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Published on Friday, July 27, 2018

How to reach those elusive Millennials

Mark Ralphs, partner at Good Rebels, explores travel's journey from interruptive ads to personal experience...

Millennials' well-documented preference for experiences over possessions means the ground has never been more fertile for travel companies. Unfortunately for travel marketers, the other thing millennials are famous for is ignoring interruptive advertising: broadcast, press and online display and pop-up ads. Print media sales have plummeted; more and more people are watching ad-free Netflix, iPlayer and YouTube instead of terrestrial TV; and the use of online ad-blockers continues to rise.
So how do travel companies get the attention of this elusive audience? And how can big data help?

Playing the ratings game
For travel companies looking to connect with ad-averse consumers, there's a massive existing resource ready to be exploited in the form of social media content and reviews and ratings of travellers' experiences. Part of the appeal of experiences over possessions is the joy of sharing them. Instagram, for example, is full of holiday photos and these images represent a golden opportunity for travel companies to amplify their customers' experiences into powerful consumer-led marketing. Ratings also present a fantastic opportunity to generate business. Airbnb was built entirely on this foundation. Its feedback exchange loop, where you don't see your host's opinion of you until you've provided your opinion of them, encourages both hosts and guests to leave ratings. And Airbnb has now extended this ratings-based model beyond accommodation to experiences and restaurants too.

Harnessing data
We're already using vast swathes of network data to target advertising - prompting the native ads that pop up in your feed after you've visited a site or conducted a search. But they're usually ignored just as much as generic banner ads. For advertising like this to be effective, it must address a real need in a timely and compelling way.

The Red Roof hotel chain in the US uses network data to focus its marketing efforts by targeting paid search. By analysing road traffic and airline data, Red Roof identifies areas where congestion or flight delays might boost demand for hotel accommodation. When travellers abandon their plans and search for a bed for the night, Red Roof is the first name they see. The campaign delivered a 60% increase in bookings for Red Roof across non-branded search campaigns.

Another firm creatively using network data to boost marketing efforts is Southwest Airlines in the US, which took things to a whole new level by targeting online influencers - identifying the best ones to focus on by mapping the influencer activity that provokes the most discussion and drives the most action. Its #southwestpassport campaign ran for 20 days, generating a reach of 109 million and 1.5 million engagements.

The future looks bright for travel companies. Great travel experiences should be an easy sell and as network technology grows in sophistication, they'll be able to find and use points of shared value with their customers more and more effectively.

But for all the mind-boggling possibilities presented by network technology, above all marketers must work closely with the people responsible for designing the actual travel experiences to ensure there's no gap between what they're promising and what's ultimately delivered. Because in the end, that low-tech truth is what will continue to dictate success more than anything else.

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