ITB 2024 Special Reporting
People as a Marketing Factor, Part II.
By Morris Sim, CEO, Circos Brand Karma
Friday, 15th November 2013
Perhaps people are savvy and, with ever increasing distribution options suppliers, can flip the old strategy and go direct first, then intermediaries second? The second part of this series is based on the panels in the Marketing Track at WIT Conference 2013.

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Summary and Thoughts of the Placement Panel.
4Hoteliers Image LibraryAs this panel was about existing and emerging channels of distribution, we began with Lawrence Kuok from Starwood (pictured right), who gave a presentation that showed why they selected Brand Karma as their social commerce agency and how the ad dollars invested in many small ad campaigns on Facebook added up to give Starwood US$2 million in ROI thus far, beating the goal they had set at the start of the campaign ($1M).
Does this mean that social commerce has come of age?  Sean Seah from Groupon (pictured below left)  thought so, and claimed that Groupon could also offer brands the same return on investment. As Groupon's aim was to inspire travel, Sean was pretty sure that Groupon introduced travellers to suppliers who wouldn't otherwise have been thinking of that specific destination.
I got mixed opinions from the solution providers in terms of Groupon's efficacy and whether it was a good thing to sacrifice brand.com business for volume from flash sales.

However, Andrew Cox from Sabre Hospitality, Patrick Andres from Travelport, and Chris Gribble from Infor (pictured above in panel with Morris in red on extreme right) were all very explicit about not being too choosy from a distribution point of view because the landscape was so dynamic. In fact, when shown a slide that listed different categories of channels for suppliers to use, Andrew asked ‘Why choose?' Suppliers should use all of them to maximize the exposure. From a supplier's point of view, Lawrence favored investing in direct brand.com business.
4Hoteliers Image LibraryIt was clear from the panel: People are changing the rules of distribution – and it may be too early to tell where their votes will end up.
I think that the single largest problem in most travel businesses is still the relative high cost of customer acquisition through third party channels. The dream has been to first leverage mass intermediary channels (agreeing to pay commissions or offering steep discounts, or both) to establish your brand, and then shift from third party channels to direct over time. But the reality is that many suppliers grow dependent on intermediaries and don't take the second step.
But perhaps people are savvy and, with ever increasing distribution options suppliers, can flip the old strategy and go direct first, then intermediaries second?
Starwood has been exemplar in the way it continues to explore new channels that help them get to the end customer directly, complementing that effort with a strong loyalty program in SPG, attractive products, and well-known brands.Their recent upwardly revised financial forecast may reflect the outcome of their philosophy – and also better days ahead.
Summary and Thoughts on the Promotion Panel
My final panel dealt with Promotion – or branding, and the outcome of that – loyalty. Nick Baker began with a fantastic case study on how Tourism Australia leveraged social media to create great buzz and engagement for working holidays in Australia.nThe campaign generated A$44M equivalent advertising value and introduced Australia as a great place to work to a new generation of people around the world.

Read the full story HERE

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