Travel & Tourism: Post-COVID-19 Advertising Relaunch Strategy

By: Melissa McKay, Director of Display 

As it stands today, COVID-19 is here to stay for a while even as states begin their own phased reopenings. If you have read our past Travel & Tourism posts then you got a taste of what it takes to adapt your advertising efforts during COVID-19. But what will media plans look like postCOVID-19 for the Travel & Tourism vertical? What marketing strategy phases can you prepare now to enable you to quickly and strongly return to the market once the pandemic begins to wane and normalcy returns? 

The key to a successful post COVID-19 relaunch will be to develop best, moderate, and worst-case scenario media plans. Here we will explore these various scenarios, actions you can take now, and ways to identify when the timing is right for your brand to back to market in full force. 

Best, Moderate, and Worst-Case Scenarios 

Messaging, target audience, and media mix are the three pillars to keep at the core of the best, moderate, and worst-case scenarios you develop. Research has shown that three basic consumer archetypes will emerge as the pandemic progresses; each of these groups has a has a different level of risk aversion.  As this is the case, you’ll need to tailor your messaging to meet each consumer group at its specific level of comfort and concern.  Different media types will be better suited to some of these consumer groups than others, so be mindful of not only customizing messaging but also customizing media format and placement to best resonate with these groups’ risk tolerance.  Bearing these different personas in mind, be sure reference these specific considerations when developing your postCOVID-19 media strategies: 

Message: Keep on with existing assets, but look to update ad copy and voiceovers based on points made in prior Travel & Tourism posts.

Audience: Continue targeting audiences that have worked in the past, but monitor how they respond to your updated messaging.  These audiences’ considerations have changed, and so too might their responsiveness to your ads change.

Media Mix: Allocate media investment to historically efficient channels for your brand, such as paid search and paid social. Additionally, with the U.S. economy currently in a recession, organic will efficiently drive qualified site traffic for little to no cost. Use content to reinforce new brand standards.   

Message: Keep with existing assets from the best-case scenario but note that media consumption has shifted, and consumers are looking to you to communicate complex messaging. Assets like video and content will be table stakes for these consumer needs. 

AudienceDifferent consumer segments will return to travel at different rates as Kaitlin Williams highlighted in a previous article on changing consumer travel behaviorFor example, those impatient consumers might be the ones contributing to that haphazard increase in summer 2020, while the wait-and-see crowd may wait to return to more normal behavior during the fall/winter. 

Media Mix: Organic and content marketing will be pivotal in building consumer trust to remove the stigma of returning to travel. Ease back into your historical top performing channels, but possibly retool the investmentmix, and timing of launchesDo not expect video to be your revenue driverinstead, it will allow you to reconnect to the market. 

Message: You will likely need to overhaul your creative approach to respond to the new normal we have yet to fully understandAsset reshoots may be required to fully convey new health and safety standards being deployed to keep your visitors safe. 

Audience: Previous customer base may have been impacted by COVID-19 and may have no appetite for near-term travelTo preserve revenue, you may need to seek out and market to brand new segments you’ve never considered before. For some Booyah brands not fully impacted by COVID-19, we are seeing strong success in awareness/prospecting initiatives like never before. 

Media Mix: Organic media is a persistent marketing strategy that does not depend on timing or circumstances to get customers. To ensure your company will make it through an economic rough patch, you need to capture as much of that qualified traffic as possible. With time, as you are ready to re-deploy paid media, consider a fresh approach with new ad types, media partners, etc. 

Scenario plans do not need to be extremely detailed. Rather than a concrete action plan, these scenario plans are meant to serve as a directional scaffolding to leverage once one of the aforementioned scenarios arises. Considerations to keep top of mind in these plans will be your business objectives (have your priorities shifted?), timelines (what ramp time is required?), customer base (where are they traveling from and how far in advance do they book?), and messaging synergy (what messages are you using on your website, emails, etc., and does it align with the messaging in your ads?). 

Action Steps to Prepare for These Scenarios 

Once you have outlined your scenario plans for postCOVID-19, there are action items you can prioritize today during COVID-19 to set your brand up for the greatest success at launch. These action item includes: 

– Set performance expectations with key stakeholders. It is important to note that past tried-and-true conversion-focused campaigns may not see immediate revenue gains or returns to the prior status quoAwareness and prospecting initiatives will be vital to the resurgence of Travel and Tourism, and advertisers must have patience when waiting for returns to manifest. 

– Outline what obstacles might yet that could change your scenario plans againEven if things are looking up, new waves of the pandemic can emerge, especially at your destination. 

– Segment and analyze your CRM data in new ways.  Catalogue how your customers and their behavior have evolved MoM. Views to prioritize include audience by demo, geo, similar purchase behaviors, purchasers at certain price points, and more. This data will become extremely important in moderate and worst-case scenarios. 

– Start developing plans for organic media strategies if this historically has not been something you have leaned on in the past. Make it easy for consumers to find information about you and give them what they need. Start with website optimization, off-site SEO, on-site SEO, then technical SEO. 

– Prep or reimagine your creative to conform with the new societal and health standards of the COVID-19 eraTesting will be key. For example, samestate travelers, previous visitors, those financially impacted, those seeking sociallydistant activities, those concerned about cleanliness, and travelers from out of state/international travelers all might respond differently to different messages, but you won’t know this unless you testIf your internal creative resources are short, Booyah’s creative team is here to help! 

Identifying the Right Timing for your Brand 

It’s likely you’ve already resumed at least some of your media initiatives, as we are seeing the same with our own Travel & Tourism clients at Booyah. Consider that plan you have live today your during COVID-19 plan in comparison to what we have talked about thus far. When we think through identifying the right timing for your brand to fully re-launch media efforts, what we are referring to a time when time you no longer need to worry about COVID-19. 

Looking back at this series’ Part I article, you will see that 50% of consumers believe life will return to normal by or during summer 2020. Now that we are in the summer of 2020, we are seeing some brands completely return to normal depending on if activities at its location can allow for adequate social distancing; however, many brands do not have that luxury and will experience differences in reopening timing. Plus, we still must consider that other 50% of consumers who believe normalcy will return by fall or winter of 2020, or even next year. 

To determine what reactivation timing is best for you, data analysis will be crucial. Here are some questions to consider when digging into your pre- and during-COVID data trends: 

– How is site traffic trending for your own brand? Are site visits picking up, but revenue lagging? This could be the signal you need to go full steam ahead. 

– Are your competitors seeing their traffic trend up or down? Alexa.com/siteinfo is a great resource to get some directional indicators, which can then be paired with an advertising analysis of whether those competitors put media back in market, as well. 

– What is occurring in your own state/region, and how does that compare to neighboring states/regions? 

– For that consumers that are currently booking or planning trips with you, what means of travel are they utilizing? If people are traveling by car more, your scenario plan may slowly ramp to target drive markets first, then long-haul markets, then finally international markets. 

– How is the travel category as a whole responding? Are other brands with similar budgets relaunching? If so, be happy you are ready to activate based on the planning you did!  

Your postCOVID-19 media plan will be unique to you. Relying on economic indicators can help paint that picture, but your own data will be the key guide to the strategy that is best for your brand.