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Back in the mid-90s, when confronted with declining sales and stagnant market share in Europe, a big, well-known beverage company had two different options: to go ahead with the usual – even typical – marketing promotions to try to produce an immediate spike in sales, what we today would call performance marketing; or instead to pursue a full rebranding effort that would help differentiate its product from the competition – another well-known, even bigger beverage company. The decision was made to go with the second, and they went even further: the rebranding effort would be targeted specifically at the younger consumers. The younger generation had the biggest consumption ratios and, even more important, were important influencers for another critical target audience: their parents.
With that in mind, a whole new campaign was designed, centered around indie rock music, how cool it was to be young – as opposed to how boring it was to be old, and by old I mean anyone in their 30s – and of course how big a part this beverage brand played in being young, cool and enjoying indie rock music.
That was the easy part. The difficult one was to come up with creative, money-efficient ideas on where to place those messages. This being the mid-90s, and with Internet still not an option, TV, radio and printed media had a big role in the media planning. The most interesting bit of it, though, was the decision to place street advertising in those places where it was most likely that the target audience would see it: in bus-stops near their high-schools and universities, where they would certainly see them on their way to their daily classes.
The rebranding campaign had a huge, resounding success. It became a famous case study that shows how branding and display marketing, even if not the flavor of the month right now, is still crucial. Brands still need to communicate and position themselves in front of the consumer. If no one knows who you are or what you have to offer, then no one will be converted by your campaign.
There are a few lessons that Asia Pacific Travel Retail can learn from this example. Sales are certainly not stagnant, and there are UNWTO figures to show for it: according to the organisation, Asia and the Pacific have had four years of consecutive growth in tourist arrivals, with an impressive 11% average increase in international tourist arrivals on the back of the also growing intra-regional demand. Some remarkable examples are those of Myanmar with a 52% increase in 2013, Timor-Leste with a 42%, and Cambodia with an 18%. But even with those promising figures, still only two destinations in the area have a place among the top 10 worldwide.
It seems obvious that there is still room for growth, and within this growth, travel retailers can benefit by an increase in sales. For this to be achieved, a good branding campaign would be a good idea. But remember the example above: targeted branding works wonders. A look at the biggest outbound markets worldwide – when measured by expenditure – again as per the figures of the UNWTO, provides a backdrop as to where the focus should be.
Travel retailers everywhere already have large, expensive, campaigns underway in order to brand airports, as well as partnerships with other suppliers such as credit card companies. Yet, even though the potential customers are captive, wouldn’t it be wonderful to reach them before the trip, and entice them to purchase by pushing forward offers specifically tailor-made for them, depending on their countries of origin, destination or the class of service used for their trip? As in the example above, this is all targeted at reaching the final consumer where it is easiest to find him. But, based on the campaign discussed at the start of this article, it is clear that previous influence is key. And in the travel industry, influencing goes hand-in-hand with driving decisions.
And there are ways to do it. Even if branding and display marketing are still as useful as they were in the mid-90s, the available tools have greatly improved since then, and the travel industry does not have to rely on street advertising or magazines to reach their objective. New ways of communications are available that profit from the global reach of companies such as Amadeus, and that can help impact future captive audience way before they reach the airport, making sure they allocate enough time to browse around in shops and make the purchases that captured their imaginations from the moment they got their booking confirmation.