It’s not just about putting yourself in your customers’ shoes
Throughout my career at Tui, my approach has been to look through the lens of the customer while ensuring this is blended with commercial insight.
The package holiday industry is highly operational with heavy emphasis on optimisation of beds and seats so marketing can typically take a back seat to trading and yield management.
It’s my job to ensure the customer remains the focus and that the power of marketing is fully appreciated strategically for long term growth, as well as supporting the short term business needs.
Talking the commercial language of the business and not just "brand" is vital to getting buy in to marketing and brand strategy. We need to prove the value we bring to the business through clear KPIs and demonstrable ROI and day-to-day performance is critical to any marketer gaining credibility.
Taking an emotional approach
Taking a pragmatic leadership approach has enabled me to overcome some of the more difficult challenges marketers face such as emotional brand engagement and showing the value of long term brand building versus direct response.
The travel industry was notorious for price and discount-led marketing throughout the 80s and 90s, and the growth of low cost airlines and online travel agents meant that lead price advertising for package holidays was no longer competitive.
As TUI invested more in hotels and service differentiation along with the new 787 Dreamliners, the brand needed to modernise and develop a more added-value perception. At the same time, using customer insight, I persuaded the business that our advertising needed to bring to life the brilliance of our holidays and how emotionally important those one or two weeks of the year are.
Telling a compelling story internally, backed with solid data and analytics from external sources helped to gain buy in to longer-term brand building campaigns.
Experiences and expectations
However, brand building doesn’t just come from campaigns – there must be a great customer experience at the core to ensure reality matches expectation. Marketing at Tui leads the customer experience agenda, starting with robust customer segmentation which can then be used to drive the rest of the business in the same direction.
How our teams bring the brand to life for our customers is also key to success, which means everyone from front line to back office needs to understand exactly who our customers are and how to communicate with them effectively.
Having the customer front of mind all the time is essential to driving recommendation and retention. Like longer-term brand building, investment in customer experience is often difficult to measure. From my experience, starting small and proving it works helps buy senior support and secure further investment.
Collaboration is key
Getting support and investment for customer experience isn’t the only tough challenge facing today’s marketers.
There are numerous issues, none more prominent than how to cope with the proliferation of media channels, technology providers and platforms available and how to optimise them. Having experimented with many, my view is to limit the range and do a few things well.
Then there’s the conundrum of the best marketing structure that no one seems to have the answer to. All marketing disciplines have some overlap with each other so the boundaries and associated accountabilities are very hard to define.
But it’s more about ways of working than structure itself, and bringing everyone together on a regular basis has proven to be an effective and efficient method for integration. And of course everyone faces the challenge of getting more transparency from the digital media landscape.
Today’s successful marketer has to embrace constant change and needs to be more multifaceted than ever.
The explosion of technology and continuous rapid development of new applications, from VR to AI and beyond, means having to operate on a broad spectrum. We must be masters of the emotive "touchy-feely" creative, channel experts and IT gurus, while critically never forgetting to put the whole customer experience in the middle.
Jeremy Ellis is marketing director at Tui and a member of Campaign’s Power 100.