Lessons Learned from a Decade+ of Travel Advertising

Author: Phil Flickinger

For the past 13 years (and counting), we’ve been helping travel brands resonate with their audiences. From our current endeavors on Visit Seattle, to legacy work for Holland America Lines, Noble House, Inn at the Market and REI Adventures, to travel gear like ExOfficio, we’ve spent significant time getting in the heads of travelers and figuring out what makes them tick. Here are a few things we’ve learned on our journey…

Connect Together
Travel is a valuable way to create formative memories with partners, friends and family members. Though solo travel is a burgeoning niche, 78% of travelers agree that travel is more fun with a buddy.

Look for opportunities to create a travel advertisement your target will encounter when they’re together; they can spur conversations and inspire plans. Are there TV shows your audience religiously watches together? Outdoor ads they’ll see together? Better yet, is there something they can experience together? We collaborated with our client Visit Seattle and partners C+C Partners and SparkloftPR to launch a tourism marketing activation called “Kissing in the Rain”. It was grounded in the idea of togetherness, and stoked meaningful trips to the Emerald City.

Mind Mindsets
Travel is a category where psychographic targeting can be impactful. While demographic targeting focuses on the 'who' of a potential customer—age, gender, income—psychographic targeting delves into the 'why': their lifestyles, values, attitudes, and interests.

Consider cruise lines. When Copacino worked on the Holland America Line business, we didn’t follow conventional wisdom and target a stereotypical older demographic. We chose an age agnostic path, and positioned the brand for adventurers and explorers. These were individuals who valued enriching activities and were more likely to pursue interesting culinary or music experiences, regardless of age. Our work on the brand helped lead to 4 consecutive years of sales growth.

Engage Away
An opportune time to connect with your target is while they’re on another trip. They’re primed to know what they want, and inspired for their next excursion. Major tourist hubs are rife with opportunities (albeit pricey ones). Strategically advertising at airports can deliver meaningful impressions. Geofenced ads can serve your tailored message at interesting attractions.

As part of our “I Know a Place” campaign for Visit Seattle, we bought every square inch of ad space at Embarcadero Station in San Francisco. We knew Bay Area residents had a propensity to travel to Seattle, but the station’s proximity to the heart of S.F. and attractions like the Ferry Building meant there was a valuable secondary audience of tourists who’d see our message too.

Reframe your competition
Every brand has competition, and it’s healthy to monitor their messaging. However, it becomes unhealthy when you obsess over every move they’re making, and enter into a protracted battle over features and benefits. We think this is especially true for the travel category.

A strategic brainstorm we’ve done with many of our clients entails reimagining their competitive set. What does your brand’s path forward look like when you shift your focus from objective competitors to subjective enemies? An ad campaign that helps your target overcome an enemy that’s holding them back (like fear, complacency, or misinformation) can be more effective than one that helps them overcome a preference for a rival.

Our passion for travel burns strong, and we’d love to chat if you’re looking for a travel advertising agency that’s logged some miles.