Every crisis changes our economy, the way we live and the way we travel. Some brands aren’t just evolving to meet these new challenges; they are striking the iron when it is hot so that their message of transformation reaches their patrons and their future customers at the right moment.
Delta’s campaign focuses on community service and flying medical volunteers for free; Four Seasons New York City put out digital content about their offer of free rooms for healthcare workers. Carnival offered their ships to be used as offshore medical facilities and launched a campaign to state the fact.
Each of these brands resorted to subtle tactical messaging to ensure that their work is acknowledged. But brands are also extending themselves beyond, to talk about fabulous destinations and hotels, to inspire people to travel and rediscover the world.
Belmond launched a campaign that runs across digital, social & traditional media. ‘Art of Belmond’ focused on its legendary service and includes short films, quirky social media posts and print ads featuring vintage travel poster-style illustrations. The campaign is designed to raise awareness about the group’s superlative collection of historic hotels, resorts, trains, cruises and safaris.
Thailand is among the first countries to be exiting lockdown. The country is pitching itself as a safe destination, with almost negligible cases. The Financial Times reports that at Bangkok’s Erawan shrine, the dancers who have figured in decades’ worth of tourist snaps are back in action. They are wearing the same spired, bejewelled, gold hats but their faces are masked behind plastic shields. It is an image that Thailand Tourism authorities have tweeted out and made part of its ‘Open Now’ campaign.
Dubai, too, is sending out a similar message. Deepa Harris, CEO & Founder, Brands We Love, says, “Communication needs to be empathetic and not come off looking opportunistic. The brand campaign, ‘Dubai is Open’ does its job well. This one-minute video also posted on Twitter by Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum stated how Dubai was open for business, a wealth of opportunities…but also, for fun. This has resonated well with audiences as “open” is a very welcome word not used much in the world these days, and the promise of what they have been missing, i.e “fun” holds out hope. The result for the brand is there to see.”
Kevin Krim, CEO of EDO, a New York-based data, measurement and analytics company for marketing, research and creative pros, says the messaging has to be covert rather than overt. “Yet, you need to communicate. Let me give you an example. In the US, the National Restaurant Association has reported that in just three weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, 47% of restaurant operators had to temporarily or permanently close their facilities. These businesses and employees are dependent on consumers continuing to order from restaurants through social distancing-approved methods, and returning to them when things become normal. Restaurants need advertising to help inform consumers about these options.”
The idea, then, is to use messaging and images to appeal to people’s emotions, talk about the good work being done, or focus on your core philosophy or offering. Accor, for instance, has launched its campaign, ‘Reignite the Love of Travel’ in key markets worldwide. The short film is designed to reassure and create desire. Steven Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer, Accor, says, “During the lockdown, we have been surprised to see so many people on social media sharing their craving for travel with such uplifting humour and creativity. The message of our campaign, then, came naturally as we invested to prepare for the holiday season and longer-term bookings. The time to launch a brand campaign is now, and not in 2021, because what we need to communicate to them is that we are ready to welcome them, we are safe and we care.”
John Everett – Head Of Travel & Tourism – GlobalData Plc, says, “Frequent travellers are looking forward to travelling again once borders open. Evidence shows that travellers are still searching, and booking holidays for later on in the year, highlighting the need for marketing not to pause. Those who do not pause marketing spend will be well-positioned to exploit the pent up demand.”
In India, with confidence levels in travel at an all-time low, it is essential to reassure clients that the ‘new normal’ is being addressed and that in every sphere of travel, infrastructure is being geared to foster safety. Mahesh Shirodkar, MD of Tamarind Global, says “Global hotel chains like Accor and Marriott, and Indian ones such as IHCL, Oberoi and Leela have been updating us regularly on revised safety and hygiene protocols, which we, in turn, pass on to clients who are planning to travel or host events. As the lockdown has begun to ease, boutique properties too are sharing curated packages that are focused on social distancing, safety and embracing nature away from big cities. Even if people are not comfortable stepping out of their homes, this kind of communication will help keep brands top-of-the-mind.”
While in the immediate, it is the domestic traveller who will shore up our travel and hospitality industries, India needs to remind the high-spending international clientele of its appeal as well. We have the infrastructure required to attract them: Destinations that allow for social distancing and some of the world’s greatest hotels with the best of protocols already in place. The need, now, is to commence reaching out to them through a well-timed and thought through campaign that will attract affluent short-haul and long-haul travellers.
Harris says, “Continuous brand-building is non-debatable. I would see it from a prism of scarcity, i.e brands leveraging an environment of decreased clutter, fewer advertisers and rationalised rates. Poised at an inflexion point, where consumer behaviour and purchase patterns have changed, staying relevant, appropriate and authentic is the need of the hour. A digital-first approach, backed by strategies that drive your media plans to address your business outcomes, is being largely explored.”
“Research shows, time and time again, in a crisis turning off advertising altogether slows down the recovery.” And as we see a growing number of destinations and hotels starting to communicate, marketers seem to have taken heed of this advice. For now, most spends are centered on digital media but as any astute luxury brand will tell you, to influence the truly affluent generation, you will need to lean on traditional print glossies and if budget permits, TV as well.” – Andrew Stephen, Professor of Marketing at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School writes in his article in The Financial Times.