The high-season tourists have disappeared, the climate is more temperate, and travel costs have likely dropped. Good news for travellers—and good news for brands, too.
Now is the perfect time to capitalize on your customers’ desire to get away from it all. Whether you’re an airline, a hotel, a tourism board or anything in between, your goal is the same: to get your message in front of your customers and ultimately influence their purchasing decision.
Industry-wide, travel marketers have embraced the concept of content marketing and are leveraging it to inspire, educate, and answer their customers’ questions. And they’ve become pretty good at it—a cursory glance at any travel brand’s Facebook page will yield hundreds of links to innovative and often thought-provoking pieces that could ignite just about anyone’s desire to travel.
But the difficulty isn’t necessarily in creating great content—it’s in creating great content that speaks to your audience. Content that truly resonates with them. And then of course, it’s also about distribution—the bane of many a marketer’s life.
Native advertising is a powerful paid content distribution channel that’s fast becoming the darling of the online advertising world. Some of the largest brands in the travel industry—think Marriott, Virgin Atlantic and JetBlue—have been early adopters who have reaped the benefits that native has to offer.
The travel industry is an ideal candidate for native advertising because travelers are often undecided as to which destination they want to visit and which hotel they want to stay in. This means that they’re more open to being nudged in a certain direction after consuming the right kind of content.
If you’re still unsure as to how to leverage the power of native to reach your leaf-peeping travel customers, we've come up with some helpful tips and best practices to empower you to try out this effective content distribution channel this season.
Leverage the rise of culinary tourism
One of the best things about traveling to far-flung destinations is enjoying the local food that it has to offer. It’s a pretty safe bet that all tourists will eat out at least a handful of times while on their trip, and you can almost guarantee that dining out ranks among the highlights of just about anyone’s vacation.
Due to a number of factors—growing global affluence, emphasis on local produce and media focus on food, to name a few—culinary tourism has become one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. Tourists are able to sample and get the flavour of a culture through its cuisine, and travel marketers the world over are embracing culinary tourism as part of their content marketing strategy. With this in mind, consider tying cuisine into culture and experience by partnering with local restaurants and food professionals to create compelling content that caters to the lucrative culinary tourism market.
As part of the launch of its 2015 culinary tourism strategy, Brand USA unveiled its “Flavours of the USA” digital platform on its consumer website. The culinary content hub includes gastronomic-inspired travel offerings from all of the country’s states, and provides international travelers easy access to culinary-inspired U.S. travel itineraries, a calendar of U.S. food festivals and events, regional cuisine recipes from top chefs, tips on dining etiquette and more.
Brand USA’s “Flavors of the USA” content hub
Fine-tune your creatives to speak to fall crowds
So we now know that food might just be the way to your customers’ hearts. But sometimes it’s easy to overlook the simple solutions to help make your content better resonate with travelers—like your creatives. Call out to fall travelers by choosing images that embody the rich, autumnal hues that are synonymous with the season.
Image credit: The Logo Company
JetBlue’s #DestinationFriday campaign is a great example of a brand leveraging the power of visuals to lure readers to click their content. Much of their content also employs the psychology of color to convey a certain idea or feeling to customers. The following two examples are full of bright colors and powerful copy, designed to target travelers at the tail-end of summer.
To prevent ad fatigue, it’s wise to continuously refresh your creatives. Whether you give your creatives a full-on overhaul, rotate different options or simply make a tweak here and there, it’s imperative to the success of your campaign that you don’t bombard customers with the same old imagery and messaging.
Make it mobile-friendly
Travelers, by their very nature, are likely often on the go. This means that in order to reach them, your campaigns need to be created with mobile in mind. 2014 saw mobile content consumption tip over the 50% mark—we now spend more time on mobile devices than we do watching TV. What’s more, mobile data traffic is expected to grow by 762% by 2018.
For this reason, brands need to ensure that the content they create is designed with mobile in mind, taking into account the close screen and feed-based environment of the mobile user experience. Best practices for mobile-friendly native ads are to use concise, minimal copy. This will ensure that the unit translates well when served via mobile.
Image Credit: Moby Affiliates
Go granular with your customer personas
Marketers are going beyond simply analyzing customer demographics, and are instead turning to consumer psychographics to get a handle on exactly who their customers are. Visit California—also known as the California Travel and Tourism Commission—has taken this to whole new levels with its 2015 strategic marketing and communications plan.
Visit California’s consumer target audiences have been identified in a three-layer pyramid. At the top it begins with a “broad global brand target”, defined by age, income and desire to travel. The middle layer consists of “opportunity brand targets” that hone in on key demographic and psychographic niches, and the bottom layer consists of “passions-based targets” that aggregate people by interest.
The company describes its “global brand target customer” as a male or female over the age of 18 that lives in the top one third of household incomes and vacations at least once a year. Moving down the layers to the “opportunity brand target” level, Visit California expands the definition of its target consumers with the following five personality traits:
Creative — They have an active imagination
Curious — They want to explore and learn
Open-minded — They embrace the new and different
Authentic — They want to stay true to themselves
Youthful — They want to feel young
At this point, its demographic is then delineated into two sub-groups: family travelers and aspirational travelers. The two traveler segments are further extrapolated by what matters to them, what motives them, and what type of content they tend to respond to.
They're split into three categories: Mommy Maximus, Confident Connoisseur and Passion-Based Personas.
Source: Visit California
Finally, the Passion-Based Personas are then further broken down into a variety of identities—the Avid Adventurer, Natural Nurturer, Savvy Sophisticate, Media Maven, and Cultured Cosmopolitan.
...Phew. Pretty complicated, isn’t it? Admittedly, this is a particularly complex example of how you can break down your brand’s target consumers on a granular level. But when you consider the very different ways in which you would approach marketing to each of these personas, the value of highly-detailed consumer psychographics becomes evident.
Think about it: you wouldn’t market your product or service to “Mommy Maximus” in the same way you would the “Avid Adventurer”. They’re both looking for completely different vacations—different destinations, different activities, different culture and different foods.
Source: Visit California
As we approach the end of 2015 and begin planning 2016’s marketing efforts, progressive brands are carving out portions of their budget for native advertising in an effort to effectively engage with their customers.