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Vacations are all about the destination. The journey to get there is rarely as pleasant. Travel, be it by plane, train, or automobile, often means stressful schedules, cramped spaces, and disappointing experiences. But recently, several hotel and travel brands have changed their marketing strategies to acknowledge the stress and hardships experienced by tourists. Through various creative marketing efforts, these service providers have launched new campaigns to assure weary travelers that the destination is indeed worth the price of the ticket.

For example, the wellness-based Westin Hotels & Resorts has initiated a new print advertising campaign that features short descriptions of some of the common pain points associated with travel. Juxtaposed against the description of an uncomfortable airline experience is a colorful background shot of a woman being rejuvenated by the company’s refreshing swimming pool.

But airline companies are not taking such allegations quietly. They also have adopted a strategy of acknowledging and addressing negative travel experiences in their marketing. Both JetBlue and American Airlines have taken humorous views of an airplane traveler’s worst nightmare: a crying baby in a nearby seat. JetBlue’s recent Mother’s Day promotion offered a discount each time a baby wailed on a cross-country flight. American Airlines rolled out a new “World’s Greatest Fliers” campaign that contained tips on how to prevent frustration while flying (e.g., remember your noise-canceling headphones), so that you can leave your flight still loving babies.

For Hilton Hotels & Resorts, the “Stop Clicking Around” campaign instead focuses on the frustration of searching for the best price online. Promising a more convenient experience for a lower price, the brand touted the benefits of visiting its hotel websites directly. Of course, for Hilton, this option also is appealing, because it enables the service provider to avoid paying commissions to third-party tourism sites.

With a deftly light touch, these companies have attempted to use a negative experience as a feature in their promotional materials to communicate an authentic message. Being honest with consumers and acknowledging the discomforts associated with modern travel ultimately may make them more willing to put up with the inconveniences.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other industries might benefit from acknowledging pain points in their advertising campaigns? Why might this strategy be more effective in the travel industry compared with other industry types?
  2. What gaps in the GAPS model does this marketing strategy seek to address?

Source: Martha C. White, “Traveling Is Stressful, but Do It with Us, Companies Say,” The New York Times, January 22, 2017

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