How Virgin Holidays used AI-powered data insight to boost awareness

With the help of agency ForwardPMX, the holiday company successfully found a distinctive, trusted voice in a crowded sector.

Virgin HolidaysLaunched in November 2018, Virgin Holidays’ Trending Travel Guide was conceived as a way to increase brand awareness within a crowded travel sector struggling to get to grips with a tricky geopolitical climate.

The company’s brand awareness has always been generally good, but Virgin Holidays was losing out to competitors on Google, making things particularly difficult during the off-peak season.

With competitors churning out generic keyword-led articles at volume, travel-related SERPs are often saturated with low-quality content providing little or no additional value.

However, with social media becoming an ever-more critical part of a consumer’s research phase, Virgin Holidays worked with global brand performance agency ForwardPMX, looking for ways to increase visibility with users and deepen engagement throughout the whole year.

The hope was that the brand would then be firmly at the forefront of consumers’ minds come that all-important holiday planning and booking time.

Working with Virgin Holidays’ internal teams in design, PR, social, CRM, email and user experience, ForwardPMX developed an interactive tool to provide real insight and value to customers, which improves with more audience participation.

They also bought a number of respected travel writers on board to provide high quality, credible editorial content.

The Trending Travel Guide, as the new platform was named, used social listening API integration through Crimson Hexagon to mine more than 29 million posts to create an ever-evolving, interactive and inspirational campaign.

Virgin HolidaysIt’s a tool that understands emerging consumer trends within any audience, and leveraged state-of-the-art AI technologies to collate social media post volumes.

It then filters out negative sentiment and ranks holiday attractions according to popularity over the last seven days.

This allows social media to then curate the order of recommendations based on millions of opinions, giving a fresh look at various destinations, updated automatically each day.

The concept is big on authenticity, something increasingly valued by online consumers, concerned that established sites are unfairly skewed by fake experiences or paid-for content.

Crimson Hexagon’s API was integrated with into ForwardPMX’s in-house technology data sets, a platform that provides access to any data and allows large-scale analysis using data across multiple systems.

This meant the team was able to collate post volumes for the most popular restaurants, bars, nightclubs, attractions, museums, waterparks and casinos across three key Virgin Holidays destinations in the US.

An unlimited amount of post-volume data from 600 brands was used for the guide, more than anyone else has done before.

This was an unorthodox usage of the tool, as it’s normally used for brand campaign and conversion tracking, but it was used to inspire content and update the front end of the website with a dynamic picture of what people are talking about, almost in real time.

The UX teams helped create an optimised user journey and ensure calls back to the main site. They also integrated Hotjar tracking, bringing a bigger picture of how to improve user experience and performance and conversion rates.

Digital PR outreach was integrated with Virgin Holidays’ PR agency, diversifying link-building tactics into different outreach streams, including marketing press, design websites, travel news websites, travel writer partnerships and outreaching to the 600 different brands recommended by the platform.

Paid social was utilised to reach new audiences, with Facebook carousel driving traffic to the site.

An email campaign promoted the guide and various partners, including brands and bloggers, shared content on their social media and websites.

Winner of a 2019 Marketing Week Master Award in the Search Marketing category, the Virgin Holidays site welcomed 8,500 new visitors, over 1,000 positive interactions, 20,000 page views and a 75% increase in landing page click through rates.