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While the travel industry — and other sectors — talk about the potential of Big Data and personalization, Wolff Olins CEO Ije Nwokorie argues that there’s something soulful missing.

“We have very few iconic brands that capture the human imagination,” says Nwokorie of the travel industry. “And I think it’s because we’ve put data and technology in control.”

Wolff Olins is an international marketing and branding agency that frequently works within the travel industry, with clients, including Hyatt, Virgin Media, and The Smithsonian.

Speaking at the Skift Global Forum 2016 at Lincoln Center in Manhattan Tuesday,  Nwokorie suggested that one of the travel industry’s next big challenges will be to “create brands that capture the customer’s imagination.”

Storytelling, according to Nwokorie, is still an underemphasized asset in an industry that focuses too much on transactions and conversions.

Leveraging “Big Data,” for example, is a concept that is frequently overused in the travel industry, he said.

Without a story, Nwokorie suggests, that data has no momentum.

Where that storytelling can begin is in identifying a hero that consumers can rally around and relate to as part of brand engagement. That journey can also have multiple protagonists and contributors — all parties that help build a narrative and carry consumers through the product experience — but once consumer can engage with a hero, the brand becomes multidimensional,  Nwokorie said.

“Brands that know how to make their customer the hero really know how to reach out to the world,” Nwokorie said. Only once that connection is made, he argues, will the consumer have a lasting impression of the product and bring the experience home to share.

Photo Credit: There's nothing wrong with data, said Wolff Olins CEO Ije Nwokorie at the Skift Global Forum in Manhattan September 27, but brands need to build a narrative to touch travelers' emotions. Skift