Guest Post: Travel companies must use more than visuals to set their marketing efforts apart

Guest Post: Travel companies must use more than visuals to set their marketing efforts apart

by Matt Thorne, founder and creative director of Disrupt, now part of digital marketing agency Found

Going on holiday is inherently a very visual thing. From leafing through glossy pages in holiday guides to sipping cocktails in front of sun-soaked vistas, the idea of a holiday is intrinsically tied to the images that stay with you, long after the tan lines fade away.

The continued rise of social media has confirmed this. Unfiltered shots of idyllic beaches and translucent glaciers are strewn across Instagram – with camera phone specs improving all the time, even smartphone-wielding rookies can become destination advocates with the shots they take.

On top of this, senior Facebook bod, Vanessa Fitzgerald, recently highlighted how the burgeoning video market is impacting the travel sector – the takeaway message was that travel marketers need to step up to the medium, or risk being left behind.

There is no diminishing the significant role that visuals have in the travel side of marketing, but there’s a worrying trend emerging amongst sector professionals of relying on visuals to the exclusion of everything else.

The godfather of the mass travel industry, Thomas Cook, launched and pushed his now globally-renowned travel business through printing brochures which he made available to everyone.

He was, arguably, more limited by the circumstances of his time, but the key message is that content beyond pure visuals has a valuable contribution to travel marketing.

Our own work with Thomas Cook is evidence of this – we were tasked with reigniting Thomas Cook’s Club 18-30 brand to its younger target market.

For us to succeed in driving appeal amongst both a lapsed and new consumer we realised we needed to earn the attention of this typically advert-averse segment of the market. Marketers have a tendency to push an image of what they think a younger audience wants – shots of nightclubs, sun-dappled beaches and endless cocktails – without appreciating that being prescriptive can often feel condescending.

Instead, our aim was to speak in a language which resonates, using influencers that this audience would listen to and sell the idea of an experience, not merely a holiday. Our take on influencer marketing is different – we don’t believe in an approach that relies on getting as many people as possible to talk about something. While that works in terms of reach, it does very little to capture attention or earn authenticity.

For native content to really work, it has to be authentic. Our approach with influencers is always to use people that believe in the brand or in some way have experienced it or share its values. Take Gaz Beadle, once a rep himself and ultimate party boy, there wasn’t a better person to deliver the experiences of your first holiday than someone who’s lived and breathed it himself.

Using content in this way – natively, if you will – helped us to cut through without coming across as patronising or overly instructive.

This bit is key – holidaymakers, and particularly tech-savvy younger travellers, are skittish at the best of times. New data shows that 88% of travellers with a smartphone will switch to another site if the current one doesn’t satisfy their needs according to Google Insights.

Similarly, if a brand isn’t offering authenticity or speaking on a customer’s level – which is especially important with a younger audience – the potential customer will just look elsewhere.

While images are obviously a vital part of any campaign, words can turn something visually striking – but often unimaginable and intangible – into a real experience. The concept of an experience doesn’t just speak to prospective holidaygoers on an aesthetic level – it pushes them to think of the visceral thrill.

Assuming that posting attractive pictures or having a strong Instagram followership will be enough to create a strong and lasting brand is frankly naive. Travel companies wishing to speak from a place of authority need to marry good visuals with strong written content to cut through in this noisiest of sectors.

Found recently announced a tie-up with youth marketing agency Disrupt

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