Mastering Magic and Measurement to Waken Wanderlust

Joey Wilson

My family says my wanderlust is insatiable. Maybe that’s what has always ignited my affinity for travel and hospitality marketing. I cheer for brands in this space to get it right: to find their stride in making it smooth to research, select, and book. To feel equipped with certainty that they’re investing focus in the things that drive positive outcomes. To know that the data they’re gathering is integrated in ways that ultimately drive a magical experience for guests like me. Needless to say, this likely makes me a bit more discerning regarding the category, but hopefully more insightful on behalf of travel and hospitality clients as well.  

On the road to reservation

In the world of hospitality digital marketing, a brand’s process of moving from concealed to can’t-wait-to-do-this happens across two critical dimensions:  

Identification. How do you know where wanderlust is hiding? Before a person is a guest, they are a booking. But even before that, they are a person – not a persona – wanting to get away. And they have infinite options. How do you stir something inside them that emotionally compels them to believe that you are the most relevant option for them? How do you bring the magic they’re telling you they need?  

Realization. How do you become the actual choice within your very saturated category? How can you be certain that there’s no budget waste in a do-more-with-less environment? How do you know if the metrics you’re chasing are the highest-value ones? Or whether they’re even reliable because they’re reported to you from an array of discrete sources? Or whether your team and/or tech can move fast enough to show up digitally the way today’s modern traveler demands? How do you integrate all you’re learning into something even remotely and reliably actionable?

Answers on the journey, not just at the destination

It’s possible that dated paradigms about your ideal audiences are creating perpetual competition for the same guests. In an era of more complex self-identification, your prospective guests are no longer as predictable as old-school, top-down or bottom-up audience definition might suggest. The reality is that all the magic is likely in the dissonance of the middle, but most brands don’t make it there.  It’s been my experience that marketers, to their peril, can become fixated on a desired audience without tuning into the clues people are leaving in plain sight: through social and digital behaviors. Despite how defined you try to make the target, it becomes quickly undefined the minute the marketing and optimization roll out.

Another big watch-out is ignoring the realities in the experience space where your brand and guests co-exist. Overpromising and underdelivering creates a flywheel that erodes brand credibility; there can be no dissonance between what’s real and what you’re saying. If you don’t intentionally tend to it, it will tend to itself. And at the end of the day, wanderlust sits with guests – not you – so screaming at them about all you have to offer will never be as effective as showing them how you can become part of their wanderlust story.

No amount of marketing spend can bridge the gap of irrelevance to the wrong audience.

If you skip an unbiased, truth-revealing Product/Market Fit assessment, you risk another self-inflicted headwind. This was the predicament of a client who came to us nearing bankruptcy, confused as to why their perceived mid-income core audience, defined by competitors’ targets, wasn’t responding to their premium price point. Their misdirected marketing was generating top-of-funnel traffic with no conversion. No amount of marketing spend can bridge the gap of irrelevance to the wrong audience. As a Creative Consultancy, we strategically engaged in a pricing and product conversation and shaped a more premium Go-To-Market Strategy, resulting in 84% growth YOY in new-to-brand business. The magic lies in finding the right audience that aligns with business objectives. Having an integrated, strategic understanding of the business (like a consultancy) and of the guest (like an agency) is one of the reasons a Creative Consultancy like GlueIQ is optimal. It’s far more effective than just a hospitality marketing company or a travel digital marketing agency.

Find a guide that knows their way around  

Experience has taught me that when there are seven people accountable for an outcome, no one is accountable for an outcome. True story: A travel & hospitality client called us in to address some areas of their website, and with every recommendation, we were met with very frustrated responses: “I can’t fix that.” “I don’t own that.” “I’m not responsible for that.” What marketer isn’t frustrated by the paralysis created by one group setting the strategy in a vacuum, another defining the brand story, another trying to create demand, and yet another charged with harvesting it?

Where magic and measurement resources are fractured, guest experience is likely to follow.

When magic and measurement resources are fractured, guest experience is likely to follow. More and more leaders are seeing the criticality of multi-dimensional expertise in one spot. GlueIQ has developed a low-risk, high-value Performance Coaching approach that curates the right magic + measurement to waken the kind of wanderlust that drives incremental topline rapidly. We have seen that understanding the truths of where you are helps free you from chasing competitors; it gets you optimizing your marketing performance faster. A baseball coach I had in college once said to me, “You’re not competing against everybody else. You’re competing against yourself – you have to get up every day and want to be better than you were yesterday.” That’s why athletes engage Performance Coaches, and now marketers can too.  

Benefits of Performance Coaching include:

  • Viable targets based on Product/Market Fit
  • Audience definition based on their hobbies and interests + their actions
  • Forensics that tell you the truth: the reliability of your reporting, your marketing program’s effectiveness, clarity on the current state of performance of your team
  • Hard truths about what may unknowingly be gating your growth
  • A smart spending analysis so you can do more with less
  • A realistic roadmap for continued performance visibility and optimization
  • A fully customized dashboard in days – not months – with only the inputs you need to make decisions necessary to drive growth. (After his first encounter with his dashboard to learn the lay of the land at a new job, an excited CMO recently said to me, “Where has this been all my life? Can I get this every day?”)

Reliable understanding of the right mix of magic + measurement -- made possible by Performance Coaching -- has never mattered more for navigating your business. Whether you’re a journey brand inviting people to fly your friendly skies or sail the Strait of Gibraltar, or a destination brand inviting people to the Vegas Strip or the Serengeti, the right partner, priorities, and approach get you where you want to be faster and smarter.

Dated paradigms about your optimal audiences could be creating perpetual competition for the same guests.

And as far as driving meaningful experiences for your guests? Imagine the brutal hit to my wanderlust when, despite being two million miles in on a particular airline, despite searching for a trip to Italy a gillion times, this particular airline wasn’t able to connect the dots. There’s zero sense of wanderlust when the traveler feels so unnoticed and left with no choice but to cobble together their travel experience with a stack of computer paper, a box of new pencils, a bottle of tequila, and one of those emotional support squeezy things – or worse, an Excel sheet.

About the Author

Joey Wilson

Joey is widely recognized for driving incremental growth and optimizing yield in commerce, marketing, and CRM for companies across the size spectrum. His practical prowess for quickly figuring out how to unlock growth has fostered long and repeat customer relationships across industries.