Winning The Promotional Game: Your Secret Weapon Is You

With more people saying that they will take leisure trips this year, the fight for that share of wallet is already shaping up to be tough. The 2011 consumer has come out of the recession with a definitive viewpoint on what "value" means in travel, and what feels like a call to arms to ensure that they are receiving the best value on any travel purchase they make.

So what does "value" equate to in travel? It has definitely evolved from purely a dollar-based equation to one that involves the entirety of the experience. Consumers are willing to spend but are expecting an experience worthy of the price attached. And don't be fooled, price still matters. But elasticity on that price is the result of finding that sweet spot where experience elevates value so that price can rise commensurately.

Brand advertising in the travel category can do a lot of creating a sense of the experience the traveler will have, but to close the sale we're more and more dependent on promotional offers. And the competition is fierce -- offers abound in every channel -- "free this" and "50% off that."



So how can you stand out from the clutter and garner your fair share, or more even, of the dollars returning to leisure travel? And do so without giving so much away that the sale hurts more than it helps?

The answer is, don't discount. Add value. In a way only you can. If executed correctly, this will protect your bottom line and your brand perception.

So, brass tacks. Determine the one core element you cannot afford to discount -- your room rate, your ticket price, etc. -- and don't. Build an offer that protects that core revenue by making the value for the consumer dependent on other elements.

This isn't new thinking -- offers encompassing upgrades and credits are pretty regular these days. But this is where the "in a way only you can" part of this becomes critical.

You have one thing your competitors don't -- your brand. To stand out from the rest you must find a way to infuse that brand into your offers. Sounds simple, but in reality it can be one of the most challenging tasks you've face.

Why? Because the pull to revert to the old standbys will always be strong, especially as you see your competitive set doing so. Because right now it's scary to try something new and unproven. But if the last few years have taught us anything, it's that reliance on significant discounting will in the long run hurt your ability to revert back to original pricing, and, in some cases, can hurt the perception of your brand's quality.

So how do you infuse brand into your promotions? Here are a few thoughts:

At the very least be creative in the naming of your promotion. Carry through the spirit and tonality of your brand into a provocative name that will incite action. In a sea of "Free Breakfast" or "4th Night Free," there's definitely room to be more clever, while still clearly communicating to your consumers exactly what they are getting.

Add some "special sauce."
Don't walk away from the promotions that you know work well with your target. Business travelers like free breakfast and upgrades. Leisure travelers like free nights. Everyone likes earning double points/miles. But what is it about your brand that can amp up this standard offer in a way no one else can?

Uniquely yours.
Every travel brand has something that is uniquely theirs. Try building some offers around that.

As with any offers, it's important to test and learn. Some will work, some won't but take the learnings in both cases and infuse them into your next round.

Look, it's tough out there. But the consumer is poised and ready to act. So be imaginative. Be smart. But most of all be brave. Look at what is special and unique about your brand and create promotions that give your consumer access to it. This is the new value in travel. And it's uniquely yours.

1 comment about "Winning The Promotional Game: Your Secret Weapon Is You ".
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  1. Steve Winston from WINSTON COMMUNICATIONS, February 28, 2011 at 10:57 a.m.


    Right you are...excellent post! Any strategic - as opposed to tactical - marketer knows that once you start marketing on price alone, it can take you years to get back to your original price. Once you've been perceived as a "low-price" option, it's hard to turn back around to your original value-proposition. Not only that, it cheapens the brand that you've (presumably) worked so hard to build up. "Value added" is the key today. In addition, the real risk of marketing on price alone is that, as soon as a competitor "out-prices' you, your customers who bought only because of price will run to that competitor. Real brands - travel or otherwise - are built on value. And value has a lot more staying-power than price.

    Steve Winston

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