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April 22, 2021

Travel Brands Bounce Back with Big Ad Campaigns

by Marilyn Wilkinson
Expedia Instagram campaign 2021

Major travel brands are ramping up their marketing activity with big-budget ad campaigns. While at this point nobody is sure when travel will resume or what that will even look like, Expedia and Airbnb are keen to stay top of mind. Does it make sense for travel brands to get their message out there before things have opened up again – and what do consumers think?

Consumers Miss Traveling

A Global Travel Trends Report sponsored by American Express found people desperately miss traveling. 64% would be willing to give up social media for a month to go on vacation while 76% are busy creating wish lists of future travel destinations.

The prospect of traveling seems to hold high emotional value for consumers. The same report, which surveyed travelers from 7 different countries, revealed that 87% of consumers agree having a trip planned in the future gives them something to look forward to. Planning future travel makes them feel excited (63%), happy (53%) and hopeful (53%).

Travelers are eager to experience the world again and are already dreaming of their next once-in-a-lifetime trip. Let’s dive into Expedia and Airbnb’s latest advertising campaigns designed to give wanderlust-stricken consumers a taste of what’s (hopefully) to come.

Expedia

Expedia has just launched a complete global rebrand, revealing a new logo, tone of voice, and visual identity to highlight their brand values: uplifting, positive, and travel savvy.

The Seattle-based travel company kicked off their rebranding efforts around the beginning of the pandemic, when Expedia started to feel out of touch with changing consumer needs.

The brand recently released a new spot positioning Expedia as the ultimate travel companion, with the tagline "It matters who you travel with". While “All By Myself” plays in the background, a young woman experiences some difficulties on her trip. Then, Expedia (played by American actress Rashida Jones in the US version and British actress Naomie Harris in the UK version) shows up in physical form to provide encouragement and support.

In a recent press release, Expedia explained their decision to use “relatable and empowering individuals” Rashida Jones and Naomie Harris puts companionship at the core of their brand narrative.

The bold new branding and powerful ad campaign represent the brand’s largest marketing spend in 5 years. It’s more than just a marketing initiative, though – the transition is designed to represent a fundamental shift in how Expedia shows up for its customers.

Expedia’s marketing and product teams worked hand in glove for the first time ever to reshape the user experience. Expedia revamped their mobile app to enable travelers to check all the details of their trip in one place, simplified their insurance policy and extended their loyalty program to all customers.

The new brand positioning is designed to appeal to consumers dreaming of traveling again, but needing to feel safe and supported on their journey. The message seems to have resonated, with the announcement on Instagram invoking a flurry of enthusiastic comments from users.

Overall, “All By Myself” is effective in positioning Expedia as the ultimate travel companion.

Airbnb

After famously cutting out digital advertising following the onset of the pandemic, Airbnb is back. The company’s first global branding campaign in five years is designed to remind consumers of Airbnb’s key value proposition: unique experiences, magical connections with local hosts and a community of hosts and guests.

In a recent update, the company stated that hosts are what makes the travel experience with Airbnb so special. The new campaign celebrates “the magical, unique hospitality” by highlighting “the little touches to the big gestures—this is what makes hosted travel on Airbnb so special”.

The “Made Possible By Hosts” campaign is centered around a series of short films depicting real memories from travel experiences around the world. The authentic storytelling shows glimpses of real guests on real trips to create lifelong memories together - a reunion between mother and daughter in Australia, a farewell vacation in a lodge in Texas, and a family’s first holiday together in New England.

The soundtrack of the campaign is equally emotional, featuring uplifting songs like Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” and a Goldspot cover of the classic Sonny and Cher hit, “I Got You Babe.”

The scenic locations and precious family moments stir up a sense of wanderlust and nostalgia, a key marketing trend in 2021.

Overall, “Made Possible By Hosts” succeeds in reminding travelers of the incredible moments you can only experience while traveling. It effectively positions Airbnb as the ideal way to ensure your travel experience is unique and memorable.

Final Thoughts

It’s never been more important to have a strong brand and now is the perfect time for travel brands to reposition themselves. Tourism agencies and airlines that have been slow to ramp up their marketing and adapt to shifts in consumer behavior are in danger of falling behind.

While consumers are keen to start traveling again, the travel landscape has changed, with new trends emerging around sustainability, hygiene and staying local. According to PwC’s Traveler Sentiment Survey, brand loyalty is in flux, with more than 37% of consumers being likely to switch airlines, while 41% are likely to switch hotels.

The smartest thing a travel company can do right now is build brand affinity, so when people can travel again – whenever that will be - bookings will come flowing in.

In any case, the beautiful campaigns really do make you reminisce about the magical days of escaping somewhere new. Hopefully, those days will come sooner than we all think!

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