Tech startups, adventure travel and the importance of a good brand - seemingly separate topics but they’ll all makes sense in the next edition of Cereal Entrepreneurs. We chatted with Leezair’s brand manager Rosa Clare Willis for the 411.
Have you ever found yourself in a foreign country, ready and raring for adventure but not sure where to find it? That’s the dilemma Angus Vidor was faced with in 2014, dying to go scuba diving in the Philippines but unable to easily book the activity online, last minute, in real time - and so Leezair was born.
The Leezair app allows travellers and adventure seekers to fully explore their surroundings, suggesting activities and experiences they can book with ease and convenience. Angus sees Leezair as more than an activity or leisure organiser though. For him, it’s about “utilising technology to innovate an industry that has been left behind.”
Innovation isn’t the only thing that Leezair values however, and the decision to recruit a brand manager as their first hire (a move uncommon in startups) is testament to the importance brand plays in this business.
Leezair is first and foremost an app, however, the brand positions itself not only as a tech startup, but as a movement - a movement that inspires adventure and creates freedom. It’s also a movement that aims to combat one of the main things standing in the way of people achieving this globe trekking freedom - fear.
According to Leezair’s brand manager, Rosa Clare Willis, their brand reflects this in every sense. “Leezair has been created by a bunch of avid travellers.” She shares. “We have all felt the urge to explore and venture off the beaten track but there is a type of fear that holds us back. It's not a fear of the unknown, or getting lost or even running into trouble. It's a fear that we won't be able to find anything to do once we are there.”
Let’s face it, for those of us not technologically inclined, the idea of an activity booking app doesn’t sound overly exciting. The majority of us, when searching for an activity to do whilst travelling, will be more enthusiastic about the activity itself, rather than the process of booking. So how does one get the ordinary person excited about an app?
By developing a brand that sells a lifestyle rather than just a product, that’s how. That’s the way all of the world’s leading brands seem to do it. In reality, a computer is just a computer but a little brand by the name of Apple has managed to dominate the computer industry for years by marketing their product as a ‘tool’ that allows the creatives and visionaries and innovators of the world to lead an easier, cooler and more connected lifestyle. In comparison, in their 2006 campaign, ‘Get A Mac’ , Apple goes head to head with competitors, suggesting the PC is for the behind-the-times, old fashioned corporate type. We know which we’d rather be.
By aligning their product with aspirational qualities, Apple and other brands like it, attract consumers who want to emulate those qualities. Leezair have crafted a strong and attractive brand that will appeal to its target market - travellers and people who consider themselves adventurous and thrill seeking - by selling a lifestyle rather than just an app. Leezair becomes something that people want to be a part of and all of a sudden people are engaging with it.
“We knew we had the smarts to build the product, but we also know that technology doesn't inspire people into action,” Shares Rosa, “brands do. So that's why, every day, we work at building a movement with our brand, not just our technology.”
Consistency is also key when it comes to branding and the brand message itself must be reflected in every element of the business, not just in the logo and mission statement. “Our brand really does lead everything we do. We use our brand to guide our product and business development, partnerships and marketing strategy.” Says Clara. “It helps us to prioritise and ensure that we are always working on something that is valuable and true to our audience.”
Of course, it takes time to build any business and overnight success is rare, but Leezair has two elements that position it well. ”What we do know, is that the brand will work, because whenever we share our vision or purpose with people, customers and partners, their response is ‘How can we jump on board?’ We know that the technology works, but it will take time to really achieve our dream of creating personal experiences for everyone.”
Business owners need to be aware of the role branding plays in their business and the power a strong brand can have over an audience. “At the end of the day it truly doesn't matter what you create or how you create it,” explains Rosa, “what matters is that you are building something that people will be proud to associate themselves with.”
With new companies forming and innovators disrupting the tech industry all the time, technology itself can only get startups ahead for so long, until something more advanced is introduced. Branding, however, has the potential to build loyalty and trust and should not be undermined by tech startups, as it might just be the secret ingredient that keeps them relevant when the next best thing comes along. Like every good brand manager, Rosa knows this all too well, “If we can use our brand to build a loyal followership that will spread our messaging and purpose to the masses, it may just help us change the industry.”