News | 15th April 2020

Navigating Your Campaigns through COVID-19

Google has released five guiding principles to help media teams navigate the challenges uncovered by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Our Acquisition Director, Kane Wheatley, has analysed each principle and offered key advice around how the hospitality industry can adapt their digital strategy and prepare for the inevitable post-COVID-19 travel boom. First up - how best to use paid media in the local market.

Part 1 - Context, always

What Google Say:

Though this is a global pandemic, its impact is local. We’ve found it helpful to apply this thinking into the evaluation of our marketing campaigns. Our global teams are providing guidance centrally, but we’ve found it’s best to trust each market to make decisions locally. In other words: direction from the center, but decisions on the ground.

At a very practical level, we have built out a centralized, shared spreadsheet for all paid and owned tactics across markets, so we can capture and learn from what is being decided locally. Every team around the world has access to this worksheet in real time.

One example of what we’ve learned from this shared context: As interest in news surges around the world, there are many more ad impressions being served in the news category. We’re having to ask ourselves, “In what instances are we comfortable putting our brand alongside news content?” This debate, and local nuance, has helped us make choices, especially around the use of paid social media. Local context is key.

Guiding question: Is this campaign right, given the current context in a local market?

The Journey way, specifically for hotels and resorts:

Data is everything. We use trends and data analysis to establish what current and new customer behaviour will look like. In our vertical, travel has taken one of the biggest hits due to flights being grounded, social distancing, and hotels and resorts having to close their doors.

What we can prepare for though, is the other side.

This pandemic will pass, and the industry will bounce back, but no one can predict when this will be. However, during the next few days and weeks, Journey can advise you on how best to promote your hotel during the crisis.

  1. Don’t stimulate demand by pushing discounts and offers, but have a digital presence for those customers who have search intent for future bookings or gift vouchers. We’re talking brand ads and organic social media content which illustrates who you are and what you’re offering.
  2. Monitor customer behaviour and adapt to how you’re positioning your property. Ask yourself “is travel viable?” And “what measures do we have in place to instill trust in our guests?” Attitudes to travel will have changed, so you need to do everything you can to give guests the confidence to travel.
  3. Communicate all of the above clearly via email and across your social channels where customers will be able to access it easily. Now the wave of initial COVID-19 emails and social posts are over, you can deliver this new messaging to your guests without it becoming lost in the noise.

Part 2 - Constantly reassess

What Google Say:

In the spirit of reassessing campaigns, we’re finding that all kinds of creative elements need scrutiny right now. From tone and visual imagery to copy and keywords, the context of our media buys needs to be carefully assessed. We’re asking ourselves these questions with every campaign, no matter the channel or size of spend behind it.

For instance, we don’t think slapstick humour is appropriate for our brands right now. So we’re holding off on some campaigns that were funnier in nature. We’re re-evaluating creative that shows interactions like hand shakes, hugs, and high-fives, since social distancing is an important tactic for slowing the spread of illness.

We’ve also reviewed all our Search ad copy to spot phrasing that’s now awkward — “virus checks,” for instance, have taken on a whole new meaning in light of this moment.

Guiding question: Are all of the creative elements — tone, copy, visuals, keywords, placements — appropriate and relevant to this new reality?

The Journey way, specifically for hotels and resorts:

Now is the time to be more flexible and adaptable as a business. Most verticals have proved they can do it, so why can’t hospitality?

Run your business remotely and be prepared for the industry boom on the other side of this crisis. Having back-to-business campaigns ready to go will be vital. Also, the messaging you put out to customers in terms of text ads and social ads has to be totally spot on! This includes showing compassion and empathy to your guests, some of whom may have had to rearrange weddings, cancel honeymoons, or postpone family gatherings.

The key is to reassess as a stand alone industry. The tools you have to communicate clearly with your following are: 1- the website, 2 - the online digital marketing, and 3 - your social channels. Take each day as it comes and update your messaging in line with any updates as they happen. Above all, be prepared to react.

We predict search volumes to rise significantly once government guidelines relax and allow people to travel again, so be ready and waiting with media budgets and increase your spend for the first few days or weeks, if possible.

Part 3 - Creative considerations

What Google Say:

In the spirit of reassessing campaigns, we’re finding that all kinds of creative elements need scrutiny right now. From tone and visual imagery to copy and keywords, the context of our media buys needs to be carefully assessed. We’re asking ourselves these questions with every campaign, no matter the channel or size of spend behind it.

For instance, we don’t think slapstick humour is appropriate for our brands right now. So we’re holding off on some campaigns that were funnier in nature. We’re re-evaluating creative that shows interactions like hand shakes, hugs, and high-fives, since social distancing is an important tactic for slowing the spread of illness. We’ve also reviewed all our Search ad copy to spot phrasing that’s now awkward — “virus checks,” for instance, have taken on a whole new meaning in light of this moment.

Guiding question: Are all of the creative elements — tone, copy, visuals, keywords, placements — appropriate and relevant to this new reality?

The Journey way, specifically for hotels and resorts:

Here at Journey, our view is to show sensitivity at this stage. This comes in the form of creative campaigns and copy lines that could affect a brands reputation upon relaunch. Some of the considerations we think are important are:

  1. Is your message helpful to the end user?
  2. Are you clear and concise in what you’re sharing with your audience?
  3. Will your tone of voice build trust across your audience?

For example, highlight the key benefit of booking direct with your hotel or resort as “booking with confidence”, and emphasise your flexible cancellation policy

And lastly, review everything with careful consideration. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer browsing and finding your ad. Does it sit well with your brand? Is the positioning right for reintroducing your business back to market?

Part 4 - Changing priorities to navigate uncertainty

What Google Say:

As business professionals, we recognize that we have a responsibility to navigate uncertainty. Through it all, we’re evaluating our media budgets through the lens of what’s most relevant to our consumers.

Our guiding principle as a brand, particularly in this moment, is to be helpful. And as people turn to technology for information and connection in these times of need, we’re mindful that some of our products — like Google Search, YouTube, Hangouts, and Google Classroom — can be more helpful today than they were even yesterday. In that spirit, we’re shifting our paid media priorities to brands that help more people get vital information or bridge the gap between what was once “normal” and their current reality.

For instance, our emphasis is moving to products like Search as people need information, YouTube as people need inspiration and know-how, and Hangouts and Chrome as educators turn to live streaming and digital lessons.

Guiding question: What are the most relevant brands, products, or campaigns our media can support right now, and do we need to shift budgets?

The Journey way, specifically for hotels and resorts:

This is key for the hotel and resort industry during uncertain times. What is important right now in terms of paid media activity to your business? Stimulating demand through offers and discounts isn’t wise. Visibility is still vital, so what is the common denominator, and where should you be spending your resource?

Search ads provide the customer with visibility of your product. They also offer you the chance to be shown for key search terms during a time where users will take more time than ever to do their research and consider your property. As a result, messaging is key, not only for now, but as part of a longer term strategy.

  • Utilise terms such as “book now, experience later” to encourage guests to book something to look forward to.
  • Use extensions across Google and Bing to highlight cancellation policies and crisis updates.
  • Allow more budget for softer campaigns across social media to portray your business in a positive way. Your content should focus on your core brand values, social awareness, and things such as how you’re helping the local community at this time.

Part 5 - Contribution, at every opportunity

What Google Say:

If there’s ever been a moment for us to come together and help one another, this is it. As our CEO Sundar Pichai wrote, “In this unprecedented moment, we feel a great responsibility to help.” We’re asking ourselves how we can help our consumers, our customers, and our partners — especially when it comes to our owned channels.

Every brand has its “owned media,” whether stores, websites, or even social handles. Across Google, we’re using many of our surfaces to help however we can. Take the YouTube homepage, for instance, that directs users to videos from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other locally relevant public health agencies. We’re also taking a look at our brands’ social handles and evaluating how we can use their reach to amplify the information people need now. As the days go on, we’ll continue to assess our owned touchpoints for new opportunities like this.

Guiding question: What ways can our brand — and even our owned media channels — be helpful to people and businesses in this moment of need?

The Journey way, specifically for hotels and resorts:

Contribution from all areas of your business can be key during this time. If people can’t physically travel to your property during this time, take your property to them in the form of online fitness and cooking tutorials, care packages, or even gift opportunities to use in the near future.

Above all else, it’s vital that we all stick together during this period. Here at Journey, we’ve never entertained the idea of having a buyer to supplier relationship, we intend, as ever, to be your partner (whether working with us right now or looking to in the near future). The hotel and travel industry as a whole needs to come together during this time, because it will bounce back.

How you bounce back, however, is down to your readiness as a property to prepare for the other side of this. That’s why we’ve banked campaign ideas, created media budget examples, and found ways of streamlining initial budgets to ensure all properties have the best possible chance to not only recover, but bounce back stronger.

If you would like a one-to-one discussion with Kane or any of the Journey team on how we can help you, please get in touch to set up a video call for a personal consultation. Hopefully the 5 principles provided by Google have given you hope for our industry. As ever, we tailor everything at Journey to your wants and needs as a luxury hotel or resort. You’re not alone, we’re here to help.

It’s our mission to help the travel industry not only recover, but bounce back stronger.