Travel City Direct (TCD) is the value proposition for Virgin Holidays, specialising in budget family holidays to Florida. The brand was bought by Virgin following the collapse of the XL Leisure Group, and relaunched in 2009.
To differentiate the two brands, all ‘sexy’ product developments, holiday extras and customer experiences (and therefore stories) are allocated to Virgin Holidays, whereas these are not included in TCD packages to keep the price point as low as possible.
All TCD’s brand positioning is around price and value, making it difficult to gain press coverage for TCD beyond late deals/special offers. TCD needed to increase coverage for the brand in 2010/11, but there were few major press stories to use as a hook.
Brand research showed that, simply because of Virgin’s takeover, customers felt TCD was more corporate and less ‘friendly’. TCD’s agency, KBC PR & Marketing, were asked to re-establish ‘friendly’ and ‘accessible’ as brand values and strengthen the brand’s appeal to the family market.
TCD prospects and customers are sociable online, contributing to major ‘Florida-centric’ forums, and sharing experiences of Orlando. These behaviours were tapped into to build the TCD brand online amongst prospects and existing customers.
Research of online forums revealed many questions from parents taking young children to Florida, but no resource to answer their concerns. Questions ranged from very specific, ‘Can you buy SMA on I-Drive?’ to general ‘Is Florida fun with a baby?’.
Many parents also had older children from a previous relationship, or older step-children who also wanted to enjoy the Disney experience. Others were travelling as extended family groups, with cousins of different ages on holiday together.
The needs of the older children were all addressed extensively online, but there was no specific place to go to find out how to make sure the holiday also worked well for the baby (and his or her worried parents).
In response to this need, a new brand ‘Florida Baby’ and a 110 page microsite (floridababy.co.uk) was developed, aimed at parents of under 5s and covering all aspects of travel with youngsters from packing through to theme parks.
It also houses an interactive forum for parents’ own questions and tips. TCD branding is deliberately low key to avoid overt commercialism and alienation.
TCD’s target audience love to share, and have little spare time. Seven videos were created for the site, presenting key information in a format which is easy to digest and share with others.
To give extra value for site visitors and provide a PR angle, they made a comedy in a ‘Look Who’s Talking’ style about a British baby (with adult voiceover) travelling to Orlando.
Video styles vary to maintain interest (documentary, feature film and stop motion animation) and were filmed at Gatwick, Virgin Atlantic’s rig, Orlando Airport and Disneyworld. Videos are hosted on YouTube to allow easy sharing and tracking, and are linked as responses to other popular videos, and posted on other video sharing sites. Videos are tagged and the site fully optimised.
TCD held a media launch with private screening, issued press releases and DVDs, and discussed the project with over 200 journalists from the travel, parenting, and online marketing press.
TCD also did a launch deal with The Sun giving them an exclusive reader holiday offer, and, in November 2010, they sent a Sun reporter and her 8 month baby to Orlando to ‘test drive’ floridababy.co.uk.
Following launch, articles appeared in News of the World, Sunday Mirror, and The Sun. The story was featured on over 200 websites including Yahoo.com, aol.com, and fathers’ website, FQ. LBC radio talked about it, Mummy bloggers tweeted it, Simon Calder blogged about it, and it was discussed in forums NetMums, Trip Advisor and Answers.com.
To end November, the press coverage recorded an Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) of £156, 000. The Sun’s forthcoming article will add £48,000. The project is ongoing and coverage continues to run.
Figures exclude most online values (unavailable).
The Sun holiday offer increased TCD sales by 125% year on year for that period.
The Florida Baby films have recorded 7000 video upload views, and there have been 490 YouTube channel views, 3,500 unique site visitors and 85 posts on the forum from 45 members.
Success will be assessed by a combination of ROI using AVE figures (currently standing at 7:1 after only two months), site visitors (exceeding targets), and brand tracking results. A brand tracker is scheduled for 2011.
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