Published on Monday, July 25, 2011

TravelMole Guest Comment: Finding your way through the marketing maze

Indicia creative director and Travel Marketing Awards judge Ian Bates explains how travel companies and tourist boards can use their data more effectively to create cut-through marketing campaigns.

"The interplay between creative, data, insight and technology is essential to drive customer intelligence – creating leaps in the relationship between brands and customers.

This is particularly true in the dynamically changing world of travel and tourism.

People are no longer buying holidays, they’re buying experiences. At any given point I could looking for an adventure, a cultural exploration, immersion in an exotic social-scene or flop-and-drop – purchase decisions that are varied and multi-faceted. So the challenge travel marketers face is that they’re dealing with individuals, not mass markets, and with shifting roles, not fixed identities.

There is a unifying feature though. Travel and holidays are enormously emotionally-driven purchases and are one of the most researched purchases consumers make. They’re purchases that customers look forward to. So the potential to ignite interest and spark conversations through imaginative marketing is therefore incredibly exciting.

Emotional engagement.

I believe it is emotional engagement that is the most under-used tool in the travel sector. By engaging the audience on this level, not only is there the opportunity to raise awareness but to create a brand experience that delivers on your identity.

This deeper level of engagement will also drive powerful data that can be used for further conversations. Travel is definitely a sector that individuals would relish a deeper engagement.

Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

Creating value from every customer touchpoint.

The new marketing challenge is complex. With hundreds of options at their fingertips, choice is not a problem for customers. The first transaction travel brands need to think about first is getting prospects to spend time with them. So developing an understanding of the value (to both parties) of every touchpoint is crucial. The first point of contact (transaction) is unlikely to be a sale.

Understanding the range of touchpoints will help apportion marketing spend but, taken as a whole, help build customer journeys that are dynamic and digital rather than static, message-push campaigns. The potential, particularly with digital and social media, is the data this can generate to enhance further engagement.

Most travel brands and tourist boards are awash with data, but knowing what to do with it is key. Having some idea of the customer journey from engagement to loyalty is a prerequisite. They don’t think of brands as separate media channels, they expect consistency of experience and this requires integrated thinking.

Relationship management

Customers now expect brands to reflect the knowledge they have gained at every touchpoint, anything else just looks lazy. They could rightly ask ‘You’ve got all this data about me so how are you using it?’

Recognising them as individuals is therefore important – driven by the data. But so few have developed strong relationship programmes, treating the opportunity as a mass marketing tool rather than individual engagement.

The marketer therefore needs to know how to apply customer intelligence to the ongoing relationship. Data can ignite and inform creative ideas but again the real power comes from a multi-disciplinary approach. There are plenty of opportunities for creative ideas to create an explosion of data. I can think of a number of brands where I would be thinking ‘why don’t you give me the opportunity to engage more deeply?’

Social integration

The travel sector was an early adopter of social media but it seems to have stalled around customer reviews. The next step is integrating the opportunities that this media offers to drive engagement and relationship management on a personal level. The data is there. The tracking and measurement is there. But integrating this area into the overall strategy is still some way off.

Integrated thinking

Ultimately the power of data is in its use not its collection. Robust systems, reporting and agility are vital but without a common purpose between departments, teams and agency partners the creative use of data will be lost.

Customer-centric marketing requires this level of integrated thinking, along with clarity of the brand vision. This will deliver client and agency teams united in a clear objective – creating value from every touchpoint, and taking customers from engagement to loyalty.

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  • Exceptional

    Seldom have I seen so much jargon and meaningless phraseology all together in one place.Is this really how things should be done? Please spare me from "engaging" with people like this.

    By Ian Fraser, Monday, July 25, 2011

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