What's On The Minds Of Executives?

What happens when you bring together 100 travel marketing people and a range of panelists—including senior executives from Virgin Atlantic, Wyndham Hotel Group, Ensemble Travel, Mindshare and more—and ask them to share and discuss their view of the marketing world? You get a pretty clear look at the challenges, direction and thinking that is currently occupying the minds of our industry.

It was all on display at the Association of Travel Marketing Executives Think Tank that was held last week in New York, and here’s a summary of some of my key take-aways from the day.

  • The Importance of Working Across Platforms. While much of the media hype remains on how to harness mobile, the reality for marketers is that people are now, more than ever, moving fluidly between desktop, mobile devices, tablet and television over the course of the day. Increasingly, the challenge is how to deliver and manage across each of the platforms so you can be present at the right time in the right platform to reach your customers. Not surprisingly, the need to deliver consistent brand experiences across platforms is also becoming vitally important, and in some instances more of a challenge as the cost, resources and internal conflicts (as to who manages and oversees each platform) are hurdles that need to be addressed.

  • Measuring Impact of Media Mix. With so many platforms from which to choose, brands like Wyndham are asking how you measure not only performance in the channel, but how the mix of channels is impacting overall performance. Things like flighting and weighting need to be increasingly factored in, tinkered with and measured as part of an ongoing quest to find the optimum mix. 

  • On-line and Off-line are Forever Blurred. Yahoo made the point of declaring it’s no longer about on-line or off-line, it’s about “non-line.” The reality is that there’s increasingly a blur as synergies grow between the two and customers no longer think of them in those terms. Each needs to work with the other to achieve maximum synergies.

  • People Consume Content not Devices. Ultimately, it’s all about creating great content and giving people reasons to seek out and engage with your brand. While the same consumer is definitely moving across all the platforms, they’re making the platform decision based on the information, access and convenience they need at that particular moment. But what is driving them, regardless of platform, is content.

  • Rethinking Loyalty Programs. Virgin Atlantic and Wyndham were among the brands that talked openly about the need to re-imagine loyalty programs. Perhaps fueled by recent studies that have questioned the ability of these programs to actually foster any loyalty, panelists said that today’s programs have gotten too transaction- and promotion-heavy, which seems to only foster loyalty to promotions and offers, rather than to the brand itself. In Virgin’s case, they see the next generation of programs centered much more on recognition and enhancing the customer experience in ways that begin to make a difference in the customer’s life. As an example, Virgin cited a series of private dinners in select cities that they held between the airline’s top executives and their most frequent travelers. 

  • Video is Video. Mindshare made a point of saying that people sometimes get too hung up on thinking of something as a TV spot or as a YouTube video. Instead, it was suggested to think of video as video and that it’s how, where and when you deploy it that makes a difference. Again, it’s about creating great content rather than focusing so much on a specific channel. If you have great video, it’s easy to leverage and utilize it in a multitude of ways.

  • Finding a Balance Between Reading and Watching. With so much interactivity and expanded functionality now possible across all platforms, it was mentioned that brands should be looking to find the right balance between reading and watching. Many users (especially on tablets) actually want a reading experience and often the abundance of interactivity, videos, etc., can alter the user dynamic—for better or worse. 

  • Paid Search Versus Organic – How Much are we Cannibalizing Ourselves? Virgin Atlantic said they’ve challenged their agencies to really explore this question. As search gets ever-more expensive and becomes such a major portion of the marketing budget, brands need to look at where the point of diminishing return is and to examine how much business they would already be getting simply through organic search.

  • Apps as Marketing Tool Versus Booking Channel. When it comes to apps, most of the brands conceded that they’ve become wonderful marketing tools and not particularly successful as a booking channel. Make sure your app delivers significant value beyond a booking function.



While much of the discussion at the ATME Think Tank wasn’t necessarily new or groundbreaking, it’s always useful to understand how others see the world. It provided a sense of validation and a perspective on the issues and challenges that seem to be consuming us all.

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