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Richard Kimber
May 10, 2019

Melt Mixer: The insights top travel marketers shared at our latest event

Melt’s first event of 2019 brought together a panel of senior travel marketers to share insight on the industry’s current challenges, from Brexit to measuring ROI.

If you’re a CMO in the travel industry today, you’re earning your keep. That was the sentiment in the opening remarks of Ian Brooks, co-founder of Melt, at our latest event on 2 May, and the conversation reflected it.

Marketers with P&L responsibility are under greater pressure than ever to account for every penny spent – but if that sounds like a big challenge, it’s also bearing out the old cliché that necessity is the mother of invention. So while return on investment was a focus topic, we heard about some interesting and unique ways that brands are innovating. Here’s the round-up.

The context

On 2 May Melt played host to a special panel event at Brown’s Hotel in London to hear from experts about the challenges that travel CMOs face, and what they can – and are – doing to overcome them, from future-proofing digital strategies to investing more in innovation.

Moderated by our own Ian, the panel covered a wide range of topics, from the impact of Brexit to prioritising the plethora of marketing channels available. We were delighted to hear from:

  • Ruairidh Roberts (Senior Industry Head for Travel, Google)
  • Nichol Callaghan (Head of Marketing, Trafalgar Travel)
  • Ross Matthews (CMO, icelolly.com)
  • Robin Sutherland (Managing Director, ebookers)

Marketing and return on investment

ROI was a significant topic of discussion. Naturally our panel had plenty to say on the subject. Measuring the impact of marketing activity is a perennial challenge, as is accurate attribution.

Nichol from Trafalgar highlighted importance of keeping marketing investment fluid to allow for experimentation; while budgets might allocate spend per channel on a yearly basis, the realities of seasonal fluctuations and extraneous factors, whether economic, political, environmental or technological.

Why efficiency isn’t everything

Discussion on ROI brought up much talk of efficiency metrics, but Ross of icelolly.com used an excellent analogy to remind us why the engineering mindset that prizes efficiency above all else isn’t always applicable to marketing. He took the example of door staff at a luxury hotel: having a human open a door for every guest isn’t as efficient as using a sensor to automate the door opening – but to take the engineering-first approach would be to lose the prestige of the experience.

The lesson: marketing isn’t an engineering problem. Though an activity might be difficult to quantify in the short-term, when it’s based on a solid strategy, it can still be worth the investment.

But where to start with that? Bringing the Google viewpoint, Ru explained simply, “the main driver for ROI is understanding audience”. Travel brands have an unusually large amount of data about their customers at different stages of the booking journey – and this isn’t always used to its full potential. That even goes beyond marketing, as Ru added: “Marketing departments need to work with customer service and ops departments… it doesn’t happen enough”.

There’s no such thing as too much data

One of challenges the panel addressed was how to make best of use of data – a favourite topic for us. Travel brands face a challenge in making sense of that huge bank of data that they have on customers, and converting it into insights that can be acted on and monetised is no less difficult. But the panel was unanimous that you can never have too much data – whether on sales, products, customer habits or buying behaviours.

Brexit, what Brexit?

When talking about challenges, the B word was bound to come up. But our panellists were once again unanimous in their buoyancy. No one could point to any direct impact of Brexit on sales. Ross’s insight was telling; since icelolly.com’s aggregation model means it has unusual insight into window-shopping behaviour, he suggested its strong performance probably suggests that travellers are delaying their holiday purchases rather than postponing them indefinitely.

It was one of many refreshingly positive insights into how top travel brands are using data to get a clearer picture of opportunities and inform better marketing decisions.

If you’d like to join us next time, keep an eye on our events page for details of upcoming events.

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