

Whilst I really like the concept of ‘travel heaven for the global citizen’ I began to question whether it was just too abstract. What is it that we really do? It can’t be that we just sell tickets, hotels and car hire – that is far from unique and it offers nothing capture people’s imagination in the way that De Beers captured the public’s imagination with their ‘diamonds are forever’ campaign, for example.

Stephan has already recognised the importance of presenting information:

“There are opportunities within the travel industry for people who can collate, present and commercialise information.” (‘Visionary of the Industry’ interview of Amadeus ‘Dialogen’).

In this respect we are a bit like a combination of Google and Amazon.

Google are currently the world leader in gathering and presenting information. They constantly develop new tools that enable the interpretation of data (look at Google Earth maps, Google Analytics and Google Mail for example).

Amazon are the world leaders in online retail – they offer the best customer experience in terms of fulfillment. However, part of their success is also that they provide the best information. They recently added tagging, but they pi.jpgoneered social software in the form of customer reviews (and the ability to review the reviews to create a network of ‘trusted’ reviewers). They were also the first to analyse and present the data they had gathered from their customers’ purchasing habits by providing ‘recommendations’.

Flickr has taken social software a stage further. They offer probably the widest range of tools to encourage people to connect and share their experiences (tagging, geotagging, commenting, notes, forming interest groups etc). However, they are still in the business of presenting and organising data (you can view your photos by when you posted them, you can organise them into sets, view them by how many times other people have looked at them etc.)

The reason why these companies are so successful lies in the fact that they understand and embrance the new culture of communication and knowledge sharing that the internet has spawned. Participation in this culture has fundamentally changed our expectations as consumers – we are all better informed because we have access to vast amounts of information through websites, online communities and real-time, direct, one-to-one communication.

People no longer accept the definitive ‘truths’ presented by advertisers, but seek subjective, collaborative experiences instead (just look at wikipedia).

We aim go beyond simply providing centralised information. We want to enable customers to talk to each other and share their information and experiences. This means developi.jpgng our own social software.

We also want to give our customers tools to enable them to organise and manipulate information in ways that make it easier to understand, to manipulate and to organise. This will be happening in our ‘Discover’ section, hopefully with the help of Francois Naude and Andries Odendaal – both eminent information visualisers and visual coders.

So, back to the essence of our brand,,, we want our advertising to encapsulate the spi.jpgrit of the ‘Generation C’ person. We will focus on the idea that we empower our customers with information. Hopefully they will buy from us because we offer the best information, not necessarily because we offer the best prices.

If we manage this maybe we won’t need a fancy payoff line? 🙂


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