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The marketing mindset for travel agents – authentic emotional appeal

To be good at marketing, become a student. The marketing mindset requires that you study marketing in all its forms. You don’t have to go to a classroom, just look at the marketing all around you. Everyone who depends on customers markets in some form or fashion whether preacher, politician or store manager. Some market well and some not so well. The travel agent studying marketing will examine both good and bad marketing to better understand what works and what does not. Almost all marketing in any industry will have some analogy to travel. Seeing how other marketers approach their market and seek to touch emotional hot buttons can provide you with valuable insight when applied to your own travel practice.

The objective for marketing is to create an association between your brand and travel in the mind of your client. The most direct route to doing so was through the viewer’s emotions. When you examine a given advertisement or  marketing effort , try to understand what emotion you experience when reading or viewing it. Chances are the company that created the advertising was appealing to one of two large categories of emotion: well being or fear. Many ads appeal to both. To work, the ad must be authentic in its approach to the emotion. The more authentically marketing appeals to well-being or risk, the better you will respond.

As an example, think of those old advertisements for Macintosh which pits the geeky IBM representative in a suit against the casual Mac representative. They have a bit of dialogue which makes Mac look like an easy going, no pressure good guy and makes IBM look anxious and untrustworthy. Are they appealing to emotions here? Does the sponsor of the commercial want you to identify with one character or the other? The sense of well being that the Macintosh ad appeals to is confidence in your computer and identification with a likeable culture. The fear is that if you don’t you will be like geeky IBM guy and you won’t have the computer of your dreams.

Consider a Volvo…you think safety. Consider peanut butter, particularly if you are a choosy mom. Consider the models you see in ads – marketers want to appeal to your sense of well being by attempting to get you to identify with their product or by fearing the consequences of not using their product.
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In many instances, what we object to in marketing is the inauthentic appeal to emotion, usually heavily weighted on fear. Even if the appeal is on the surface to well being, the implication below the surface relates to fear. Consider many pharmaceutical ads. They appeal to both fear and well being, many so directly that they are uncomfortable to watch. Some balance the appeal correctly by making the characters in the advertising comfortable and relaxed. Other ads have their ad models wheezing or scurrying for bathrooms. Any marketing that appeals to fear runs the risk of being viewed as inauthentic and manipulative.

So how to apply these lessons to your travel practice? What needs are you meeting when you do your best work for a client? Aren’t you looking out for their best interests, their well being? Don’t you feel travel important for both body and soul? Don’t you feel that clients receive better value when they travel with an agent’s assistance? Don’t you take care to match the right product with the right client? Your marketing needs to speak to the client’s well being, to the benefits they receive from your efforts. Don’t lean heavily on fear factors whether it’s the peril of booking online or the  “Limited time offer.” There is enough buzz in the media on the negative aspects. Authentically approach the needs of your clients, offering them benefits that appeal to their well being.

Study the marketing of other companies, both inside the travel industry and outside. Understand the appeal to emotion that they are utilizing and then draw analogies to your travel practice. You will be a better marketer for the effort.

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