Big Interviews

Big Interview: Pioneering lastminute.com looks back and to the future as it hits 20

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Big Interview: Pioneering lastminute.com looks back and to the future as it hits 20

This month marks 20 years since the launch of lastminute.com, the brand introduced digital travel to UK consumers and believes it continues to benefit from that first-mover advantage.

The brand, now under Swiss ownership after it was bought for £76 million by Bravofly Rumbo from Sabre in 2014, has charted its 20-year history with a series of microsites.

One looks at where the famously pink brand has come from and where it is going to, another looks at its history and how its approach to marketing has changed over the years and another sets out a timeline of the last 20 years.

Current chief marketing officer Yannic Pluymackers told Travolution that many of the fundamentals that lastminute.com co-founders Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane-Fox based the original concept on remain relevant today.

“Probably the last minute nature of the product has diminished a bit, but at the same time we are seeing users are reacting well, especially with package tours. They want more choice and they want an easy booking experience and this is what we are trying to provide them.

“We have been seeing growth in dynamic packages, especially in the last three to five years and this what we are forecasting now, that packages will continue to grow. We have to communicate that we have a wide choice.

“I believe the brand identity and awareness still resonates in our core markets and it’s still a strong brand although maybe not so much anymore towards last minute in the literal sense.
“What we are trying to do from a marketing perspective is reposition the brand a bit more towards experiences, toward moments and stories that users can experience and which enrich their lives. This is what we are trying to do with our brand marketing campaign.”

Although many of lastminute’s loyal customers have grown up with it over the last two decades, Pluymackers said it is successfully appealing to a new younger audience through social channels and with relevant content.

It’s latest branding builds on the pink heritage of lastminute.com, with a flamingo character as its star. It has even created a range of bespoke ‘Flamojis’ – emojis that can be used as digital stickers in social media posts and on messaging sites.

“The world has changed a lot over the last 20 years. What we have seen probably in the last 10 years is the emergence of very transactional brands in the travel space with the likes of Expedia and booking.com that have focused on channels like SEM and SEO where there is a lot of competition.

“From a brand building perspective, what’s much more important is we have a programmatic way of communicating your brands to people. Off line media is still relevant but at the same time we have to make sure we are on all those digital platforms and have a relevant message to the right users.

“This is what we have tried to do with the ‘What Ever Makes You Pink’ campaign, which as a social campaign can be highly effective and much more relevant to our users. Also we need to be more effective because we are small group compared to our competition and we need to make sure we outsmart them a bit.

“Lastminute was the first in the market with such a product and if you are first it makes it easier but we still have market leadership to a certain extent with our package product. Yes, it’s harder to communicate a brand message today but if you are figuring that out in a programmatic sense I believe you can still have an advantage.

“What we are trying to do is use new channels which are still being figured out by our competitors like Instagram stories to communicate our brand values. This is a lot harder, we need to be there from a content perspective and relevant targeting.”

Ultimately the lastminute.com vision today is to become an one-stop-travel-shop and experience platform for its users to differentiate it from its competitors, Pluymackers said.

“We are having constant conversations with our product department to understand how to build an experience platform to provide out users with holistic view of everything they went to plan and know about their destination.

“The vision is essentially still the same in terms of making it easier for our audience to connect with relevant moment in life. It’s an evolution of the brand positioning. In the markets where we are today I believe we are well positioned and the brand is still very strong.”

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