How Thomas Cook’s centralised marketing, local brand will make package holidays cool again

With its brand revamp now being localised across Europe, Thomas Cook’s bid to reassert itself in a holiday market being disrupted on all sides is gathering steam.

Package holidays have become a bit of a dirty word amid the democratisation of travel, with people increasingly likely to view it as a boring alternative to creating their own cheaper, bespoke trips. To win back those customers Thomas Cook recalibrated its marketing to show that it can offer value for money, without sacrificing quality or safety.

Where previously its ads that had tried this were admittedly generic, the ‘Leave it to us. You’re on holiday’ Albion-created efforts aim to tap into the more carnal instincts people have when they go away. Consequently, taglines such as ‘fool around’, ‘do nothing’ and ‘be greedy’ run across online and outdoor media to reflect the fact that people don’t want to be themselves when they’re on holiday.

"The holiday market has seen an incredible amount of disruption over the past 10 years,” said Adam Lawrenson, creative director at Albion.

The emergence of companies like Airbnb combined with how technology is changing the way people shop for holidays is causing considerable change.

“But if Thomas Cook are going to adapt these changes, they need to emotionally connect with people first," added Lawrenson. "Our campaign reminds people that holidays are a chance for you to let loose. To be your holiday self not your best self."

It’s still early days and while the main concepts have been rolled out to 14 markets across Europe, online activations will be handled locally. Thomas Cook centralised its marketing last year and this campaign will see each market bring digital to the fore via investments, such as programmatic and digital screens, as the business looks to sharpen its personalisation in order to increase conversions.

For the year to September, conversions rose for every device, with desktop up by 10 per cent, tablet 16 per cent and mobile by 67 per cent year-on-year. Use of the Internet to book climbed to 40 per cent from 38 per cent the previous year.

Like its peers, Thomas Cook is all too aware of the importance of creating a seamless journey between all its channels and is pursuing more service-led activations to boost interactions. It’s why Albion was handed the Thomas Cook brief earlier this year to focus on product and communications. Those services are planned for sometime next year and won’t necessarily be apps but rather features that are mindful of how technology has revolutionised the way people shop for holidays.

“We won the business earlier this year on a joint product and comms agenda,” explained Lawrenson.

"But the brief, first and foremost, has been to help Thomas Cook build a bold, positive brand image as we go into the busy booking season. Beyond the necessary market adaptations, the next phase of work will look at building on the promise of "you're on holiday" with meaningful product innovations."

The marketing refresh comes at an important time for Thomas Cook; despite a return to profit in 2015 for the first time in five years, the business has been beset by problems, with the terror attacks across Europe and the Greek finance crisis affecting demand. It's heaped added urgency on the 'Leave it to us. You’re on holiday’ strategy to come good as shown by its launch at a time when the bulk of the holiday seller’s summer bookings are made.

The campaign’s success will be measured two-fold; one part is the number of bookings it incites and the other will be tracking softer metrics such as sentiment.

"The pool kid spot has already had an incredible response online, which is a signal that the brand measures are looking good. But the real proof of the campaign's success will be seen when the busy winter booking season is over,” said Lawrenson.

The move comes amid rapid change in the holiday market. The emergence of companies like Airbnb combined with how technology is changing the way people shop for holidays is causing considerable disruption.

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