Executing on a marketing plan – hello, TV

Very few online travel companies can try and compete with the likes of Expedia Inc and the Priceline Group in ad-spending power – so other approaches are needed.

Yet whilst the likes of Lastminute.com Group are warning that it is tremendously difficult for consumer-facing travel startups to gain traction in the sector, brands such as Secret Escapes have found some old school marketing tactics have worked out extremely well.

The company claims to have attracted 25 million subscribers to its dose of hand-picked, discounted hotel stays since its creation in 2010 (TLabs here), just three million short of the number rival deals site Travelzoo has accrued in 18 years.

CEO and co-founder Alex Saint has managed to get some big name backers to support the business through a series of capital-raising efforts, not least the $60 million it trousered from Google Ventures and others in July last year, but the marketing strategy is where the company has managed to stay the course, and grow.

Secret Escapes arrived on the scene alongside countless other so-called deal or flash sale sites, but it is the only one to have used TV advertising to raise its profile.

Speaking at the EyeforTravel Conference in London last week, Saint says the company treats its approach to TV marketing in the same way as it does pay-per-click advertising on Google, switching on and off the various segments for its 30-second ad-spots in order to hit the right demographic on any given hour or day of the week.

He doesn’t say exactly how much has been spent on marketing in its bid to get the brand up and running in what is now over 13 countries, but Saint argues that something as complex and tailored to a market as TV advertising means that companies should have some local expertise on the ground.

Another company that has seen the impact of TV advertising is Trivago (majority-owned by Expedia Inc), not least with its creation of the Trivago Guy to front its campaigns in the US.

The hotel metasearch engine says it spent somewhere in the region of $400 million on marketing in 2015, with TV accounting for a significant wedge of the outlay.

Trivago, too, is rolling out its campaign to new country markets, but is modifying the content (the style of the Trivago Guy in the US clearly wouldn’t work in European markets) to include different people.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Richard Bates

    Another puff piece on SecretEscapes – I guess they must be doing another round of funding to pay for all the TV advertising. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the support Kevin! Be interesting to see if they can turn it into profit at some point like Jetsetter, TravelBird and HotelTonight did….oh….

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @richard – you sound a little bit sore, mate, maybe you should disclose who you work for so we can perhaps understand why? 😉


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