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Travel Advisors React to Travel Companies Mandating COVID-19 Vaccine

Headlines about mandatory COVID-19 vaccines are proliferating around the country and the world.

Cruise lines, airlines and many other leisure and hospitality companies are now grappling with whether or not to require coronavirus vaccines for employees and customers.

While vaccines are quickly becoming a hot commodity with many Americans lining up to get their jab, there remains a large part of the population that is hesitant to get a shot for such a new virus with a vaccine approved only for emergency use. However, despite vaccine hesitancy and scarcity, companies are already considering vaccine requirements for both customers and employees—some have even announced new policies along these lines.

Because vaccines provide a clear path to reopening travel, TravelPulse spoke with travel advisors to see what they thought about vaccine policies and requirements.

Importantly, many advisors noted that safety was a top concern.

Beth Rasor of Vacation Daze, who practiced pharmacy in community and hospital settings before becoming a travel advisor, praised the science that created these vaccines but also sees both sides of the issue for clients and companies. However, Rasor cautioned against vaccine mandates.

“Deciding to receive the COVID-19 vaccination should be a personal choice, not a mandate for travel in my opinion. Each person has to consider the risk of contracting the

isease and make the best choice for his/her situation,” she said. “As distribution of the vaccine is still limited, vaccine mandates will be hard to implement anytime soon. Additionally, the vaccine isn’t yet approved for all patient populations such as children.”

Rasor also noted that vaccinations alone will not stop COVID-19 from spreading.

“Vaccine distribution isn’t the solo golden ticket to getting ‘back to normal,’” she said. “As with most viruses, viral mutations make vaccine development difficult and cause vaccines to lack efficacy. Therefore, sound cleaning protocols, effective air filtration systems, diligent hand washing, wearing face coverings when necessary, symptom monitoring and testing should continue to be our main focus in stopping the spread of the disease for those choosing or needing to travel. Vendors also need to maintain or adopt flexible cancellation policies for guests needing to cancel at the last minute due to illness.”

Miki Taylor, founder and CEO of Taylor & Co. Travel, suggested that it could be more equitable to use medical passports since vaccines remain elusive to many and some people will not be able to take them.

“I think having the vaccine to travel would protect everyone that travelers would come in contact with, but at the same time, the vaccines need to be more readily accessible to everyone,” said Taylor. “Also, I feel that if someone has an underlying medical condition that could potentially put them in even more danger should they receive the vaccine then this is where the medical passport could come into play because it isn’t fair to tell someone who could potentially have an adverse reaction to the vaccine due to an existing medical condition that they can’t travel unless they put themselves at greater risk and get the vaccine.”

Stephen Scott, luxury travel advisor for Protravel International, sees vaccines as the fastest way to getting travel back on track and points out that those who don’t want to be vaccinated don’t have to go to places where inoculation is required.

“Our goal in tourism needs to be to reopen with the least amount of damage to the health and the economy of our travelers, the employees within tourism, and also the people in the destinations we travel to,” said Scott. “Right now, this is the way to meet both of those needs.”

He also pointed out that travelers who don’t want to be inoculated can choose not to go.

“I see this as the fastest opportunity to re-open theme parks, cruise lines, and tourism districts,” said Scott. “The Yellow fever vaccine may already be required for entry into certain countries in Africa and South America. That means, if you don’t want to take it, you don’t have to go there. The same thing will apply for any companies or countries that add this new vaccine to their list of requirements. If you don’t want to take it, then you don’t have to go.”

Kim Cook of Love to Travel in Overland Park, Kansas, noted that testing for COVID-19 is one of the best ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus and pointed out that testing is very accessible right now.

“Currently, I think the testing requirement is more important for slowing the spread of Covid,” Cook said. “Testing is widely available in the U.S. and in the international destinations we sell. From everything I am reading, it is going to take a while for the general population to be vaccinated with some choosing not to take the vaccine. If having a vaccine is required for travel, I think it will slow tourism’s recovery. Eventually, I can see a vaccine requirement for international destinations but not until it is widely available.”

While we wait for vaccines to be more widely available, testing certainly will play a major role in reopening travel. However, it is unlikely that, at least in certain parts of the travel industry, there won’t be vaccine requirements in the future for COVID-19.

Source: Christopher, J. (2021) | https://www.travelpulse.com/news/travel-agents/travel-advisors-react-to-travel-companies-mandating-covid-19-vaccine.html

How to keep your direct guests and steer the traveler booking motivations away from the OTAs?

A recent study conducted by Expedia Group claimed travelers are 57 percent more likely to book a hotel via an OTA than before the pandemic, as a result of emerging traveler booking motivations such as:

  • To get the best nightly rate (69 percent)
  • To get the best room (40 percent)
  • To compare properties in one location (35 percent)

Other motivations include earning reward points (32 percent), one-stop shopping (28 percent) direct promotions (26 percent), and buying a bundled offer, such a flight and hotel, in one transaction (25 percent).

Needless to say, this is a very self-serving study with less than stellar methodology (audience polled of only n=500 US consumers).

Unfortunately, there is some truth to Expedia’s claims and the hospitality industry is partly to blame for at least some of the emerging traveler booking motivations cited above. Here are some of the advantages the OTAs undoubtedly have in the post-crisis period and the tactics hoteliers can deploy to neutralize these advantages, hold on to their direct guests, and ultimately outsmart the OTAs:

1. Calamities make the OTAs stronger

Traditionally, the OTAs have emerged stronger after all of the previous crisis and calamities: 9/11, SARS, MERS, the recession, ZIKA, H1N1. The main reason is that travel suppliers – especially hoteliers – panic too easy, shut down their marketing efforts due to budget cuts, and run for help to the OTAs. In post-calamity periods, hoteliers are more willing to work with the OTAs, to discount and provide the OTA with sales promotions (24- or 48-hour sale, etc.) without promoting these same sales via the direct channel due to lack of marketing budget. All of this allows the OTAs to convince the traveling public that they can find the lowest rates on the OTA sites/apps – rates they cannot find elsewhere.

  • What can hoteliers do? Hoteliers should continue to maintain rate parity and invest in omni-channel marketing campaigns. All discounts or promotions you provide to the OTAs should also be promoted in the direct channel: Hotel website, content marketing, SEM, online media, social media, CRM and loyalty marketing. Travel consumers are shopping around (45 digital interactions before making a hotel booking – Google Research 2019) and omni-channel marketing gives the hotel an equal to the OTAs chance to engage the travelers throughout the Digital Customer Journey and its five phases (Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing Phases), eventually acquire and retain them.

2. COVID-19 accelerated the shift from offline to online

eMarketer reports that US e-Commerce sales will reach $794.50 billion this year, up 32.4% year-over-year. E-Commerce sales in Europe have exploded as well. The pandemic drastically accelerated the shift from offline to online commerce, a shift that will also impact how travel is being researched, planned and booked in the future. Because of the shelter-at-home mandates around the world, the vast majority of the population – even late adopters – were forced to use online services to communicate, work and study remotely, search for news or information, purchase goods and services, order food, chat with friends and family, watch streaming services and entertain themselves.

This “online planning and purchasing education” has created millions of converts and believers in online services, which will inevitably affect how they research, plan and book travel in the future. This new wave of online converts will benefit online travel players like the OTAs immensely at the expense of brick-and-mortar travel agencies and traditional tour operators and wholesalers.

  • How about hoteliers? This “forced” conversion from offline to online can also greatly benefit smart hoteliers who continue to invest in digital marketing, cloud technology and applications and “reach out” to these newbie online travelers vs shutting down their marketing and technology budgets. Recently I wrote an article outlining a hotelier’s action plan for maintaining online presence that does not require significant investments Can Hoteliers Afford to Ignore Google in the Post-Crisis Era?

3. The OTAs now have a formidable reward membership base

Unlike the previous calamities, this time the OTAs have a significant new advantage: very robust Reward Programs comparable in popularity to the loyalty programs of the major hotel chains. Booking’s Genius Program has more than 100 million active members; Expedia Group and its three reward programs (Expedia, Hotels.com and Orbitz) have approximately the same membership count. The OTAs have been investing heavily in their reward programs over the past 3-4 years with the hope to increase repeat business, which is 10-15 times cheaper than acquiring new customers and decrease dependency on the expensive performance marketing (read Google and metasearch players like Trivago and TripAdvisor). Before the current pandemic, the OTAs have been spending in excess of $11 billion a year on performance marketing.

Many of the current OTA initiatives – for example Expedia Partner Recovery Program – require hoteliers to provide special discounted rates to the OTA’s reward members if they want to benefit from the OTA’s recovery program initiatives. All of this creates a vicious cycle where hoteliers are forced or enticed to provide lower rates and discounts to OTA reward members, which in turn increases the membership and further convinces the traveling public that the OTAs have the lowest rates and are the place to book their next trip.

  • What can hoteliers do? Focusing on your past guests and repeat business should become a top priority vs chasing new customers. Past guests and loyalty members are already familiar with the property, its location and product, the only thing now is to convince them that the property is safe to stay at. Past guests and repeat business will rule the next 24 months!

Hotel chains with loyalty programs should not participate in OTA reward member discounts and should provide any discounts and promotions to their own loyalty members instead. Due to weak travel demand, loyalty member initiatives, such as loyalty marketing, CRM initiatives, upsells and cross sells, should be top of mind for any branded hotelier as opposed to chasing new customers.

Independent hoteliers should focus on bringing back their past guests and creating a guest recognition program to reward any repeat guest. A simple program based on giving free nights based on X number of roomnights stayed can go a long way today. Hotels.com has 50 million members in its simple, but very effective reward program, which gives one free night with every 10 nights stayed at any hotel. Independents should also strongly consider implementing a cloud CRM technology and create a CRM program to increase repeat business, engage last and current guests and turn them into future guests.

The big question is what else can hoteliers do in this environment of weak travel demand and severe budget cuts? I believe selling on value vs selling on price alone can compensate to a great extent the budget limitations and online dominance by the OTAs. Hoteliers must remember and relearn how to sell on value vs price alone! The OTAs are the masters of selling on price, hoteliers have no chance outwitting or outspending them in their marketing efforts. But selling on value? This is where hoteliers can truly outwit the OTAs and provide real value to their customers. Do you have cooking classes, weekend specials, coronavirus de-stressing packages, spa packages, family packages, activity packages, special occasion packages, wine tastings, F&B packages and promotions, work-from-hotel packages, etc. that you can use to target your local, short-haul and drive-in feeder markets?

Especially now, it is not difficult to be creative and figure out what your customers want and need – they, like all of us, have been locked at home for most of the past 7 months. We have all been there and you can easily come up with enticing packages and special offers based on what your guests would love to do and experience at your property and its surroundings in the current environment.

Remember, the OTAs have one huge disadvantage: in spite of all of their technology and marketing might, they do not know your hotel product and your destination like you do.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4101163.html

Hotel Branding: How to Take Your Hotel Brand to the Next Level

Seldom businesses can thrive nowadays without carefully-planned marketing strategies: not to say in the hospitality industry where there is at least one new property opening somewhere in the world almost every week. Moreover, the ubiquity of technology and the replicability of products means that branding has become one crucial differentiator for hospitality businesses. A hotel may be a superior service provider with its renowned facilities, but the customers need to seek a way to know about the hotel and its service quality out of all its competitors. As the market is saturated with countless hotels, brands and offerings and that consumer tastes have caught onto the industry, crystallizing and differentiating the brand vision is crucial to lead a new generation.

As the hospitality market is overloaded with advertising messages, how can hotels work strategically to gain customers’ attention and to, ideally, create the right premise of a loyal customer base?

Hotel branding tip #1: Create a strong narrative for your hotel

In a nutshell: Turning your hospitality differentiator into a story can be a powerful business tool. 

Business case studies across the years have proven that focusing solely on product, such as room types and facilities, is not sufficient. Such tangible features do not leave a lasting imprint in consumers’ minds and are unable to generate enduring desires.

Hospitality is about selling a dream and creating a lasting experience, and that is why truly successful hotel brands focus on their brand stories.

Humans are wired for stories as they lead to a better understanding, trust, comprehension and receptivity. Unlike facts and statistics, a story engages both the brain and the body, eliciting emotional responses, which people are more attracted to.

The narrative – or the magic operator of your story – creates the desire: well-developed brand narratives traditionally touches on a brand’s history, mission, values or people. The story must be authentic, based on truths, and then built upon to create the dream and aspiration which capture clients’ needs and wants. In that way travelers are significantly more likely to build a connection with you, and to embrace the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with your brand.

Industry example – Novotel, Beijing:

Novotel hotels in China is a great example which realizes successful brand differentiation through strong storytelling. General Manager, Thierry Douet, of the Novotel Beijing Peace Hotel says: “Twenty years ago, when we first arrived in China, the concept of traveling with children was not very common. Also, mid-scale hotels for pleasure or business did not really exist here. Our story was very foreign to the Chinese, but we took advantage of our French origins and built upon this. We were able to differentiate ourselves by offering a family place of leisure, where you can also conduct business meetings and events. We focused on the needs of the family and have continued to tell the story based on family.”

Hotel branding tip #2: Set up the premise of a good loyalty program

In a nutshell: Remember that your guests are your brand ambassadors.

A loyal customer base, captured by novel reward programs, is essential for a brand’s development. The kind of brand you want to be has to be directly related to the type of guest you want to target.

All the brand activities you undertake should be consistent and authentic, rooted in the needs and expectations of your customers. 

Just like in any relationship where trust is essential, it is crucial for hotels to fulfill their promises in order to maintain a loyal customer base. Rewards programs, recognition and redemption become drivers of your loyalty force. When a guest stays at one property of your brand, they deserve to be recognized on their returns to any other property of yours. Their previous information should have been stored and protected, then reapplied to ensure preferences are respected and remembered.

Such a high-level of global recognition conveys a sense of belonging for your clients. With such sense of fulfilment, these returning guests will depart the hotel as brand ambassadors, spreading recommendations through word-of-mouth and online reviewsAs some of the most prominent hospitality players nowadays, you could even go a step further and offer opportunities for engagement and redemption outside of your own brand’s world.

Industry example – Kimpton Hotels:

Lead by the core idea of “good things come to those who stay”, Kimpton Hotels has a long history of using recognition and redemption to give guests something beyond expectations. Its reward program, Kimpton Karma Rewards, is a new approach to loyalty. Karma’s style is Kimpton’s style and the program is composed of name, identity, messaging, digital touchpoint and small details of identity like icons that represent program levels. These patterned icons have subtle numerical references, but also tie into color, textile and design patterns found recurring across hotel interiors. The loyalty program and the properties weave together a physical and digital experience highlighting Kimpton’s brand personality. Database technology communicates with digital devices to deliver personalized experience; from the front desk to the mobile phone or tablet, Karma is a more personal, contextual, meaningful rewards program. Kimpton Karma Rewards is an innovative way that goes beyond traditionally loyalty to become a true brand relationship platform. For example, guests may get credit for liking things on Facebook or get served what seems like a random perk unexpectedly anytime during their stays.

Hotel branding tip #3: Deliver hospitality and service excellence

In a nutshell: Creating a strong hotel branding and brand personality is about defining your offerings. 

Aside from the basic offerings such as the quality of the rooms, facilities, or service delivered by well-trained staff, the best hotels should stretch their definition beyond these elements to incorporate the concept of hospitality.

Hotels are in the business of taking care of people and a hotel’s staff should aim to deliver a transformative experience for customers.

All great brands begin with a customer-centric perspective and experience mapping is a great asset which helps to identify and rollout universal touchpoint of brand experience. The delivery of hospitality should create cherished memories, enrich clients’ experience and become part of their life story.

As world-renowned sommelier Bobby Stuckey defines it, service is “what you do to someone” and hospitality is “how you make someone feel”. When care is offered, it provokes a feeling and builds a connection which transmits such feeling between people. Hospitality is the genuine care which is capable of changing one’s mood and perspective. Successful hotel brands should truly nurture hospitality and service excellence – the very concepts upon which they are built – and integrate it into its brand culture.

Industry example – The Peninsula Beijing:

The Peninsula is one brand which creates transformative experiences through delivery of hospitality. The General Manager of The Peninsula Beijing, Vincent Pimont, explained his concept of hospitality:

“Anticipating the needs of your guests. Guests arrive from all around the world. It is vital to go beyond cultural difference by not judging the difference, but to deliver the care even before the guests know they are in need. Hospitality in Asia is different than in the West. It is about care, I mean really caring. Our brand originates from China and we respect our brand’s origins. We train our staff to embrace and manifest our cultural difference.”

Source: https://www.hotel-online.com/press_releases/release/hotel-branding-how-to-take-your-hotel-brand-to-the-next-level/

Measuring product lifecycle and witnessing innovation in social media

Pinpointing the position of social media in its product lifecycle in hospitality was the topic of conversation last week at the Dorchester Collection’s Coworth Park, as a group of marketers and business owners from across the hospitality industry gathered in Ascot.

The discussions centred around where different restaurateurs, product and service suppliers, hoteliers, caterers, industry associations and lobbyists see social media now within their wider marketing activity. Linked to where they see the hospitality industry’s position in terms of social media’s product lifecycle.

The crux of the discussions focused on returns on investment achieved. One delegate shared how restaurants had been filled through Instagram and the strategy and tactics deployed to achieve that goal. Others reflected on the return on investment versus time savings for communications in large teams of people.

Delegates looked at the different channels used, old and new, ranging from the established Facebook to the emerging TikTok, with strategic and tactical lessons shared.

Tone of voice, images, sources of images and image testing, video and calls to action were all reviewed as were use of emoji’s, grammar and punctuation. All had a clear impact on the different objectives and campaign measurements applied. Attention to small details had a big effect.

The objective of any such event is to ensure delegates leave with ‘take-aways’ that can be applied post event.

The observations ranged from seasoned attendees who have shared their experiences previously, enabling a familiar framework to measure by, to newcomers who shed light with a new, different and helpful approach.

One of the delegates taking part that has done previously on many occasions was Simon Esner FIH FIoD, Director, WSH LIMITED. WSH own and operate some of the best known brands in hospitality including BaxterStorey. Commenting on the morning Esner said: “The whole event was extremely well organised and the team at Coworth really made everyone feel welcome and relaxed immediately.

“The attendees were a terrific group of business professionals who all had significant involvement with the discussions, which resulted in me having several ‘take-aways’ that I know I will be able to utilise personally and professionally.

“Key words, subjects and points for me that will enhance our approach to social media utilisation are ‘Authenticity’, ‘Engagement’, ‘use of algorithms and their specific platforms’ and using Instagram as your ‘Inspiration Platform’.

“Lastly, I’m grateful for the information about image libraries. Having looked at the information I know we will be able to learn more and make better use of our approach.”

One of the newer delegates was Paul Anderson FIH, M.C.G.C Managing Director, Meiko UK Limited who told us: “I was kindly invited to attend H&C Social last week at Coworth Park, in a small yet collective discussion on social media and the part it plays in modern business.

“It’s true I am always pushing the boundaries within MEIKO on social media, and yet I always say I am never an expert. It was so useful to gain ideas and thoughts from great peers of our industry during this meeting that I came away thinking we’ve not even really started.

“The use of media is so fast, so readily available and requires constant attention to ensure it is correct, valid and fit for purpose…. more or less a full time role to support and underpin the image of a company.

“I really found this meeting extremely useful and I can’t wait until the next one.”

The mix of delegates was diverse to ensure as many views and perspectives as possible were considered and learned from.

Pat Thomas is a Founder of and Director at Beyond GM, an independent initiative set up to raise the level of the debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the UK and elsewhere, at both the local and national level. Its activities aim to broaden the discussion about GMOs beyond the abstract, and often impenetrable, scientific and academic arena and out into the public arena. The task of broadening discussions on GMO’s is in part achieved through social media, so Pat’s input to our discussion was enlightening.

Thomas was enthusiastic saying: “Social media has become such an important platform for sharing not just sterile pieces of information but connected stories that matter about the values that drive us. The social media roundtables are a lively and invaluable forum where individuals can share ideas, challenges and tips for success. Keep them coming.”

The discussions looked at many channels and LinkedIn was covered by Neil Fillbrook FCII, UK Managing Director of international banking firm Bank Brokers. Fillbrook reflected on the morning telling us: “The round-table discussion this morning with social-media thought leaders from the hospitality industry at the wonderful Coworth Park was fascinating. It was intriguing to learn from both a strategic and tactical standpoint.

“Our execution of Social media within our wider marketing mix will improve as a consequence of taking part. Several things quickly became clear to me and the takeaway’s are many. What on earth is TikTok?!”

TikTok in many ways underlines the incredibly fast changing and emerging technologies across social media. TikTok was launched in 2017 by Chinese business ByteDance, valued at $78 billion in November 2018 and is considered one of the most valuable unicorns in the world. One delegate is already au fait with TikTok and shared his experience and views, Rehan Uddin, Managing Director of the Asian Restaurant Owners Network.

Uddin there representing the 1,500 plus members of the Asian Restaurant Owners Network pooled knowledge and experience from members. His contribution was eloquent and enlightening, his feedback was to the point stating: “At the heart of the Asian Restaurant Owners Network we value and cherish our heritage, but our focus is on creating 21st century dining. Social media is key to everything we do and drives our businesses.

“To get a morning of enlightened discussion and knowledge sharing is not only tremendous use of my time, it allows me to disseminate the learning with our members.

“The conversation was steeped in first-hand experience and it was authentic, I leave today’s roundtable with practical guidance I can apply to my own restaurant business and that of fellow members, thank you.”

The variety of perspective from around the table provided a wide range of references with many common touchpoints, enabling references to be debated, linked and clarified. One common denominator was that all participants agreed on was that the product lifecycle of social media is in its growth stage. So, although the use of channels by delegates was as diverse as the table seating mix, the overall approach and view to the opportunity was very similar.

Commenting on the range of perspectives, Antonia Robinson, Manager, Public Relations & Social Media – EMEA at Preferred Hotels & Resorts focused on all our end customers, the consumers, saying: “It was interesting to focus the roundtable discussion on the social media product lifecycle.

“It was great to connect with professionals from so many sectors of the hospitality industry and learn more about how everyone uses social media differently within their companies to align with their brand messaging and goals.

“I greatly enjoyed hearing everyone’s varied perspectives on how the social media landscape is rapidly shifting and how consumers are crying out for more personalisation and authenticity, which in turn is shaking up how companies are handling their approach across the platforms.”

Independent hotels were represented as well as global hotel groups, Preferred Hotels & Resorts and Dorchester Collection. The independent hotel sector was represented by Robert Richardson FIH, GENERAL MANAGER of The Grand in Folkestone.

Richardson raised a number of points including trolling and how to deal with it positively, especially relevant to the many TripAdvisor advocates amongst the group. Richardson was to the point with his discussions and his feedback saying: Today was excellent in terms of the industry diversity of the group, with each delegate having their own specific social media focus, challenges and successes, which made for an insightful debate and allowed me to leave knowing more than when I arrived. Mission accomplished.”

The morning saw a group of marketers and business owners who are all innovators through what they are doing in social media gather and talk. Innovation is key driver in our fabulous hospitality industry and as such was it a coincidence that most of the attendees businesses are also market leaders in their respective sectors, we think not.

A few words from the business that sponsored the event and have done every year for the past six years, Armourcoat. “Armourcoat were delighted to participate in the recent social media roundtable from H&C News and act as sponsor for the event.

“Benchmarking good practice in marketing, which social media channels offer the best return, and how to effectively measure success are critical when reviewing budgets and considering MROI.

“The value of creating an open forum for debate is of enormous benefit.” Daniel Nevitt, Group Marketing Director, Armourcoat.

Source: https://www.hospitalityandcateringnews.com/2019/10/measuring-product-lifecycle-witnessing-innovation-social-media/

One in Four Travelers Feel Inadequately Rewarded for Their Travel Brand Loyalty

art of a new report from Yes Marketing, entitled “Understanding the Traveler’s Journey”, revealed that almost 25 percent of U.S. travelers feel that they’re not being adequately rewarded for their loyalty to travel and hospitality brands.

Among a group of 1,000 respondents, 64 percent admitted to having a “go-to” travel company that they consider first and, typically, above all else when planning a trip. The findings indicate that consumers prefer turning to travel brands they’ve used in the past, but only if they feel that their loyalty is proportionately rewarded. 83 percent of those surveyed said that travel-related rewards influence their decisions about whether to stick with a certain brand.

So, what is it that customers are looking to get back from travel and hospitality companies? Generally, they want to feel like they’re receiving special treatment: nearly half of respondents reported feeling rewarded by gaining exclusive member benefits and 32 percent cited waived fees as they perk that makes them feel appreciated.

“Whether it’s offering exclusive perks or providing personalized recommendations, travel brands need to leverage the right incentives to encourage customers to choose their brand time and again,” said Michael Iaccarino, CEO and chairman of Infogroup, parent company of Yes Marketing. “Through the right combination of technology and services, brands can glean a deeper understanding of their customers’ preferences to inform their retention and loyalty strategies and develop lifelong connections.”

As Yes Marketing’s work involves tracking the consumer journey with travel and hospitality brands—from first awareness and consideration through purchase and lifetime loyalty—its research extended to many different aspects of the customer experience. When it comes to client retention, it’s surprising just how many travelers are keen to receive more communications from their preferred brands.

52 percent said that they’d like to be sent more information about their reservations and previous travel; and 44 percent said they’d welcome offers based on their past behavior, while 29 percent would prefer more messaging based on their demographic profiles. 40 percent responded that they want to see more consumer reviews and testimonials, which obviously play a huge part in informing customers’ decisions these days. Another 43 percent expressed a desire to receive more partner offers from the travel and hospitality companies that they patronize.

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/features/one-in-four-travelers-feel-inadequately-rewarded-for-their-travel-brand-loyalty.html

Mindshare and Unilever initiative aims to cut carbon footprint in marketing

#ChangeTheBrief plans to ‘take power back into the agencies’.

In an attempt to soften the marketing world’s carbon footprint, Mindshare has unveiled its latest initiative, #ChangeTheBrief, undertaking a global brief from its largest client, Unilever.

The initiative offers clients sustainable alternatives to traditional marketing strategies in order to encourage the transition to carbon-neutral behaviours within the marketing world.

Speaking to Campaign, Marco Rimini, chief development officer at Mindshare, said: “The advertising industry creates popular culture and so the most powerful thing that we can do is to try promoting lifestyles, attitudes and behaviours that are consistent with transition to zero-carbon world.” 

“We always feel duty-bound to respond to the brief our client has sent us. Therefore, the simple idea behinid this initiative is to take power back into the agencies. We can always decide to change the brief and respond in different, more imaginative ways consistent with the world we want to see.

“This is a way of institutionalising behaviour.”

With two alternative strategies in place – the “now” brief and the “future” brief – agencies can take a conventional approach to climate change in response to briefs from clients short term and showcase eco-savvy lifestyles and behaviours in the long term.

For example, through the “future” brief, a food brand could develop packaging that encourages people to freeze unused food to avoid food waste, while a shampoo client could promote considerate water usage by creating a “songs to sing in the shower” playlist on Spotify lasting only four minutes.

Nick Emery, global chief executive of Mindshare, said: “Our great challenge as a society and as an industry is to show how living sustainably is possible, enjoyable, fulfilling and aspirational, and that it can also drive our clients’ business. These are all the things that we know how to do.

“We hope that #ChangeTheBrief will become the start of a new way of planning media and advertising for a more sustainable future,” he continued.

Last month, more than 80 creative and media agencies took to the streets of London to join the Global Climate Strike, including Goodstuff Communications, Iris, Lucky Generals, Ogilvy and Wieden & Kennedy.  

Days later in New York, McCann chief executive Harris Diamond used his platform at Advertising Week to hail brands for taking a positive stand with regard to climate change.

Carrie Timms, vice-president of global media at Unilever, said: “At Unilever, we believe brands should be a force for good for the world we live in.

“Mindshare’s #ChangeTheBrief initiative is a powerful statement to the industry that we should all do what we can through media, both expertise and investment, to deliver a more sustainable future.”

Unilever has been involved in a series of environmentally friendly campaigns in recent months, including fabric conditioner Comfort’s pop-up clothes “swap shop” and Hellmann’s food truck that served up a menu using commonly wasted foods.

Mindshare is seeking partners to join a #ChangeTheBrief alliance in order to generate an industry-wide movement to help be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

The initiative is set to launch during Mindshare’s annual Mindshare Day on 1 November.

Source: https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/mindshare-unilever-initiative-aims-cut-carbon-footprint-marketing/1661860

How marketers can improve their impact and influence

With confidence in marketing hitting a low point, how can the industry change negative perceptions and reclaim customer trust?

From data hacks and the Cambridge Analytica scandal to ad bombardment, influencer fraud and brand safety issues, the crisis of confidence in marketing remains a persistent concern.

Public perceptions of advertising, for example – granted it is just one aspect of marketing – have been in decline for decades; from a 50% favourable perception in the early 1990s to just 25% in 2018, according to statistics from the Advertising Association (AA).

Marketers’ influence and reputation internally is also suffering. The fact brands including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Uber are getting rid of the CMO role, instead splitting the top marketer’s responsibilities across less senior, non-C-suite executives, should ring alarm bells.

It suggests Fournaise’s often-cited research that 80% of CEOs do not trust their marketers remains a cause for concern.

The rise of alternative titles such as chief customer officer and chief growth officer have also diluted the relevance of the CMO.

As Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson puts it: “With the CMO position, we had a rare opportunity to make marketing into an established, strategic and senior function within most companies. No surprise then that a bunch of idiot marketing commentators spent the past few years critiquing the role and suggesting it needed to be retitled for the new challenges of the 21st Century.”

With trust undoubtedly in decline, marketing is at risk of losing its positive influence. It is not too late to turn the situation around, but marketers need to work hard to reclaim consumer trust, forge stronger bonds with the C-suite and enhance the impact of their work. That is the advice of the judges of Marketing Week’s Top 100 Most Effective UK Marketers, sponsored by Salesforce.

Source: https://www.marketingweek.com/marketers-impact-influence/

Why B2B brands need to invest in brand marketing

Creativity and storytelling were previously seen as a luxury afforded to B2C brands but B2B marketers are waking up to the effectiveness opportunity investment can bring.

Businesspeople do not park their emotions and personality in a cardboard box when they come to work and buy products and services.

In fact, the way people interact with B2B brands is incredibly similar to how they engage with B2C brands. This means creativity, storytelling and long-term brand building are just as important as a product’s features and price.

The cardboard box reference comes from marketing consultant Peter Field who, along with Les Binet, head of effectiveness at adam&eveDDB, was commissioned by LinkedIn to assess the importance of brand building in the B2B sector. Binet and Field are well known for their work in the B2C space and their 2013 book ‘The Long and The Short of It’.

“There are huge similarities between B2B and B2C when it comes to brand but many B2B marketers need to revise their approach,” says Field. “Brand advertising really does work in B2B to drive buyer choices and revenues.

“Brands need a creative storytelling element because it is not enough to rely solely on rational product messaging. There has to be clear differentiation and a narrative that taps into business buyers’ emotions. Humanity must not be lost in a tech-obsessed world.”

The Binet and Field research was unveiled recently in New York and reveals that brand building in B2B should, on average, account for 46% of marketing spend and lead generation 54%. Many B2B brands spend considerably less than this proportion on brand building but the research concludes that investment should rise as a business matures and grows.

This follows research from Marketing Week and The Marketing Practice that showed that B2B brands that identified as outperforming their competition over the last two years were twice as likely to allocate 60% or more of their budget to achieving long-term marketing goals.

The hybrid advantage

The research also cites case studies from the IPA’s awards databank including BT and VW Commercial Vehicles. BT demonstrates a clear story around helping business customers in an emotional way by bringing people together, while VW Commercial Vehicles talks about being there for small business owners who can find running their business a lonely experience.

“Quite a few businesses have B2B and B2C divisions,” says Field. “These ‘hybrid’ companies seem to have applied their B2C learning to B2B with good effect.”

Another company to tick the hybrid box is insurer Direct Line. Head of transformation Claire Sadler says the Binet and Field research confirms what she has always felt, that reach and tapping into emotion through creativity and storytelling are as important to B2B brands as they have always been in the B2C arena.

“B2B advertising is often rational rather than emotional but in insurance the risk to a business owner can be greater than to someone personally,” says Sadler. “We are all human beings and we do not become a different person when we go to work.”

Technology has made buying business services easier but it has also meant that in many cases human interaction has been lost. “The salesman use to be the face of the insurance brand. Today, insurers have to tell their brand story through other touchpoints, including their website and B2B advertising,” she adds.

Short-term pressures

For purely B2B companies, long-term brand thinking can be a challenge because of the pressure to deliver short-term sales. But Field believes there is no better tool for driving growth than brand building, and marketers’ acquisition strategy must target a broad audience to generate long-term support. He says too much B2B marketing is narrow and focusing on targeting existing customers.

The findings of the research have gone down well with B2B marketers, who accept that storytelling and brand building are essential if a business is to grow and remain competitive.

The chair of The DMA’s B2B Council, Richard Robinson, is also chief commercial officer at data technology startup DPL. He says building long-term brand awareness is more integral to B2B companies than most marketers realise because growing sales depends on successfully building relationships and customer loyalty.

He believes B2B customers are often more emotionally engaged than B2C shoppers because the purchasing costs can be higher and there can be a serious financial impact if the wrong buying decision is taken.

“B2B companies will reach more customers and encourage them to keep coming back if they build brand awareness as well as trust,” he says. “B2B brands are beginning to spend a larger proportion of their marketing budgets and resources on building relationships. You can barely enter a B2B marketing event today that doesn’t cover account-based marketing and/or storytelling.”

Robinson says a long-term approach is important because the B2B buying process is counted in months or even years. “How many B2C marketers have to engage with a dozen or more decision makers, all with different needs and requirements, across multiple months, using different channels to consume information just to sell one product?” he questions.

One area that does need to change is that B2B marketers need to become more confident about sharing their stories and differentiating themselves.

Tim Matthews is CMO at cyber security vendor Exabeam and author of the book The Professional Marketer. He has built many B2B marketing teams over the years, including leading nine worldwide product launches at security products brand Symantec.

“People buy from people so it is crucial any B2B brand can find a narrative,” he says. “If there is an origin story around the founder then future buyers will connect with that and the brand.”

Exabeam itself was founded by Nir Polak after he received a security alert regarding one of his credit cards. “Stories will hook clients in because the marketing becomes more about the people behind the business rather than being too product focused,” claims Matthews.

He says the Exabeam product is about security but the marketing messaging focuses on the human element. “When there is a problem the IT team have to work overtime and weekends, which means they are not spending so much time with their family and friends.”

The lost opportunity

Colin Lewis, CMO at travel retailing platform OpenJaw Technologies, says that historically B2B marketing was seen as the ugly child internally. These were the guys who organised the client golf days and product photo shoots.

“The internet has changed this because it is clearly visible how leads are being generated,” he says. “Big B2B brands such as IBM, Microsoft or Intel have always needed a proper and evolving brand story because they operate in such a dynamic market, but for other companies the challenge can be getting the sales function to buy into the importance of long-term brand building.”

Lewis is proud of OpenJaw Technologies’ own brand story: “We were set up by three entrepreneurs and are now a 400-strong company with high-profile clients such as British Airways and Cathay Pacific. Telling your story and not just talking about product boosts your credibility and can change the perception buyers might have of your business.

“This is also important when we talk about improving the employer brand and attracting talent.”

Communications agency FleishmanHillard Fishburn has carried out its own research into how brand affects B2B marketing and sales. Its study reveals that 32% of people rank brand reputation as the most influential attribute they look for in a supplier. This was second behind value for money (57%). Buyers also want to work with brands that have built up a reputation as industry experts and storytelling thought leaders.

Claudia Bate, head of technology at FleishmanHillard Fishburn, says the C-suite is beginning to pay closer attention to how branding can help businesses stand out in a crowded market where the buying process if long and complex.

“Modern B2B marketing needs to appeal to both hearts and minds,” she says. “The decision-makers that matter do not leave their emotions and personalities at the door when they go to work. Creative storytelling, quality content and a distinctive brand identity are hugely important tools for breaking through the noise to drive real business value.”

Source: https://www.marketingweek.com/2019/06/05/b2b-brands-invest-brand-marketing/

Diversity In Influencer Marketing: Why Representation Matters

YouTuber influencer culture has seen a fair amount of drama lately. There was the famous feud between James Charles and Tati Westbrook, and during that timeframe, Gen Z fashion app Dote was called out across social media for their lack of diversity in their Dote Girls branded campaigns. 

At a recent influencer trip, YouTube star Daniella Perkins shared her experience with racial exclusion at the Dote house where the influencers were staying and promoting Dote at Coachella. This shocking revelation prompted many A-list Gen Z influencers such as Emma Chamberlain, Ellie Thumann, and Summer Mckeen to end their relationship with the fashion app. 

Dote vows to be a more inclusive brand, but it begs the question: how can the influencer marketing ecosystem be more representative of all genders, races, sexualities, and perspectives?

Here are how brands, influencers, and influencer marketplace and agencies can collectively work together to do a better job in promoting diversity and inclusion.

Brands: Highlight diversity in campaigns.

Brands are leveraging influencers now more than ever. They’re tapping into every type of influencer whether B2B employee ambassadors, fashion nano-influencers, or celebrities with millions of followers. With this immense investment in influencer marketing, brands need to think about inclusivity from the very start of their campaign strategy. 

Eric Toda, former marketing executive at Gap Inc., Airbnb, Nike, and Snapchat who has created high-visibility global campaigns with influencers like Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, shared his thoughts on how brands can do better: 

“You tend to see marketers let their unconscious biases’ make decisions. It’s not a secret that marketing is a predominantly white industry so naturally there are marketers who choose influencers who look like them; it’s safe, it’s relatable, but unfortunately, it’s not real life.

As marketers we continue to be one of the only industries in the world that can influence large masses of people; we can do that in the effort of good, or we can choose the other route. We need to put values-driven messages out there, show real life versus a sterilized mirage, and instill purpose. You can achieve this by partnering with influencers that represent different stories, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.”

Influencer Marketing Takeaway: When crafting your campaigns, think about your target demographic and imagine how they’d react to a non-diverse influencer mix. Be strategic in finding influencers that represent your audience and brand values. This allows for more positive brand sentiment and affinity as you’re leveraging connectivity between community and influencer. 

Influencers: Research the right partnerships. 

Being an influencer is a business. With a high-followership, influencers have opportunities to produce content for a broader audience through brand partnerships. Influencers need to research the right brands to work alongside.

Indian-American beauty influencer Arshia Moorjani who has over 600,000 social media followers and works with top brands like L’Oreal and Estee Lauder is passionate about the choices she makes with brand deals:

“I have turned down many campaigns because the brand is not inclusive, and this goes beyond the products. Before agreeing to any campaigns, I study the brand from looking at their products, social media accounts, and past campaigns. 

I also love to meet brands in person to understand their core values. It’s not just about accepting another paycheck; it’s about aligning myself with brands who actually create products for my skin tone but represent a large group of people. 

I want brands to continue to work with a diverse group of people, not for the sake of being inclusive but from an understanding of why actually diversity matters. Everyone should feel represented in this industry and that goes beyond one’s skin tone. True diversity means showcasing people with different backgrounds, genders, body types, ages, sexual orientation, audience size, and more.”

Influencer Marketing Takeaway: Influencers need to align with forward-thinking inclusive brands like Fenty Beauty, MAC Cosmetics, and NARS that are creating products for a wide audience, but are also showcasing diversity on their social media accounts and campaigns. 

Influencer marketplaces and agencies: Educate clients.

Influencer marketplaces and agencies help facilitate connections and campaigns for brands and influencers. Employees at these marketplaces and agencies can help educate their clients on how to optimize successful campaigns by showing data and insights that highlight the importance of inclusivity. 

Kate Edwards, COO of influencer marketplace, Heartbeat, is actively encouraging brands to work with influencers of all ethnicities, genders, sizes, and perspectives. She explains:

“We are on the front lines of showing brands the value of working with diverse, everyday people who are actually the brand’s consumers. Millennials and Gen Z are actively looking for brands to represent people who look like them and share their values, and this is a major shift in how “influence” is perceived.

Sometimes, when we go to a brand to talk to them about influencer marketing, they are looking for a cookie-cutter influencer, many of whom represent traditional standards of beauty. However, we have to sit the brands down and tell them that working with real people, serving their actual demographic, is much better for their brand. It’s been an uphill battle, but we’re making progress. Plus, the data in terms of our campaign results speaks for itself.”

Influencer Marketing Takeaway: Influencer marketplaces and agencies need to be at the forefront of leading the charge in providing a diverse array of influencers to their clients. By showing data points and leveraging insider knowledge they can help to create impactful campaigns that transcend the traditional standards of beauty.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/katetalbot/2019/06/02/diversity-in-influencer-marketing-why-representation-matters/

Direct-To-Consumer Brands Are Out-Marketing Traditional Retailers–But It Comes At A Cost

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands continue to up-end business models and rewrite the playbook on how to engage customers. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in retail that a new report from CommerceNextshows an increasing divide in ecommerce marketing spending and priorities between traditional retailers and digital-first DTC brands.

The research clearly demonstrates that one of the biggest differences between traditional retailers and DTC brands is their investment in marketing. Marketing budgets across all retail business models are on the rise: 65% of respondents said their 2019 budget increased over the previous year. Conversely, only 10% of marketers indicated that they are reducing their budget. However, DTC brands’ budgets are increasing at a higher rate. In 2019, 78% of DTC marketers said their budgets had increased, compared to 60% of traditional retailers.

With larger marketing budgets and consumer tastes veering sharply in their favor, DTC brands are now dictating the terms of a new ecommerce customer experience. DTC brands have methodically seized market share by innovating on product, marketing tactics and technologies. The mattress industry serves as a stark example—dozens of new DTC bed-in-a-box mattress brands have sprung up while the incumbent retailer, Mattress Firm, had to restructure the company in bankruptcy in order to survive.

Unfortunately for DTC brands, the research also shows how this relentless focus on marketing comes with its own subsequent set of growing pains—those that traditional retailers have already worked through. All this innovation has its price, resulting in some notable differences in priorities and challenges between traditional retailers and DTC brands:

  • DTC brands are starting to focus on achieving profitability at scale. Nearly 45% of DTC brands named “achieving profitability at scale” as a top barrier to meeting 2019 marketing goals. In contrast, less than 18% of traditional retailers named this as a barrier.
  • DTC brands are experiencing concern over finding and retaining top workforce talent. Twenty-six percent of DTC brands named this as a barrier for 2019, compared to 20% of traditional retailers.
  • DTC brands focus on new channels over promotions. DTC brands are turning away from the use of promotions in favor of other channels, such as programmatic TV, to attract new customers. Once the domain of only the largest retailers with the biggest budgets, television is now a hearty feeding ground for many digital-first DTC ad campaigns.

Despite varying marketing spends and the resulting challenges for DTC brands, retailers of all business models reported sharing many of the same business woes and goals:

  • Acquisition marketing is still the prime directive.Acquisition marketing transcends business models as a top priority for all ecommerce marketers. A full 81% of ecommerce marketers named acquisition as a top investment priority. Ecommerce marketers plan to spend even more on acquisition in 2019.
  • Getting a unified view of the customer remains a struggle. Most marketers are not satisfied with their efforts to create a single view of the customer and personalize the customer experience. In 2019, the top innovation investment priority for all ecommerce marketers, regardless of business model, is in customer data platforms.
  • Marketers must make faster, more informed decisions.About 30% of ecommerce marketers from both traditional and DTC brands were most challenged by executing quickly enough on marketing initiatives.

Unencumbered by legacy technology, DTC challenger brands are reporting heavier investment in modern marketing solutions that help them respond more quickly to trends, acquire new customers across multiple channels and build loyalty. If they can overcome some of their early-stage growth challenges of profitability and talent, they will continue to take market share.

Traditional brands now have a choice: they can up their marketing investments and adopt new approaches to ecommerce that will help them grow; or, they can slide silently into the history books of traditional retailers unwilling to adapt to changing times.

Source:https://www.forbes.com/sites/veronikasonsev/2019/05/30/direct-to-consumer-brands-are-out-marketing-traditional-retailers-but-it-comes-at-a-cost/