Priceline in its latest ad sends Captain Kirk, for years associated with its “name your own price” program, to a fiery demise. Is it the end of the website’s mantra? Is Captain Kirk gone in an explosive crash or did he manage to teleport away at the last minute?
Tell me it ain’t so.
For years, Priceline has been one of my personal mainstays when it comes to snagging great hotel prices. It has been a godsend more than once. But, in the bigger world, Priceline has become the top online travel site by focusing on hotels and by riding the success of their booking.com website to riches.
Almost 80 percent of Priceline’s profits are being generated by wholly-owned www.booking.com within the corporate spreadsheets, if I can believe trade show chit-chat with the booking.com folk. Name-your-own-price profits pale in comparison.
Of course, Priceline started with the “name your own price” model and it is still strongly associated with that value proposition, even though it has outgrown it. But, I wonder if killing your advertising golden goose is a smart idea.
Priceline.com’s CMO Brett Keller explained, “The Priceline Negotiator has become very strongly associated with the priceline.com brand and the concept of negotiating to get a deal on a hotel room. However, priceline.com customers don’t have to negotiate themselves to get a deal. Without bidding, they can choose from over 200,000 quality hotels around the world, with thousands of them on sale every day at rates we’ve negotiated for them.”
Priceline is treading a precarious path; one with plenty of competition. Even though their name-your-own-price model may have faded in terms of transactions, it certainly marked priceline as the website associated with bargains more than any other, including air, rental cars and hotels.
Every website in the world offers bargains. And they offer bargains that will, more than likely, be as good as or better than priceline’s. This new strategy leaves priceline no unique selling point, no save-more-money reason to come to priceline, and I am afraid it will muddy their marketing waters.
Will this be another savvy business move, like focusing on hotels rather than flights? Or, will priceline see a drop in its user base as they go elsewhere and forget about Captain Kirk’s interactive, engaging and adventurous forays in search of bargains?