3 Travel Marketers Break Past ‘Fun in the Sun’

Traveling the world is a thing so many aspire to do, and usually from a young age. And that exciting and romantic notion is something travel marketers have capitalized on for decades (understandably). Who doesn’t want to market something fun, sexy and exotic? Except, as of late, some travel marketers have set down the piña coladas and brochures of smiling families to instead focus their advertising creative and brand messages on their values and politics.

Traveling the world, even your own country, is a thing so many aspire to do, and usually from a young age. From Spring Break in some sunny locale, to backpacking across Europe before heading to college or honeymooning in Southeast Asia for a few weeks, the notion of travel is exciting and romantic.

Travel Not to Escape LifeAnd that notion is something travel and hospitality marketers have capitalized on for decades (understandably). Who doesn’t want to market something fun, sexy and exotic?

Except, as of late, some travel marketers have set down the piña coladas and brochures of smiling families having fun to instead focus their advertising creative and brand messages on their values and politics.

1. Airbnb’s ‘We Accept’

https://youtu.be/5qUTYHnLz2g

I briefly mentioned this commercial from Airbnb during my “What Were They Thinking?” episode about Super Bowl LI’s ads. This 30-second short proclaims simply that no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. “The world is more beautiful the more you accept,” it states, as faces from various cultures, ages and sexes are shown.

As a disruptor to the traditional hotel industry, you’d figure Airbnb’s ads would be more about finding that perfect, unique accommodation (a houseboat in Copenhagen, perhaps?), but in this case they remind us that our hosts (or our guests) are as much like us as they are not.

2. Hyatt’s ‘For a World of Understanding’

https://youtu.be/vOwVmRM9mIM

Like the Airbnb commercial I mentioned above, I also covered Hyatt’s ad in a recent “What Were They Thinking?” episode, applauding the hotel chain’s promotion of cross-culture connectivity. A 30-second version of this ad ran during The Academy Awards in late February, as part of its “For a World of Understanding” corporate brand campaign. As you watch the ad unfold, you see travelers who are in unfamiliar places, interacting with locals who, with a gesture of kindness, help make a connection and bridge a gap between cultures and languages. All the while, the ad is backed by Andra Day’s cover of “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” a hit originally by Dionne Warwick.

As someone who has been in another country, alone, who couldn’t really speak the language, this ad hit home for me. And like the travelers in Hyatt’s ad, I too had locals reach out and help me as needed, and to this day it’s always a part of the story I tell when I talk about travel — making connections and memories.

3. Expedia’s ‘Train’

This commercial from Expedia first aired on CNN on Jan. 20 during the presidential inauguration, and is the most politically charged of the three, in my opinion. The visuals Expedia chooses to show, from military checkpoints to raft-bound refugees and humanitarian protests, all the while ending with the message to “travel the world better.” In a time of such division, the marketer speaks of coming together globally, reminding us that we’re the key.

AdWeek spoke to Expedia about the commercial, and Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing, had this to say:

We believe that travel has the power to transform you and shape your views of the world. We believe that the more each of us travel and peek over our neighbor’s fence, we learn that we have more in common than we have different. Our hope is that everyone can take this day to reflect on how they can connect to their neighbors across the country and around the world.

Now, if you look at the YouTube comments on these videos — and honestly, I rarely recommend that — you’ll see some people were not into the idea of these marketers sharing these messages. And maybe this causes them to lose some business from folks who believe there’s no place for politics in travel. But then you have TripAdvisor’s CEO Stephen Kaufer standing up against Trump’s first executive order on immigration (aka the “travel ban), making it very clear where they stand.

To me, travel is a means to making connections … connections across cultures, across languages and across borders. Sure, perhaps there’s a Mai Tai in there somewhere, or a little sprinkling of good-natured sightseeing, but when you travel, you’re entering someone else’s world. Be present. Be respectful. And as Airbnb, Hyatt and Expedia all show, be a connection.

Learn to Fly Without a Pilot’s License

The savvy traveler of the 21st century expects more of everything when planning trips, from the booking experience to the transportation options, from the destination to dining. The overall experience must deliver, and travelers are not afraid to vote with their dollars. I know I’m sure not afraid to do so — I do a ton of research ahead of a trip to ensure I get the best experience for my investment, whether it’s for business or personal.

Travel has been on my mind a lot lately. On Sunday, I’m flying out to sunny LA to attend DMA’s &THEN Conference, then coming home for about 48 hours before hitting the road to visit one of my best friends just outside of Buffalo for a long weekend.

So that’s over 5,400 miles flown, then an additional 750 miles driven round trip. Woof.

Foo Fighters' Learn to Fly
Dave Grohl can be my captain any day…

Two weeks later, I board a plane for a red-eye flight to Madrid, Spain for a quick layover, then to my final destination of Lisbon, Portugal so I can attend the 2016 Web Summit as a speaker (more on that exciting news later!)

My round-trip travel for that will be over 6,800 miles … so in less than 30 days time I will have traveled more than 13,000 miles, stayed in two hotels, one AirBNB rental, had countless meals out, taken taxis, Ubers, subways … now can you see what travel’s been on my mind so much? (I think I need a nap just thinking about it all.)

The savvy traveler of the 21st century expects more of everything when planning trips, from the booking experience to the transportation options, from the destination to dining. The overall experience must deliver, and travelers are not afraid to vote with their dollars. I know I’m sure not afraid to do so — I do a ton of research ahead of a trip to ensure I get the best experience for my investment, whether it’s for business or personal.

In late July, we hosted our annual Integrated Marketing Virtual Show, and I had the opportunity to bring together a stellar panel with moderator Kae Lani Kennedy, social media manager for Matador Network, as well as the following panelists:

  • Jennifer Andre, Director of Sales, Media Solutions, Expedia
  • Christy Ciambor, Destination Marketing Manager, Travel Juneau
  • David Naczycz, Founder, Urban Oyster/NYC Urban Adventures

The focus of the panel was to look at travel marketing in the Internet Age, and as I rewatched the presentation, a few things came to mind:

We All Can Learn From the Travel Industry

Actually, all marketers can learn from every industry outside their own. I think that’s a given and something we all need to do a little more of. But what I believe the travel and hospitality industry really caters to customer desire. Sure, the automotive industry caters to my desire of driving a wickedly sweet car (I’m looking at you, Dodge Challenger), but it’s not a desire that can be met easily … but an $900 vacation to Paris? A $350 long weekend in Washington DC? A $40 walking tour of Brooklyn? These are all more quickly attainable than a $27,000 car.

The travel and hospitality industry can let consumers itch a desire now. But I think it could teach other marketers how to do this, too.

Mobile Is Here to Stay ALWAYS

That subhead says it all. Mobile was one of the big issues our panelists discussed during the travel roundtable, and it’s such a big issue that we’re hosting the All About Mobile virtual show in December (shameless plug, yes yes I know!).

As a marketer, if you don’t have a seamless marketing experience, you’re going to lose consumer confidence and customer share. Pure and simple.

User-Generated Content Builds Trust

Fun fact: Loyal customers and fans want to contribute! So let them! You can do this in so many ways, from running regular Instagram photo contests to sharing thoughtful reviews. In the end, the marketer gets wonderful content to share with the wider audience and the user gets to share his or her voice.

Anyway, I highly recommend taking 30 minutes to listen (or watch!) the travel roundtable (no registration necessary) so you can take a look at what the industry is doing, and see if you can “steal smart” and incorporate a few ideas into your next strategy meeting. You know … learn to fly without a pilot’s license (yes … yes I am a Foo Fighters fan).

Now if a marketer could just figure out how to deal with the email/travel issue so that we wouldn’t have to come back to an over-stuffed inbox … there’s a billion dollar idea.

Travel and email meme