Gone are the days where most advertisers can afford both the big, broad anthemic brand campaign as well as the more "hard sell," retail version. We've morphed into a space where ads are expected to both brand and sell, but cracking the code on how to accomplish both effectively has proven challenging for many.
This is especially hard for leisure travel marketers who so often are selling an experience, not a commodity, and doing so in an incredibly cluttered and often non-differentiated environment. How can you brand your sun, sand and sea uniquely from the others but also compete to win those heads in beds and butts in seats?
It comes down to the balance of hearts and minds -- consumers still want to be wooed and romanced -- this is a vacation, after all. But their hand is clenched tighter on their wallet. Yes, the economy is rebounding, and yes, people are beginning to spend again, but (and this is a big but) -- consumers are not shedding the recession mindset.
They are wearing their fiscal responsibility, which was forced upon them in the last two years, as a badge of honor as times get better. And, therefore, they are demanding a much higher value for each dollar they are able to spend again.
Which means that what used to make the brand special (beautiful beaches, first-class accommodations and amenities, more comfortable seats, etc.) just isn't enough. It may be what makes you different, but differentiation is only one half of the equation -- the heart. The other half has to speak to the mind, and it is about value for money, plain and simple.
So what does that mean for marketing leisure travel in 2010? Does that mean we're all going to be the victims of mash-up messaging that tries too hard to deliver both sell and brand elements and effectively delivers neither?
In many instances, yes. Checklist advertising is definitely out there. Big, beautiful images, check. Bold headline, check. Multiple partner logos, check. Brand logo, check. Offer copy, check. Starburst with price point, check. Web site, 800 number, eight-point font legal copy, check.
Advertising that wins neither hearts nor minds, check.
In a time where we have to do so much with so little, there are a few simple strategies that can help:
1. Stay true to your brand positioning and your creative brief. The core idea that differentiates your brand and makes you meaningful to your target audience should be the consistent base of your marketing. It doesn't matter how great your offer is if the target couldn't care less about you.
2. Create offers that align with your brand positioning. If you're a destination known for romance and relaxation, running a "kids stay/eat free" promotion probably won't succeed. But a "companion flies free" offer more directly aligns with your best prospects' needs.
3. Use your Web site. Allow your ads to carry only the minimum information required to create interest and urgency around what you're selling. Create a strong call-to-action, driving to your Web site, where more detail and more experience are more suitably provided.
And consider this 3a. Use your entire digital presence to extend and enhance your campaign. The various social media channels are uniquely positioned to both brand and sell your product to an interested consumer who has clearly sought you out.