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Google Agrees With Us – Our Travel Marketing Method Works 357% Better Than A Traditional Approach.

Years ago, I was at a tech conference listening to a lecture from the user experience director at L’Oréal (the beauty product line) talk about how they understand the emotional process their girl goes through and how they produce content that ties their brand to those emotions in hopes of creating a better relationship and ergo loyalty.

In all my marketing nerdiness, I got excited by the ideas. I finally realized what we were missing from our marketing at Virtuoso (where I worked in digital marketing at the time) – a deeper understanding of the traveler we were trying to attract for our agency partners – not just the traditional psychographic and geographic info we’d been using.

I jotted some notes, flew home and immediately got an audience with my director at the time. I told my director about the session, my ideas and how we should be doing the something similar.

I sat back, beaming with pride and watched my approval rating for a boost.

He laughed out loud and declared:

 “ I am so glad I’m not one of those girls buying lipstick from L’Oréal – how creepy.”

A small loss but I was not defeated. I knew L’Oréal was on to something. Did it mean we might have to learn more about the person we wanted to help? Yes, it did. Could some people find that “creepy?” Maybe. However, I believe that if your message is important and really does help someone, you’re doing them a disservice by not getting it front of them. In the case of travel, I think it’s critical. Think about all the products you’ve used that do make your life better or easier. To me, as long as the company understands, respects and are clear about privacy boundaries (google for example) then let the user decide.

A few years later, I still knew the idea held water so I set out to see if I could prove it myself. After I had left Virtuoso to pursue my dream of helping travel companies, I was fortunate to have a few big agencies as my first clients. One of the first research projects we performed were client interviews.

The results of those client interviews were incredibly eye-opening and are still being used today to generate leads. They were also the cornerstone findings on which the Atlas Republic marketing platform is built: Traveler persona-based marketing and the travel buying lifecycle.

Well, I’m happy to tell you that even Google agrees with me.


Yeah. The big G agrees. And I’m going to prove it to you.

In a report by Wordstream, an AdWords juggernaut, they discuss results of a study they performed across their accounts and found that the rate of clicks that an ad gets has a direct impact on how Google determines that ad’s quality (aka relevance to the searcher.)

Stay with me because that is a major deal.

Every pro-AdWords user knows that the higher their quality score (a magic metric Google uses to determine your relevance to the searcher) is, the less that advertiser will pay per click – which makes their campaigns more profitable. Simple, right?

Now, you’re probably asking, what does this have to do with persona based or emotion-based marketing? In my interpretation of their report, everything.

Part of their test was figuring out how they could “hack” the CTR (click through rate) to get Google to increase their quality score and therefore lower their cost per click. They succeeded.

How’d they do it? They used emotion.

In the simplest example (one of many they give in the report) they tested the following two ads:













Guess which one won?

The fear-based ad produced 125% more appointments booked than a positive version of the ad or the original.

In this context, it makes sense. The searcher may be suspicious of symptoms and is searching to learn more. Unconventional but remarkable.

We also have an example to back this up:

One of our managed clients sells trips to Cuba.

We tested the following two ads over the period of a few months:

The first ad’s click through rate? 2.07%. and it’s quality score for its main keywords? 7/10 (both average)

The second ad’s Click through rate? 9.48%. And it’s quality score for its main keywords? 10/10 (both exceptional).

That’s a 357% difference.

Can you spot the difference? Emotion and targeting. That’s the difference.

The first ad does incorporate fear into the text (before it changes forever) but it’s not targeted enough. There’s no reason for the user to take action on our ad v.s another ad. It’s just generic.

The second ad focuses on the worry of going to Cuba (fear) and being unprepared as a U.S citizen (the target). That coupling of emotion and understanding the user triggers an emotional reaction.

That’s not lipstick on a pig. That’s a pig wearing L’Oréal. ( I hereby declare a royalty of that slogan, L’Oréal.)

Seriously, how would you incorporate this into your travel marketing?

First, you need to have done the research with your clients about understanding who they are and what their needs are during the travel buying journey. Do not skip this step! If your not sure what any of that means you can learn more information about traveler personas are here. Once you’ve done your homework, pull actual sentences that your clients have used when explaining things that scare or make them happy. Then use those words as keywords and text in your ads, in your blog post titles, in your email marketing headlines, in your call to actions, on your website or anywhere that you want your traveler to take action.

Don’t be afraid to take a fear-based approach. There’s a lot of unknowns when it comes to travel and to help them alleviate fears (and get them to see new places) is worth any negative perception someone might have of the approach.

If you’re not sure what traveler personas, client interviews, and the travel buying lifecycle is, I highly recommend our latest video course on the subject. It’s in-depth and is designed to help you stop throwing money away and take back control of your digital marketing strategy. There is a fee for the course, or you can get as part of a paid Atlas Republic websites plan.

The more data I see like this, the more convinced I am. But don’t take our word for it. Go out and prove it to yourself. If you need any advice, help, or free lipstick ( I’ll have a lifetime supply once my slogan takes off), get in touch.

Mikiah Fender

Before founding Atlas Republic, I spent eight years working at the luxury travel network, Virtuoso, helping them understand and attract modern luxury travelers. I’ve also helped hundreds of travel agencies, dozens of tour operators, and a handful of small ship cruise lines over the years with their digital advertising, web development, and overall digital strategies. I have a passion for web development, design and making marketing feel less like marketing and more like something people actually find value in.

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