Brand Strategy Rebrand Travel

First Choice shakes off its all-inclusive reputation to target adventurous travelers


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

October 25, 2023 | 8 min read

The British provider of package holidays has undergone a major makeover to win over next-generation travelers and offer something distinctive from sister brand Tui.

First Choice goes after Next Gen travelers

First Choice goes after next generation travelers / Ragged Edge

First Choice, which has been around since 1992, has largely been seen as a middle-to-value package holiday provider. A former strapline for the brand was, after all, ‘home of all-inclusive.’

With its better-known sister brand Tui also selling package holidays, however, the company was keen to usher in a new direction and promoted its head of marketing Bart Quinton Smith to managing director, charged with heading this up.

He tells The Drum: “First Choice has taken a bit of a backseat and has had less investment, so what we’ve seen over the years is that Tui has gone from strength to strength while First Choice has lost some of its meaning has been less in the consumer consciousness.”

This conundrum was an essential part of his brief – to create a brand with its own identity that doesn’t cannibalize Tui’s consumer base. Quinton Smith says the project was to “carve out a different space and find incremental and new customers to the Tui business as a whole.”

According to YouGov data, Tui has the second-highest popularity score (96%) of any travel brand in the UK, just below Disney and above EasyJet. First Choice, however, sits at number 24 (56%), one below Secret Escapes and one above Viking Ocean Cruises.

“First Choice is a brand that’s been in the market for a long time and the majority of the UK population is still aware of it,” says Quinton Smith. “But over the years, it got closer and closer to what Tui offered. Consumers were saying, ‘I know it and I kind of like it, but I don’t really know what I would go to it for any more.’”

First Choice 2

Inspired by the bigger trend among next-generation travelers for more experience-based travel, First Choice has been broadening out its offer and ditching the all-inclusive beach holiday from its marketing.

“We particularly saw this opportunity in this kind of next generation of consumers and that isn’t bound by age or demographic but by changing attitudes towards travel,” says Quinton Smith. “Traveling for the experience rather than lying by a pool for two weeks and wanting more from their holiday.“

Off the back of this insight, First Choice added thousands of new hotels and new destinations, pushing into new regions such as Mexico City, northern Spain and France – a departure from its typical beach holiday reputation.

It now offers mountain and lake holidays, has added experiences like paddle boarding and cooking classes and even expanded into hostels.

Armed with this new proposition, Quinton Smith needed to figure out a way to articulate it. “It’s clearly not just in colors, fonts, logo and images. It’s about how we turn this idea into something that’s really clear and coherent for the whole business to get behind and that we communicate really clearly to consumers.”

Proudly picky

To help, Quinton Smith tasked branding agency Ragged Edge to give First Choice a fresh look and help communicate the new brand positioning. Its co-founder, Max Ottignon, tells us that the problem with the travel category is that it has got “samey.“

“The whole industry had kind of converged on quite a tight series of codes, in terms of how they communicate, in terms of the visual and verbal language and the look of the homepages of websites,” he says. “As a consequence, it seemed to me that you had a huge amount of choice but it was very commoditized and very overwhelming.”

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This means everything ends up being about price, says Ottignon. Everything is about being the cheapest because there is no other way to stand out.

And so a new icon was designed to signal to customers the breadth of the places you can now book on First Choice, like the mountains, a lake or the sea. The graphics, font and color choices have all been updated to appeal to a younger audience, with the image choices almost resembling a Pinterest page. “We had to make it relevant to a slightly younger audience that had previously known and used First Choice in the past,” Ottignon adds.

To relaunch, First Choice put out its first campaign in over three years under the banner of its new brand platform ‘Proudly Picky.’ Creative agency Impero is behind the campaign, which follows a Gen Z traveler as she flips between yoga, food markets, beach bars and a nature trail. The ads rolled out on VOD, out-of-home and social.

“We built this idea of ‘Proudly Picky’ to reframe this negative word,” says Ottignon. ”It’s actually good to be picky, particularly with a holiday – you want to get that right.”

First Choice

Along with the relaunch campaign, First Choice has released bucket hats, tote bags and branded T-shirts, all adorning the new logo.

“When you’re relaunching a brand and telling people that you stand for something new, it’s really important just to be incredibly consistent and coherent,” adds Quinton Smith. “We’ve got a starting point. Ragged Edge has laid us the foundation that we can now build on.”

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