Tui cements Thomson rebrand with biggest ever marketing push but SEO now the multi-million pound challenge

Two years of slowly shedding Thomson to bring travel company Tui under a single brand has culminated in its biggest ever marketing campaign but it will all be in vain, unless the multi-million pound SEO strategy is watertight.

The road from Thomson’s transition to Tui has been long; beginning in earnest over two years ago before being rolled out in the Netherlands, France and Belgium with the UK the last market to undergo the shift this week.

An ad campaign launched today (18 October) to reinforce the rebrand once and for all. Developed by long-standing agency partner Y&R, it has centered on the new slogan ‘We cross the ‘T’s, dot the ‘I’s and put ‘U’ in the middle’ and has taken inspiration from musicals to "bring to life the idea that Tui takes care of you".

"The campaign promise is brought to life and the script and lyrics strongly re-enforce that commitment," Jeremy Ellis, UK marketing director, said.

The advert will air on every key TV station and is backed by comprehensive mix of out-of-home, radio, print, digital and social.

It will appear in over 40 large digital outdoor formats and 6000 roadside six sheets in major UK cities including railway stations, bus T-sides in and around Greater London as well as a takeover of Gatwick airport’s shuttle for the next 12 months.

Later this month, it will also takeover YouTube’s homepage for 24 hours while partnerships inked with the likes of Snapchat, Spotify, The Mail Online and Tripadvisor will also come into fruition.

All in, it’s the most significant marketing investment Tui has ever made. Although Ellis declined to reveal exact figures he said it wants to reach a projected 63% of the UK adult population and dominate 29% share of voice within the market.

“It’s the biggest [ad campaign] we’ve done by far,” he told The Drum. “Building awareness quickly is the key KPI so for us it’s about getting unaided awareness up to the level Thomson has been at.”

Nailing SEO

However, cementing the rebrand in consumers’ minds with the ad push will arguably be for nothing if Ellis can’t nail the migration from to

Over 60% of bookings are now made digitally and over 50% of its web traffic comes from SEO.

“It’s one of our biggest challenges,” he said. “I can’t think of any brand in the UK as big as us that’s done this kind of online migration. We’ve been working very closely with Google to understand what we need to do to maintain traffic to the website and modelled how much it will drop and pick back up again based on other markets.”

While other rebrands might relish in the ‘big reveal’ moment, Tui said it should come as little surprise to customers who have been on the receiving end of a six-month campaign explaining its grand plan as stores and planes have slowly transformed.

It kickstarted in April 2017 with CRM campaigns, in-flight magazines, retail and online communications as well as launching as a content hub to build “a degree of SEO equity in the URL” ahead of the launch.

This, Ellis claimed, has already resulted in Tui’s brand awareness trebling in recent months with over half the UK population saying they are aware of the brand migration.

But he expects additional budget to the tune of millions of pounds will continue to be ploughed into SEO over the coming months "to keep the wheels turning".

“Protecting the huge SEO equity from the old Thomson brand is a mighty challenge, therefore an extensive plan across all platforms to maintain traffic to the new Tui website has been put in place.”

Experimenting with facial recognition technology

However, a laser focus on rebranding hasn’t stopped Tui from experimenting with new technologies. At an event in London last night (17 October), it revealed the prototype of an “emotionally intelligent technology that can determine your ideal holiday.”

Developed by Realeyes, an agency which analyses the performance of content through facial recognition, the tech has been dubbed ‘Destination U’ and will be trialled internally over the coming months before a potential wider roll out.

Users sit in a specially designed booth with a screen where a series of images of destinations and experiences are shown. As they watch, subtle facial responses are analysed before an algorithm calculates the ‘perfect holiday’.

Ellis said that while it is still early days, its successful experiments with virtual reality and augmented reality mean he is confident that the tech will soon serve a purpose in some stores and on its website.

“It’s conceptual at the moment but we think it could be really powerful,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of testing internally but we need to work out if people value it before it goes out to customers. It might be months, if not years, before we roll it out widely.”

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