Hotel ads featuring palm trees and white, sandy beaches start to look very appealing during the winter months. However, according to recent research, the imagery and copy do little to motivate travelers to book hotel rooms
Hawk Partners completed research on hotel channel usage and found that 65 percent of travelers who booked a recent stay used online review sites, such as TripAdvisor, to select their hotel rather than rely on those idyllic, picturesque ads of beach scenes. Note that 74 percent of the 1,200 travelers surveyed said that advertising (defined as TV and print) had no impact on their selection.
When asked to comment about which channels had the most influence on hotel selection, travelers responded with promotions (Groupon, Living Social, reward sites) and social media ranking highest, with advertising coming in a distant fourth.
Has the struggling economy and the rise of daily-deal sites like Groupon and Living Social given rise to a new breed of consumers who put a premium on price over brand? Bryan Gernert, CEO of Resonate Networks, states, “It depends on what consumer segments you’re looking to target [however] … and as this is an election year, you may even want to think about their party affiliation.
“For example: Consumers who identify themselves as Republicans in the age range of 35 to 44 are 41 percent less likely to buy based on brand, and 38 percent more likely to buy on price, compared to boomers. Boomers, on the other hand, still value brands regardless of political affiliation. Consumers aged 55 to 64 years are 35 percent more likely to buy on brand than any other consumer segment.” The trend was mirrored in the Hawk Partners research, which found travelers under 45 to be more influenced by promotions.
Brand does still matter and so does price. As channels continue to expand and evolve, marketers need to have deeper insights into audience behaviors and influencers in order to understand which segment to target with an offer. As a result, the Digital Advertising Alliance has just launched a new campaign promoting the benefits of “interest-based advertising” and companies such as Resonate Networks are providing deeper insights into buyers’ psyche based on their attitudes, beliefs and values.
Why is that important? Because consumer behaviors are continually changing, often shaped by new technologies and channels. While the study findings apply only to the travel and hospitality industry, the data could be a signal for a broader trend worth following. Specifically, the surprising find is that the promotions’ channels are impacting what have traditionally been considered key brand-advertising-oriented metrics.
Those travelers using promotional channels for selecting hotel brands are more likely to recall that brand top of mind on an unaided basis than guests who used other channels. In addition, they are also more likely to stay at the hotel again and recommend that brand to friends, compared to those who used other channels.
“What we may be seeing is a ‘halo effect’ of the deal,” explains Rob Duboff, CEO of Hawk Partners. “Consumers like the deal and, as a result, the brand.”
And that finding is significant, because personal recommendations (77 percent) and online review sites (65 percent), which are shaped by personal experiences, have the largest impact on influencing hotel selection.
As the authors of the research note, advertising has “significantly more influence than guests give it credit,” which has long been the case. Brand advertising does provide a lift effect that has typically been hard to quantify, but given the importance being placed on ROI, the impact of promotional channels is worth noting and watching as well as the consumers who use them.
By Scott Gillum, President gyro Washington, D.C. and Practice Leader Channel Marketing
Originally published at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network