Travel & tourism marketing: How Virgin Air keeps brand buzz high when marketing dollars are low

September 11, 2012

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson is a master of media buzz.

Virgin Air founder Richard Branson recently shared his secrets on creating marketing buzz with a shoestring budget.

As you know, Sir Richard Branson is a serial entrepreneur, having founded or acquired 400 companies that bear the Virgin name.

He’s also helped breathe new life into the travel and tourism industry with his novel efforts at branding and promotions.

Business Day recently published a column by Branson that highlighted some of those novel marketing efforts:

  • When they launched Virgin Atlantic, Branson created free publicity for the airlines by taking part in a series of extreme challenges like a speed boat crossing of the Atlantic and several around the world balloon trips.
  • When Virgin Atlantic did buy advertising for the airlines, they made sure their ads were cheeky, topical and newsworthy. Which often got them press in addition to the media space they paid for.
  • Expanding air service to other countries helped transport the Virgin brand name to countries which did not have their record stores.
  • This created awareness and trust for the broader Virgin brand name and allowed Branson to export Virgin mobile phone service, financial services and health clubs to those countries.
  • When they launched Virgin Air in emerging countries in Latin America and Asia,  there was virtually no recognition of the Virgin brand name.
  • So Branson’s team used a three-pronged approach featuring adventure, film and social media. This strategy has attracted a younger, more media-savvy audience to the brand in those countries.
  • Virgin’s space program, Virgin Galactic has given them lots of free worldwide media coverage. And reinforced that the brand is associated with groundbreaking adventure.
  • Virgin’s film production company Virgin Produced has successfully introduced several popular movies, including Limitless and Immortals.
  •  This has helped reinforce that the Virgin brand name is associated with cutting edge ideas and the best of pop culture.
  • Above all, Virgin uses Twitter, Facebook, the company’s blogs and Google+ to build a stronger following for the Virgin brand, especially in markets where they do not have a physical presence.
  • They do this by broadcasting Virgin news, opinions, image and causes to millions of people across the world.

How are you using your brand’s strategy, products, or your destination’s leading personality to bring media attention to your travel and tourism brand? Share your ideas with our readers.

Here’s a video of Virgin Galactic’s launch of their new “spaceport.”


Are you building a purpose-driven travel+leisure brand?

July 26, 2012

I was meeting with a client the other day, and he asked me if I would recommend cause marketing for his brand.

I thought about it for a minute and realized there’s a right answer and a correct answer to his question.

The correct answer is that supporting a good cause is good for every travel+leisure brand. Because it makes your visitors and employees feel good about your brand.

But the right answer is a little more complicated.

The right answer is that there are more good causes than there are good travel brands. And your customers know that.

When you try to tack on a cause-marketing component to your latest travel marketing campaign, it looks like you’re offering support for your own short-term gain.

Your customers can see right through that. And it makes them mistrust your brand.

Jeremy Heimans is the CEO and co-founder of the cutting-edge firm Purpose that helps create 21st century online social movements.

Jeremy offers these ground rules for becoming what he calls a “purpose-driven brand”.

1.Before you try to change the world, change your company.

According to Jeremy, the best way brands can support a good cause is by incorporating business practices that demonstrate their commitment from the inside out.

A good example is Chipotle, which has championed the cause of producing “food with integrity.” To back up that commitment they source 85% of their beef from ranchers who supply naturally-raised meats.

2.  Champion a movement, not a campaign.

A successful strategy requires a long-term commitment to a cause that demonstrates you really believe in it, and are committed to bringing real change. Think Ben & Jerry’s, Chipotle and Starbucks.

So pick your cause and stick with it year after year.

3. Make sure the stakes are high.

To really make a difference, Jeremy says something important must hang in the balance.

In other words, if you mobilize your customer base, their actions must have the potential to affect the outcome of an issue that is of vital importance to a lot of people.

4. Ask your customers to take action.

This is an era when customers want to participate in and with your brand. What better way to interact with them than through a cause you both care about?

How do Jeremy’s ideas compare with what your travel+leisure brand is doing?  Are there other ways to think about cause marketing in the social age? Let me know what you think.

You can see examples of some of the most influential cause marketing campaigns here.

Leisure marketing: Advanced social media tools for listening to your customers.

June 29, 2010

The science of listening to your customers isn't as complicated as it sounds.

Here are some free tools and tutorials leisure marketing executives can use to listen in on your customers’ conversations about your industry and your brand.

If you’re in leisure marketing,  you’re told all the time to start listening to your customers before you jump into social media. But nobody ever tells you how to listen, or what to listen for.

Sally Falkow, an independent social media PR strategist, and author of the Proactive Report PR trends report, offered some practical tools and tips in a recent blog post, summarized below.

What to listen for about your brand:

  • Your company name
  • Your brand names
  • Competitors
  • Generic names that describe your business and product.
  • Example:  A skin care company should listen for skin care, aging, anti-aging, wrinkle cream, etc…
  • To discover what phrases people are searching for, do keyword research (Learn how below).

Free tools to help you listen to what your customers are saying:

  • The most basic tool is to create RSS feeds. Watch this tutorial for instructions on setting up your RSS feeds through Google reader.
  • You can also set up a social media listening station using NetVibes.  Here’s a tutorial on how to do that.
  • You can search for information to subscribe to using Google BlogSearch, Twitter, Yahoo News.
  • Also use social websites like Technorati,,  StumbleUpon and Delicious.
  • If you need help learning how to do searches for information on your brand and industry, watch this video Sally created.
  • There are also free tools for listening to conversations, like Backtype, Ice Rocket and Social Mention.

Paid tools that help you listen to your customers:

How to get the most value from listening tools:

Smart social media gal Liz Strauss posted this article about how to get the most from listening tools.

Follow Sally on Twitter

Thank to Sally for these practical tips.  Check out Sally’s complete post here.


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