If you follow the money, you'll see that Booking.com, for good reason, is the parent company's favored brand even in the United States. Priceline, though, does have brand recognition and will try to make the most of it given the hand that it has been dealt.
While parent company Priceline Group changed its name to Booking Holdings a few months ago, the holding company’s original brand, Priceline.com, has quietly changed its name to Priceline.
Priceline CEO Brett Keller told Skift Monday that the name change, which he characterized as more modern and better for social media than Priceline.com, hasn’t been announced yet. In fact, the Booking Holdings website still lists the brand as Priceline.com.
However, the U.S. company’s new ad campaign to mark its 20th anniversary indeed refers to the brand as Priceline.
Keller, a 19-year company veteran who became CEO in 2016, sat down with Skift at a press event Monday in Manhattan along with its ad pitchman William Shatner to mark the company’s two decades in existence.
Speaking about strategy, Keller said Priceline has ambitions to go international, and will begin adding multiple languages and currencies to the English- and dollar-only site, starting with Spanish, later this year. Keller said Priceline has long has some users from outside the U.S., but the changes, while retaining Priceline.com as the url and eschewing international points of sale, will make the site more approachable for non-English speakers.
Name Your Own Price for Hotels Still Has Life
He also said that Priceline will retain its Name Your Own Price bidding product for hotels for now after killing it for flights a couple of years ago and recently for car rentals. Keller noted that Name Your Own Price for hotels has been deemphasized in favor of Express Deals, which offers discounts up-front and users learn the name of the property post-booking.
Keller said, however, the hotel bidding product still has an avid user base, and the company will keep offering it as long as people are using it.
Booking.com Is Outspending Priceline on U.S. TV
The Priceline brand, which has been under-performing in recent years, has had to cope with sister and much-larger brand Booking.com’s incursion into the U.S., replete with hefty TV advertising, in recent years.
In fact, while Priceline has spent around $2 million in U.S. TV advertising this month on a Tweniversary commercial to tout discounts being offered in conjunction with its 20th anniversary, in 2018 so far Booking.com has doubled Priceline’s U.S. national TV spend, $29 million versus $14 million, according to TV advertising analytics firm iSpot.tv.
The Priceline brand didn’t get a mention in the company’s fourth quarter earnings call in February, but in the third quarter then-CFO Daniel Finnegan said he was pleased with Amsterdam-based Booking.com’s U.S. performance in the previous several quarters, adding that “we’ve seen improving performance for the Priceline.com business,” as well.
Asked whether Booking.com was taking away business from Priceline in the U.S., Keller acknowledged that there is some overlap. He argued that Priceline attracts more of a deal-hungry last-minute booker and wants to position itself as a leader in travel bookings, while people who use Booking.com tend to plan their trips further out.
While Booking Holdings is trying to put new emphasis on TV advertising, which remains a relatively small portion of its overall ad spend, Keller said Priceline is already brand-heavy in its advertising so he doesn’t foresee a big change.
Tours and Activities On the Way
In other news, Keller said Priceline plans to add tours and activities, as well as ground transport, to its relatively new package offering, and will likely launch attractions on a standalone basis, too. The move follows Booking Holdings’ acquisition of FareHarbor, a tours and activities integrator, last month.
Recalling that Priceline had a tours and activities offering a decade ago through a partnership, Keller said such as product are very important to have in certain markets.
The tours and activities rollout will not be happening quickly however; Keller said he hasn’t yet had a chance to speak with the FareHarbor team.
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Photo credit: Founded in 1997, Priceline.com has quietly rebranded to Priceline, and wants to expand internationally. Priceline