A Heart Full of Feeling Trumps a Head Full of Facts

by David Heitman

Text of David’s speech delivered this morning to the technology innovators and investors at the PhoCusWright Conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL

It is a privilege to be here today among such distinguished innovators, experts and investors.

The mere fact that a travel technology innovator is present this week at the Travel Innovation Summit is a great honor, and is likely a harbinger of success in a competitive, fast-changing market.

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

As we see Washington DC mired in its stultifying paralysis while the economy languishes, it is precisely the people in this room—inventors and investors—who are giving life to an otherwise moribund economy.

Talk is cheap. Doing and investing are expensive. But the rewards are great.

The Travel Innovation Summit will have a winnowing effect this week, separating the greatest from among the great.

And as the winners and others leave here to get back to the hard work of further innovating and the arduous tasks of making deals, promoting and selling their ideas, and building their brands, the question arises: What next?

It’s reminiscent of the 1972 movie, The Candidate in which Robert Redford stars as a young political phenom who wins election as Senator of California.

In the movie’s iconic finale, Redford escapes the noisy victory party, pulls his campaign manager into a room while throngs of journalists clamor outside, and he says: “Marvin … What do we do now?”

So…what do you do now? What does a great travel technology innovator do after the Travel Innovation Summit?

There are many technical, financial and operational answers to that question. But for innovation to reach its pinnacle of success, it must inspire something very un-technological:


That may feel terribly unsatisfying for the technical and financial minds represented here; but just as psychologists have long recognized the importance of IQ or Intelligence Quotient, so also they have more recently acknowledged the importance of EQ—or Emotional Quotient.

Successful brands are fueled as much by emotion as they are by cognition.

A heart full of feeling usually trumps a head full of facts.

Even the most rational buying decision—whether that of investors, strategic partners, or the end users of travel technology themselves—is driven by these emotional factors.

There is no Google algorithm for love.

There is no geo-location or semantic search for the human heart.

A brand that inspires devotion transcends marketing metrics. It is better felt than told.

It is seen in upscale brands like Apple and decidedly downscale brands like Southwest airlines.

Sure, there are many successful companies that are rather unlovable. But for an emerging brand to captivate the marketplace, and maintain the all-important ingredient of sustainability—that is loyalty.

It must inspire something heartfelt. It must inspire love.

There is no easy formula for creating this love of brand. It is a process of discovery, of listening to customers and critics alike.

Inevitably, it will lead to the realm of aesthetics. Because anything that is beloved is also beautiful.

Again, we reference Apple as the pinnacle of this profound integration of technology, of style and of the self-perception of its customers.

Much of this aesthetic comes in making the complex simple, and the simple profound.

As with all art, the great ones make it look easy.

This is where the art of technological innovation must be mirrored by the art of cultivating a beloved, memorable brand.

If properly cultivated, a technology brand can achieve the status of art…something that evokes a host of feelings and loyalties and eager recommendations by ardent customer-evangelists.

In these rare instances, a certain transcendence is achieved.

This is not to say: become the next Apple.

Rather it is to say: become the next you: in a form that is beloved as well as utilized…clearly differentiated rather than sounding like a hundred other innovations…infused with the ability to communicate in seconds—not minutes—why your innovation is indispensable to people’s lives.

To achieve this “brandsendence” you may need to channel that moment when the idea for your innovation first came to you. (Perhaps you still have the napkin you wrote it on!).

Add to that passion, an appropriate level of risk to creatively stand out from the crowd, refusing to play it too safe, and you are well on your way to sustainable success.