Virgin Atlantic tells the industry why they are shifting money from advertising to PR and social

2013 is proclaimed “The year of the three screens” at the 2013 ATME Travel Marketing Forecast

Sugarfly Marketing Mindy Joyce Virgin AtlanticToday’s ATME (Association of Travel Marketing Executives) Annual Marketing Forecast highlighted some new tactics, and indicates a much more positive year for the industry.   Discussions around “the year of mobile”, a term that has been repeated like a broken record for several years, have now phased into  “the year of the three screens” (desktop, mobile and tablet).

Surprisingly, Google even coined a new term: “It’s a Non-line world,” said Managing Director Rob Torres as he described the blurring between online and offline in media and the need for marketers to create cross platform experiences.  “Brand experiences matter,” he said and cited Booking.com’s TV campaign launched last week.  Torres said queries outside of desktop (tablet and mobile) have now increased to 30%.

But despite all the talk about online, in 2013 travel marketers in the US will still spend $700 million on traditional media, and $300M on digital.  Banner click through rates in US are now at a dismal all time low of 0.1%.

Of course there are still plenty of stale tactics in the industry and things that could be done better – but the man with the most examples and hearty advice was Simon Bradley, VP of Marketing North America at Virgin Atlantic.

Simon says: Marketing advice from Virgin Atlantic:

1. “Any advertising campaign has to have a social impact and has to be baked in PR.”  Bradley also revealed that Virgin has increased its investment to public relations and taken money from advertising to bolster their PR and social.  “PR is far more powerful than advertising.”  He backed this up by staying that their consumers are savvy and that the believability of advertising is consistently declining.  “Virgin is now driving the brand through authentic communications and that are transparent.  People are grazing on snippets of information – it’s more difficult to get them to focus on whole articles.  The great thing about PR is that you can insert the brand and do it in a way that’s compelling and interesting.”

2. “It’s about conversations, not campaigns.  They must be 2-way, multi-faceted and relevant.” 

3. “Loyalty and social are going to be the same thing going forward”.  If you can find ways to increase their loyalty, and create “surprise and delight moments at the gate, in the plan”, they will talk about it.  But what you think people want may not actually be what they want: “Most people prefer seat upgrades than bonus miles.”  Bradley also explained how they reward top flyers through Flying Club Gold Member’s exclusive dinners in top hub cities.  “It’s about building a rapport with your customers.  They will talk about it on social.  Brands should do things that can be highly socialized.”

4. “Surround sound marketing works.” Bradley described Virgin’s Wall Street Journal campaign that went across all WSJ properties.  Compared to using several independent channels, they found by using one media brand the campaign performed far beyond what they normally expected.

5. “Your content is your advertising.” Virgin’s #howtoclubhouse Instagram contest was a huge success, and he attributed to this contest being authentic and compelling.  “We got photos from travelers that were even better than we could have taken ourselves.”

6. “Data is driving all marketing decisions – it’s all about targeting, retargeting, social targeting.”

7. Mobile is an important priority but Virgin takes a holistic approach.  Virgin looks at how people use mobile across their entire journey, even in flight and in-destination and how they can be part of that – it’s not just during the booking process.

8. Tablets are different – They allow for much more experiential brand interaction and allows the experience to come to life.  All marketers at the forecast agreed that the tablet should be treated differently from a marketing perspective than mobile and desktop.

What do you think of this advice?  Do you agree?  Post your comments below!

Cheers,

Mindy

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