Thomas Cook brings ‘renewed customer focus’ to its marketing with new campaign

Travel brand Thomas Cook has credited a rise in all-inclusive bookings as it tells customers ‘Leave it to us, you’re on holiday’ for its 2016 marketing campaign.

The TV ad will debut in UK cinemas during the first public screenings of the new film Star Wars: The Force Awakens tomorrow (17 December) at midnight. It will then roll out across TV as well as social channels.

The campaign is a break from Thomas Cook’s recent ‘real good times’ ads instead using the strapline ‘Leave it to us. You’re on holiday’. It is meant to showcase Thomas Cook’s focus on its customers and addressing the indulgent side of holiday making.

Following Thomas Cook’s move to centralise its marketing communications last year, this campaign idea will run across all 14 European markets where the company operates. However, each market will adapt the creative to ensure it appeals to consumers in that country.

Thomas Cook hopes the campaign will help it stand out in an increasingly competitive travel landscape. Its own research found that most people see “little difference” between holiday companies, with generic holiday imagery making it difficult for consumers to pick which brand to book with.

To that end, dedicated taglines, such as ‘be a big kid’, ‘fool around’, ‘be greedy’ and  ‘do nothing’ will run across online and offline activity. The aim is to highlight Thomas Cook’s “renewed focus” on customers, which also includes an increased focus on customer service and the introduction of customer satisfaction scores as a core KPI.

thomas cook xmas ad

The move comes as rival travel company TUI overhauls its First Choice and Thomson brands and launches new campaigns. While Thomson will focus on its Miles the Bear creative, First Choice has opted for a new tagline ‘Life’s too short to say no’.

Both Thomas Cook and TUI are going after the lucrative all-inclusive holidays market, a key clear point of differentiation given the rise of online holiday booking websites such as Booking.com and Airbnb.

Thomas Cook’s marketing and e-commerce director Jamie Queen told Marketing Week that the company expects 60% of its bookings to be all-inclusive, adding: “Our insight shows us customers want to be able to get on with their holiday and leave everything to Thomas Cook to sort out.

“There’s a wider shift happening and a return to wanting to be looked after. A holiday is a big cost and people want to ensure that once they’ve booked up don’t have to worry.”

How programmatic is changing outdoor advertising

Beyond the TV campaign there will be significant outdoor activity, with Thomas Cook planning to take advantage of new innovations in digital out-of-home advertising.

“We have 90 million visits to our websites every year, so of course our online ad spend is growing,” he explained.

“We’re just as excited about how programmatic advertising is changing the offline world.”

Jamie Queen, marketing and ecommerce director, Thomas Cook

The new digital screens allow us much more flexibility of messaging and we’re extending our data driven marketing techniques from online to the offline world.”

In 2015, Thomas Cook returned to profit for the first time in five years. The 174-year-old travel company posted a pre-tax profit of £50m for the year to September 30, on the back of strong demand from the UK and northern Europe and increased sales at branded hotels.

The firm in part credited its new group-wide marketing campaigns for the sales boos. Overall bookings are up 1% and average prices rose 3% for the year to the end of September.

Yet despite the positive performance, Queen admitted that the last 12 months have been “very challenging”, particularly following the terrorist attacks in the likes of Tunisia and Paris.

“Clearly there’s some geo-political challenges in travel right now and we’ve been unable to fly to the likes of Sharm el Sheikh,” he added.

“In 2016, I don’t think customers will stop wanting to go on holiday [due to the threat of terrorism] but where they go will certainly change. Our challenge as a business and as marketers is to respond to big changes.”

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