Arjan Dijk, SVP and CMO, Booking.com
As chief marketing officer, Arjan Dijk is responsible for the strategy and implementation of brand, social and performance marketing of Booking.com worldwide. He was previously vice president for global marketing at Google.
For our November theme, PhocusWire talks to marketing chiefs on the challenges of their roles and the impact of technology and data on travel marketing.
What industries do you believe travel can learn from when it comes to marketing?
The shift from offline to online has transformed marketing in many ways, but importantly, it has created a myriad of new channels and formats for marketers to reach consumers, often times more cost-effectively than more traditional offline channels.
There are some incredible learnings from brands who have been able to build their businesses from direct-to-consumer marketing through digital channels.
Brands like made.com and Glossier have literally built their businesses on social media, so I think traditional marketers can learn a lot from the companies that have proven to build loyalty, credibility and a strong brand voice through social channels.
Describe a campaign that sticks in your mind from any industry and why is it memorable.
Microsoft’s Changing the Game campaign was certainly one of the more profound campaigns I have seen in recent years.
Technology, corporate responsibility and marketing came together to drive new products and, more importantly, real experiences for communities that may have been overlooked previously.
It was extremely powerful to watch them storytell around a community within their user base, while tying it to their ability being truly responsive to their customers, and creating real solutions that matter and function for that community.
What learnings from your experience at Google have you brought to Booking.com?
There is an art and science to marketing, and no matter for which brand and company you work, this is a universal truth.
I loved the analytical rigor at Google and enjoy very much seeing the same at Booking.com - analyzing and looking at things from every angle and then, of course, applying judgement to make the right choice for the business.
Is the travel industry maturing in terms of marketing and becoming more sophisticated, and, if so, what has changed?
Anyone who works in the travel industry really needs to give good thought to how they can connect with their customers and consider how, where and when people discover content now - that’s something that’s really top of mind for me at the moment.
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I think we’re seeing more and more sophisticated marketing and relevant touch points for consumers across the industry, but we have a ways to go before travel nails it across the board.
Marketing to the masses isn’t an effective strategy anymore. It’s about the right message to the right person at precisely the right moment on the channel they prefer.
Do CMOs struggle to get buy-in from the top?
Nope, and this is ever more true as measurement becomes more sophisticated. Booking.com was a business built entirely through performance marketing, so the function of marketing broadly is highly respected across all layers of the organization.
As marketing becomes increasingly digital, there are more and better ways to measure impact.
Of course, there are healthy debates about some areas of brand marketing that may be less measurable on certain metrics, but by and large, I don’t think any good CEO lacks understanding of the importance of marketing to drive business.
What are the greatest challenges of your role?
The media landscape is so complex today. If you look at the growth in marketing channels over time, we went from print to broadcast over decades, but now within the last decade we’ve seen channel explosion driven by the rapid pace of digital technology innovation.
As a marketer, you now have to think about print and TV, sure, but also Google, WeChat, Instagram, YouTube, Baidu, Netflix and beyond.
These channels not only have unique audiences and tones, but require different strategies purely from a technology perspective.
So as a marketer, the world is ever more fragmented, and it’s a challenge to deploy resources effectively across an ever larger, more diverse and growing channel landscape.
These implications also impact the type of talent you need in marketing, and the competition is fierce.
Given the huge investment in Google, is there pressure as a CMO to ensure the return on investment?
I am of the mind that any marketing spend consideration needs to be tied to return on investment. Regardless of the channel, marketing should be showing value back to the business.
Return on investment for Google is conversion, but conversion is not the only metric a business or marketer should look at.
The long-term health of your brand, your customer engagement and return rates, customer loyalty - these are all important metrics to consider when weighing the impact of your marketing spend across every channel, not just Google.
Compare marketing to, say, 10 years ago to now - how much of a difference is accessibility to data making?
Today, it is crucial to really understand and know your data, and then use it to inform your marketing strategy - which is one reason we employ a lot of data scientists at Booking.com.
That attitude was certainly not pervasive across 10 years ago, but by dissecting data to find the patterns and diving deeply to understand them, you can better understand and serve offers to customers at the right time via the right channel in a time.
The lazy days of marketing have ended, and we need to meet people where they’re consuming media, which is incredibly diverse and complex, but data is allowing us to get closer and closer to meeting customers in a relevant, convenient way.
Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel often talks about wanting to have the same kind of "go-to" traction as a company like Amazon - is that possible in travel?
Loyalty and increasing direct bookings are a strategic priority for us, and I firmly believe that through our pursuit of having the widest selection, the best prices and availability, the most informative content, the easiest user interface and the highest level of customer service, our ability to be a “go-to” resource from a product perspective.
However, we have some ways to go in solidifying our role as the beacon of all things travel in consumers' minds, and I’m excited to take on the challenge of changing that.
What’s the biggest mistake in travel marketing you commonly see being made?
Travel marketing can come across as quite transactional, and I think it is really important that we actually inspire consumers with great travel ideas and experiences.
Of course, it is important to drive immediate business results with any marketing campaign; however, it is very important that we never forget the hugely emotional, personal and complex aspects of traveling and sharing wonderful experiences with each other.