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Eurocamp Profile

By The Drum | Administrator

April 10, 2002 | 5 min read

Julia Godfrey accepts that the word Eurocamp means different things to different people.

To some it might conjure up images of muscular German men dancing to ABBA in hotpants, whereas to others it evokes associations with leaky canvas, screaming offspring and perpetual rain.

It's the latter group that Julia Godfrey is currently preoccupied with. The former bunch probably isn't the ideal target audience for family holiday operators.

As Eurocamp's brand manager Godfrey admits that the biggest battle she faces is the public's preconceptions of everything associated with the word 'camp'.

The connotations that push their way to the front of the cranial queue tend to be largely negative ones gleaned from childhood experiences. The rain, the tears, the toilet block miasma - they're hardly chief components of a halcyon holiday, and Godfrey tends to suffer by association.

"We definitely have a perception battle on our hands," she acknowledges over a Diet Coke in the canteen of the firm's Cheshire HQ.

"The Eurocamp experience is totally different to what most people associate with 'camping'. It's our job to get people to drop the emotional baggage that comes with the word and actually take time to look at the product. Only when they do that can they appreciate that we offer them absolutely everything that they could be looking for in a holiday."

A significant proportion of the company's 28,000 customers seem to agree with her. Eurocamp enjoys a repeat booking figure in the region of 50%, way above the 15% that Godfrey intimates is the industry average.

To neutral observers, that brand loyalty would tend to suggest that the glass is definitely half-full. But to compete on a par with 'non-canvas' operators, ranging from Thomson and Airtours through to Centreparcs, Godfrey wants to top it up further still.

"Our tents are fully erected, with cooking facilities and proper beds - it's not really 'camping' as people know it. In this sense we have an educational job to do, to convert people to think of Eurocamp not as a camping firm, but as a very good self-catering holiday operator."

So, in the spirit of this little page-long brand workshop, how does Godfrey propose to fine tune the perceptions of Eurocamp so that the name will pluck the most sonorous of heartstrings?

"Throughout the key booking period of January to March we've been in press and on TV," she comments above the noise of a dropped plate heading for crockery heaven.

"We've changed the focus of our ads (created by BJL) to illustrate the 'tangible product'. We dropped the old strapline - 'the easy-going holiday' - because it was too 'camping' and opted for 'upgrading your holiday experience'."

Explaining the thinking behind this, Godfrey said, "We found out from research what customers value most - the location, the swimming pools, the kids' clubs - and we're showing them that we can deliver it all at a price that will astound them. We're trying to show them that this is an upgrade on what they could expect from someone like Thomson's, for example. With package holidays, you always face compromise somewhere, but not with us - you can choose exactly what you want."

According to Godfrey, the tactic seems to be paying off.

The figures for January were 'a couple of per cent up year-on-year,' which, considering the current parlous state of the holiday industry, ranks as quite an achievement. (Although this could have been bolstered by the fact that 93 per cent of their customers drive to the destination, something that, after 11 September, may have become increasingly significant.)

It's more difficult to chart the success of Eurocamp's marketing on the overall perception of the brand, as the public will probably take a while to appreciate the subtly tweaked core messages.

Taking another slug of caffeine-laced beverage, I suggest that, if the firm really wants to free itself from the chains of camping-related connotations, why doesn't it just drop the word completely? After all, 65 per cent of its customers now plump for holiday homes rather than tents (and according to Godfrey this is increasing every year), so why not rebrand themselves as Europarcs, or similar?

"Well, it has been raised," she says. "But the name's got so much heritage and such a loyal customer base that it would be a very high-risk strategy to drop it entirely.

"We've invested a great deal of time and money in the brand and I think we'd rather change the negative perceptions of it rather than the actual brand itself."

With the additional assistance of a concerted PR push that has seen the firm take its holiday homes to nationwide events and shopping centres, Godfrey and her Eurocamp brand are working hard to ensure that the right mental images spring to mind on mention of Eurocamp. Only time will tell if they succeed in loosening the guide ropes of prejudice and successfully pitching their proposition alongside Messrs Thomson et al.

If they can achieve this it won't be long before more of us are choosing to go camp in Europe. And I know some German guys that'd be more than happy to hear about that ...

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