Why travel brands win with a video first marketing strategy

21st May 2017

Taking a video-first approach to travel marketing makes perfect sense with the endless potential for inspiring, thrilling, adventurous content. All the big social channels are already pushing us in this direction. With 82% of all consumer internet traffic predicted to be video in just three years’ time, tourism and hospitality brands need to add moving content to their marketing.

In this article, I’ll explain why video is so relevant for tourism and travel marketing and how you can create a content strategy that works.

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Matching video to the user journey

Travel consumers are watching related content – mostly away from the desktop – with 2/3 of travel videos on YouTube watched via mobile. There are 100 million unique visits from travel seekers each month, so there is potential to inspire as well as raise awareness of your brand. (Skift)  But brands need to have a clear strategy for creating content that differentiates them, meets objectives and delivers ROI at each stage of the consumer journey.

Understanding the user journey is vital for travel marketers. Google has identified four crucial travel moments to win business:

  • I-want-to-get-away moments (awareness-raising)
  • Time-to-make-a-plan moments (offer information)
  • Let’s-book-it moments, (building trust, comparisons)
  • Can’t-wait-to-explore moments (focusing on experiences)

These moments offer opportunities for brands to engage with their audience and meet business objectives at each stage from raising awareness, closing the sale to building loyalty.

The average time that travellers spend on browsing travel-related content on YouTube is 40 minutes, but they’ll be watching multiple videos, so it’s better to create smaller bite-sized chunks of content, according to Google’s managing director of travel, Rob Torres. Longer content can still work, but to maximise its value, think about splitting it up too.

Focusing on the key moments in the process to booking a holiday or experience, helps marketers to remain focused on the audience. Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve in each film and don’t attempt to speak to everyone about everything. If you do, your objectives and messages will all be missed.

Tourism marketing and storytelling

When advising clients, we often speak about combining the emotional and rational parts of our brains, and travel is certainly an emotional decision as well as one based on research. That’s another reason why video can be so powerful and resonate. We’re hard-wired to understand the world through stories and be attracted to movement; for our ancestors, these tales helped us learn about danger while identifying movement meant time to hunt or hide.

Expedia understands the power of storytelling as it moves beyond selling products to the experience (see their storytelling app in 2013).  As a counter to the divisive politics towards the end of last year, they released a series of six inspiring documentary-style stories.

First these were shared on YouTube and Facebook and then adapted for TV after an analysis of the social response. The video above is a story about David Kenward, a winner of the Downs Syndrome Association’s photography competition who travels to Iceland with his family to capture the northern lights. The film focuses on the aspirational demonstrating what’s possible from clicking a link online.

Be helpful

With a new study showing that ad blocker usage increased 30% last year, brands need to find ways to cut through by engaging users rather than interrupting their online experience. For travel brands, there are lots of opportunities to “think like a publisher” rather than an advertiser, and one of these is to be helpful by providing travel guides. Destination guides provide helpful content which offers consumer inspiration but also gives useful information that buyers can use at different stages of the journey.

The stats reveal why this content is not just useful for search intent. 85% of leisure travellers pick their holiday activities once they have arrived at their destination.  Nearly nine out of 10 travellers expect their provider to share relevant information with them when they are on the trip and 67% feel more loyal to a travel company that does this. (Think with Google).

Sticking with Expedia, which achieves high results via a search for travel information on YouTube with guides to numerous destinations, the brand features video content in its 72 hours in… series which combines easy booking with information on the destination.

Let’s look at another couple of examples. As well as destination guides, brands can key into experiences. Best Western Hotels focus on the trend for wild swimming in this video.

Here’s a video guide to New York from Virgin Atlantic – a useful piece of content for their audience, which works as a travel documentary-style film. However, we would advise that they cut the introduction at the start which is around 30 seconds long; it doesn’t really add anything in terms of brand recognition and tempts people to click to another guide.

This kind of videos work to build loyalty and key into viewer intent searching for holiday ideas as well as interests. Use Google keyword tool and YouTube insights to find out the kinds of questions that people are asking and create video content which answers them.

Take your viewers right there with 360 degrees…

We couldn’t write about travel video marketing without mentioning 360-degree video which allows viewers to “try before they buy”, and immerse themselves in far-flung locations, hotels, restaurants, and experiences. In a recent study, 360-degree videos achieved higher CTR, shares and subscribers as compared to traditional video formats. (Google, 2016)  It can tempt travellers to the location, offer reassurance and drive interest and sales.

The audience response is positive towards 360 as you can see from the chart below with 53% agreeing that 360 creates engaging experiences. There is still time for travel brands to get a lead on competitors and engage their audience too.

360 degree video survey from YuMe

Source: YuMe

Here is an example of a Facebook 360 degree video from Visit the USA, which takes viewers on the visceral exhilaration on visiting the Grand Canyon.

In the (over 2.9 million comments), the brand engages effectively with people who have been there already which helps to build trust in the experience and will help to tip the balance for viewers to find out more.

…right now with live video

360 degree video is not the only new feature which travel and hospitality can maximise. Live video can also be useful for travel and hospitality brands to offer consumers an insight into the experience or natural event as it happens and create a buzz or increase loyalty.

Royal Caribbean ran such a video in their #ComeSeekLive campaign on Periscope as well as screening them live on billboards. The campaign was designed to reach those who would not have considered a cruise and change perceptions that the experience would be homogeneous and packaged – the video opens with “You are not a tourist”.

Speak to your audience

As with any marketing strategy, the audience is at the heart of the campaign. That’s why travel vlogs can be a good opportunity for brands if they find a vlogger that will make an impact with their audience.

Travel vlogs are the most viewed and most engaging type of travel videos, but only 14% of them are created by brands opening up a huge opportunity.

It is important to find a vlogger who is an authentic fit with your brand. This needn’t be the one who has the biggest following – be honest about your brand and the kind of person whom your audience would listen to and trust. Then you can collaborate on content that speaks to your audience and also feels credible for the vloggers’ audience.

Turkish Airlines sent 10 YouTubers around the world to secret locations where they could vlog about their travellers and reach and engage their followers. The vloggers were flown by the airline which was documented in the films and hosted on the brand’s YouTube channel too. The airline was then associated with the destinations and adventure as well as building trust in the experience of choosing to fly with them.

Video offers travel and tourism brands a huge opportunity to raise brand awareness and increase sales across the user journey. It is worth using the new tech, such as 360, but ensure that you are focused at each part of the journey, integrate video with your other channels, analyse and improve.

Are you interested in finding out how to create the right content? I’ve written a content marketing guide packed with advice on how to get it right. Grab your free copy here.

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