If you own a travel company, or work for one, you may already know this: a customer can be slow to move from dreaming of a holiday to booking one. Each step of their customer journey begs for a nudge - whether it be an inspiring view, a sale, or the warm smile from your customer service rep'. These moments craft a journey from consideration to purchase that utilizes multiple channels. It's for this reason, as a marketing consultant, that I recommend a multichannel approach for a travel co in order to get the best return on ads long term.
Maximise campaign results by using multiple channels
Let's look at one of the largest travel companies in the world as a travel campaign example - Expedia. Expedia's run some pretty cool campaigns, like their 'Made To Travel' campaign. One of the things they do to bring their brand philosophy to life is fund non-profits working to remove barriers to travel - like Birthright Africa, a company that encourages African descendants in the US to explore their cultural roots. This alignment of purpose brings substance to Expedia's tagline, 'made to travel', articulating the idea that travel is for all. It's this very tagline that supports the provocation to travel that their Google ads campaigns later capitalise on.
This 'Made to Travel' campaign is not a stand-alone piece - it's surrounded by sponsored content (primarily video) across the likes of Meta ads. Each piece of content encourages viewers to plan a trip by showing off an inviting destination, an easier way to travel (like using ChatGPT to plan your trip), or a promotion.
Together, these campaigns paint a story that draws out the explorers and provoke a quest for a getaway - which is exactly what the Expedia website is all about. This is complimented by a presence across the likes of Google ads - to make sure the company is once again 'present' when the prospective customer looks up travel options.
This is how Expedia leads prospects to book - utilising multiple channels with a consistent undertone - to explore more. This channel choice isn't just because they have a budget for it, studies have proven time and time again that utilising multiple channels in advertising magnifies results and not by just a tiny bit - significantly.
- An analysis of over 2 billion campaigns found using 3 or more channels in marketing campaigns earns a 90% higher customer retention rate, and 250% higher engagement and purchase rates.
- Print ads have been found to have an effect on the number of conversions induced via search engine advertising. (European Journal of marketing)
- Neuro-Insight research has found that when your audience sees your ad on TV first, and then online, they are 40% more likely to remember it.
- Customers that interact with multiple channels have a higher Average Order Value (AOV)
In my experience this is exactly what smaller travel companies can do too - if they're crafty with their spend. The exception to a multi-channel approach is for a business focused on a smaller locality - like an Airbnb or motel owner that is more likely to be dependent on booking websites and localised search results. In this case, choosing only the most promising online channel may work best for your profit maximisation.
If the growing travel company doesn't adopt a multichannel approach, they risk a dependency on short terms tactics and transactional advertising. This is where the business has to constantly 'pay-to-play' because they haven't really established brand demand. They're locked in a cycle paying for website traffic just to get anyone to book - and - they're up against big companies like Expedia that often bid for similar terms, driving up the ad costs significantly.
Invest in creating demand for your travel product or service. People need to know you exist, with a useful purpose, in the first place.
Invest in creating demand for your travel product or service. People need to know you exist, with a useful purpose, in the first place. Think about it - are you more or less likely to 'click' on the company you recognise in search results? Unknown brands have a higher 'cost per click' in Google ads, and known brands enjoy what we call 'brand equity'. That's the value customers assign to your business based on their perceptions of it - and you want customers to choose you based on perceived value. If you're using Google ads, generic keywords, like 'hotels Gold Coast' tend to be more expensive than branded ones like, 'Hilton Gold Coast'.
Brand perception matters - we need to facilitate one.
Consistency is the key to brand recognition
A holistic approach supports campaign results. The next ingredient you need is consistency.
A) Content consistency
Consistent messaging: Chopping and changing your messaging can kill any kind of familiarity you've achieved in your campaigning. Tourism Australia knows this, maintaining their 'there's nothing like Australia' campaign for over 10 years. The campaign originally launching in 2010, and, it's still going strong:
Maintaining messaging consistency helps ensure what you're selling is 'front of mind' when the target market considers in this case, a holiday. Tourism Australia's 2015 research showed that the 'There’s nothing like Australia' campaign reached 89% of the target audience in target cities and 97% took action in researching or planning an Australian holiday.
As an additional support to operators, Tourism Australia offers approved operators the use of a special 'there's nothing like Australia' logo, pictured above. Using the logo facilitates benefit from combined ad exposure. Maximising opportunities that a larger tourism body may provide can help improve your own campaign Click-Through-Rates (CTR) and ultimately, performance.
Avoid changing your content like you're some sort of chameleon.
Consistent creative: If you're on a tight budget, which many businesses are, avoid changing your content like you're some sort of chameleon. I know, TikTok insists on new creative, but memorability doesn't. How many times have you watched a cool ad but forgotten what product, service or uh... brand it was all about? Controversial though it may be, 'likes' and being 'liked' doesn't necessarily equate to revenue. Those (annoying) repetitive ads aren't repetitive without reason. To build recall, you need to be seen, repeatedly.
Content continuity: Studies (and experience) has also found successful Google ads campaigns require content consistency across 3 elements: your targeted keywords, your ad variations presented, and the landing page to which you direct the searcher. Make sure everything is basically 'matchy-matchy'.
B) Be present, consistently
Do you know how the spread Vegemite grew from "Pure Vegetable Extract" to the product we know today? Well, for nutritional reasons, it was included in soldier's rations during WWII, helping to familiarise a large number of people with the product. Then, while many brands were reducing ad spend during the associated economic downturn of the times, the owners of Vegemite were going 'all-in'. The company maintained a consistent advertising presence that was magnified by competitors lack of ad spend. This presence enabled Vegemite to grow into an item that was not only found in a majority of households but became a part of the Australian identity.
The same principles can be applied to other companies: make yourself a more familiar brand by maintaining a consistent market presence. This can make you the brand of choice. Keep 'long tail' campaigns 'always-on'. These prolonged and sustained campaigns endure, ultimately ensuring that the brand becomes better known within its category over time.
Long tail or "always-on" campaigns are ads that run continuously, maintaining a consistent and ongoing presence rather than being tied to a specific season, event or short-term promotion. Here's another example of a Google ads campaign Tourism Australia has been keeping 'on':
The 'Come and Say G'day' campaign is being run across multiple channels. The Google ads campaign messaging pictured above, matches Tourism Australia's overarching campaign messaging, 'come and say G'day', previewed in the YouTube clip below:
Consistency across mediums helps support familiarity, which ultimately will increase your Google ads campaign 'click through rate' (CTR), and thus, campaign results.
Q. What if my business can't afford a multi-channel approach?
A. Focus on your most promising channel such as Booking.com. Just keep in mind that at some stage, if you do want to grow bigger, you'll need to 'go bigger' and adopt the multi-layered campaign approach.
At some stage, if you do want to grow bigger, you'll need to 'go bigger'.
This brings me to, your position on search engines.
your position on Search
We all know search engines play a critical role in the path to purchase, but did you know that consumers with a higher purchase intent have been found to buy from websites placed in lower positions in search results? (Journal of Marketing Research) This is one-way that smaller travel companies can still compete against those with the budget to pay for top position in search.
Consumers with a higher purchase intent have been found to buy from websites placed in lower positions in search results...
To capture this opportunity, some tourism operators invest or upskill in SEO, targeting what we call, 'long-tail-keywords', and overtime, they can see great success. This does eat up time as a resource, and as such, paid Google ads can work better for others at very least while they are investing in the growth of their organic search presence.
If you are using Google ads, high-performing Google ads campaigns for travel companies blend emotional appeal, relevance and strategic use of keyword targeting.
A high-performing Google ads campaign for a travel company will maximise social proof - in the ad, and, on the landing page. Social proof, aka, the "sheep mentality", that we, as humans, tend to copy the behaviour of others around us, exploded with the advent of social media. You can connect this 'proof' such as reviews to your Google ads like Scoopon does in its Google ad pictured below.
In Google ads, extensions are the sitelinks, call outs like, 'Call us', locations, promotion, price and message extensions. These can increase your ad visibility, improve your ad rank, and make it easier for the prospective customer to take action.
Scoopon compliments their Google ad presence by running ads across other mediums like social media. It's another example of a multi-channel approach:
Considering multiple channels requires a decent amount of content creation. So here's a tip - produce campaign content with a decent shelf-life.
produce campaign Content with a decent shelf life
Have you spent hours crafting inviting travel content to feed the unsatiable appetite of social media? Video, and especially YouTube video tends to have a comparatively enduring shelf life for travel brands and it's a factor worth considering when producing and distributing your travel campaign content.
While viewers do tend to subscribe to travel vloggers, almost 70% of travel-related viewing on YouTube has actually been found to be branded, professionally released content.
Google's own data has revealed that most YouTube travel content searches are for destination names, like 'Paris' and, 'Barcellona.' These searches peak in July, with smaller spikes in March and October. Fresh content mid-year is in theory then, more likely to get travelers' attention. While collaborations with travel vloggers can complement your released content.
Think long-term, don't just aim to go viral as this doesn't always equate to sales.
High-performing campaigns for travel companies
In the realm of travel advertising, the key to growth lies in a multi-channel strategy. High performing campaigns, inclusive of Google ads for travel companies, leverage relevance, multiple mediums and, consistency. Whether inspired by the campaigns of industry giants or the focused efforts of smaller players, a consistent narrative can inspire your audience to explore the world via your service offering.