Travelling and stories go hand in hand. It would probably be unimaginable to travel somewhere far away and not bring back exciting stories to share with your friends and family. Well, summer is finally here, so we decided to take a look at how and where travel brands utilize the power of storytelling. Today we present you with four excellent cases that display how successful travel brands employ digital tools, original content, friendly staff and much more to motivate, inspire and engage with their customers.
Expedia is mostly known for being a go-to companion for helping you book cheaper vacation deals. Travel is its number one story. Expedia started to embrace innovative storytelling techniques for its campaigns before the storytelling boom was even here. In 2012 the brand launched a ‘Find Yours’ campaign, emphasizing personal travel experiences by integrating user-generated stories along with photos and videos. For example, one of the best films centres on a father’s emotional journey regarding his daughter’s same-sex wedding. With the help of social media, the brand also set out to produce a mini-documentary series, all focusing on travelers’ personal adventure stories and how they are transformed by it.
Not long after, the brand introduced an app to share exciting travel stories even easier. The ‘Find Your Story Facebook App’ (introduced in 2013, unfortunately not available anymore) allowed users to create their own transformational videos and share these with family and friends via social media. Not only did the app celebrate the true essence of travel, it also identified the need for personal stories to be seen and heard. Expedia is, without a doubt, one of the first major players in the business that identified the significance of user-generated content and the power of storytelling.
Expedia’s current stints with storytelling include a blog focusing on insightful travel tips and ideas. The featured destinations do not provide factual guide-book like texts, but focus on personal recounts on the things to see and do. Apart from being active on various social media platforms, Expedia greatly embraces the video format and utilizes YouTube to perfectly accommodate its focus on telling stories of travel. Furthermore, the brand engages in customer interactions on social media, creating interactive games, such as the Expedia Travel Profile on Facebook. It allows you to create a digital travel profile, celebrating your individual travel stories, and share them with others.
One of the world’s largest hotel chain, Marriot is no stranger to accommodating people and making them feel at home. However, publishing travel content online strikes as an interesting surprise. Just recently, Marriot made its film debut with “Two Bellmen” – an original 17-minute action comedy about two bellmen who save a priceless painting from the hands of phoney thieves. This approach redefines the storyline format of mainly 30-second ads that are becoming predictable, not attractive to consumers and thus fail to connect emotional appeal. This sudden boost of creativity comes from Marriot’s new in-house content studio, which was launched last fall. The brand moreover plans to create three short films about the destinations of Marriot International hotels. Moreover, Marriot-supported (but not ‘overmarketed’) travel articles are featured on the blogging platform Medium, bridging travelling with powerful stories that actually matter to consumers.
Marriot’s latest thrill celebrating stories is an online travel magazine Marriot Traveler. It presents original content, and the main themes are leisure and business travel. Although so far the magazine is available for three cities only (Orlando, New Orleans and Chicago), the brand plans to provide global coverage in the near future. Of course, you might say that Marriot is by far not the first brand launching a magazine out of the blue. However, Marriot’s new content strategy focuses on marketing, but in an innovative way – it is not mainly about Marriot related topics, but about providing quality content and value for the readers so that they, in return, also bring value for the brand. The main tagline of the magazine ‘Experience Chicago like a local’ (or the two other cities) perfectly blends in with the original content, providing readers with useful information and helping them make their minds before they even book a trip. Columns focus on topics such as ‘Best places for locally sourced eats’, ‘Great architecture walks’ or ‘Find the best cocktails in town’. By launching a creative content marketing studio, Marriot aims to sell notable experiences, all using storytelling to become a popular provider and publisher for travel entertainment.
Based in Berlin, Design Hotels may not be the name that instantly rings a bell. The brand owns a network of 250 boutique hotels worldwide that have one in common – you guessed it, great design. Design Hotels’ website recently underwent a massive re-construction, and the effect is no less than stunning. First and foremost, the brand is clearly a master of not only interior design. The website surprises with high-resolution photos, scrollable content, and an overall light look and feel. Secondly, a community area is introduced, where members (joining is free) do not only get exclusive deals for hotels, but also the latest community news (sneak peaks at luxury remote hotels, latest campaigns etc.) presented in the stories section. The user feels welcomed, and that for a brand is priceless.
Design Hotels’ website is perhaps one of the best hotel websites we’ve seen. It’s not only rich visually, but also content wise. The typical book-your-room-and-leave-the-page kind of concept is not present here. You actually want to stay on the website longer, explore the luxurious hotels and the many exotic destinations. It is nice to see how the brand’s values clearly transpire in the digital space as well, setting an example of how to effectively integrate commerce with content.
Considered to be the friendliest airline in the skies, Southwest lives up to its logo of a heart (which has been a symbol ever since the start of the company) and spreads “LUV” in every step of its way. The company began operating in 1971, starting off as a small low-cost airline connecting southern cities in the U.S. Slowly but surely, it grew exponentially every year, actively focusing on its brand story and customers. Southwest is not only a pioneer of the fun package deals, but also the frequent flier program, which signifies the young airline’s innovative spirit. From its on-board food – “Love Bites” – to ticket issuing machines – “Love Machines” – the company makes sure to ‘spread the love’ and tell its story in every step of their customers’ way.
What does customer-centric approach have to do with storytelling, you ask? Well, Southwest focuses on the small things that make a difference, which in turn earn it an overall positive image that resonates with its brand values and goals. The company fully understands the rewards of the ‘inside out’ attitude. Personal passenger stories, such as holding a plane for a late passenger trying to make it to his grandson’s funeral, contribute to the overall story of Southwest – the friendly and reliable airline. Such inspiring stories, without a doubt, go viral within hours, contributing greatly to the brand’s likeability.
The airline is moreover known for its laissez-faire approach to customers and their ideas, for example, supporting and hosting various initiatives while in the sky. However, it’s not only the consumers who receive a great deal of attention from the brand. The company’s employees are featured in Southwest Spirit Magazine of employees every month, celebrating the excellent examples of impeccable customer care.
Southwest is moreover actively engaged in spreading various news and sharable content on its blog Nuts About Southwest. The content focuses mainly on building a community with fun news, such as the world’s first dog with a 3D printed cart or paper airplanes in space, categorized under ‘Nutty stuff’. But it doesn’t stop there. Members can earn a ‘Nut badge’, profess their love to the airline in the ‘Luv Mail’, and of course share it on their favorite social media channel. On Facebook Southwest has more than 4 million likes and 1,8 million followers on Twitter, significantly outdoing other major airlines in the U.S. like United or American. The blog has earned several awards for being an online marketing and word of mouth marketing hero. Also, Southwest ranks as the seventh most admired company of 2015 by Fortune magazine, signaling that it knows how to tell a good story and leave their customers happy. After all, they do it with a heart, just as their slogan says: Without a heart, it’s just a machine.