For everything travel: Decoding the MakeMyTrip marketing strategy ft Sunil Suresh

MakeMyTrip marketing strategy

A year to the COVID-19 havoc, we take a look at how MakeMyTrip’s marketing strategy helped the brand breathe through the crisis with the various efforts to leverage pent-up travel demand & keep the brand value high.

Even as the clouds of anxiety and uncertainty continue to loom over the Indian tourism industry, there has been an undying urge among travelers to get on their feet again. The unlock phase across the country in the last few months witnessed double the number of bookings for staycations. We get in touch with Sunil Suresh, CMO, MakeMyTrip to further understand the online travel company’s marketing strategy to keep the hope for safe travel afloat, key campaigns, pulling the social media plug, and more.

The 5-phase marketing plan

As seen, one of the things that MakeMyTrip abides when charting out its marketing strategy is to ‘stay relevant’. Early on, when the pandemic hit the world, the online travel portal realized that navigating operations would take place through multiple phases during the entire crisis.

“We sat down to create a 5-phase MakeMyTrip marketing plan and strategy. For instance, in the initial phase, our focus was on standing in solidarity with our customers and convey that travel will be back spreading hope and optimism. So there was a lot of communication through customer care,” highlights Suresh.

The first phase was when the strict lockdown was implemented and travelling took a backseat. “Travelers were uncertain about the plans put on hold. We had predicted that even if we enter into unlocking phases there might be some restrictions and fear among the consumers,” he adds.  

When things started opening up, a big focus was on safety. Hence MakeMyTrip partnered with leading travel companies wherein they all came together as an industry and took the #SafetyPledge. The communication revolved around how as a community they will do every bit to ensure safe travels.

Of Initiatives and key campaigns

Entering the next phase, the portal took to supporting the frontline workers under initiatives like ‘Hotels for Heroes’ where it partnered with various hotel partners and made quarantine stay options at discounts available for the workers.

Moving further, MakeMyTrip rolled out the branded safety initiative which had guidelines on safety protocols that the travel operators and travel geeks needed to adhere to and conveyed the same to its consumers.

“The section on our platforms had all the information one wanted to know as a traveller including the quarantine rules and regulations, guidelines city and state wise. For us it wasn’t much about retention or acquisition- we focused more on how we help the ones who wanted to travel,” asserts Suresh.

There has been a surge of travelers and a boost for positive sentiments among the community to travel safe as compared to last year. Suresh informs that the platform is seeing 50% recovery rate in terms of hotel and flight bookings.

“There are also lot of premium hotel chains who are actually doing more business than last year at the same time. Last quarter we launched a campaign titled ‘Game On’ where we communicated that now it’s time to get back to living life,” he shares.

The campaign revolved around how is it significant to practice COVID-19 specific norms and behavior but it’s also the time to reclaim your life.

Having been locked in for so many months, Suresh thinks it was very essential, even from a mental health perspective, it was important for people to get away and take a break. Hence Goibibo also launched the #BreakBhiEssentialHai campaign with the insight.

“There is so much to see and do in India- the beauty lies therein. On MakeMyTrip, the ‘My India’ campaign which is currently underway we are trying to showcase the beauty across the width and depth of India.”

Through the month-long campaign, MakeMyTrip has been urging everyone to go beyond the ordinary and explore the beauty of our country with a different lens. The campaign launch was complemented by the film narrated by popular actor Vijay Raaz and embodies emotions equivalent to all of the travel buffs.

Social Media Play

Commenting on the shifting consumer behavior and leveraging social media for real time communication, Suresh states, “During the lockdown, we too realized in a big way that people have become more digital savvy and we sort of mulled over how do we capitalize on that behavior and reach out to them with the benefits of online travel- with best deals and prices, options for future booking.”

For instance, during the month of June 2020, consumers had the option to buy highly discounted tickets and flexibly redeem them in a span of 6-9 months or so.

“Given that we are in e-commerce business, digital channels hold utter significance in our marketing mix. We are quite aggressively investing in digital platforms including social. A big portion of our spends are also directed towards Performance and search-based marketing. All of it put together, in a regular year more than 50% of our investment goes into digital marketing,” he adds.  

Last few months the percentage has been significant higher. Suresh notes that lot of the other channels were not as relevant for MakeMyTrip given the fact that travel was relatively muted. He quips, “It wouldn’t have made sense for us to aggressively invest in TV or print.”

Also Read: MakeMyTrip delivers enchanting travel stories with #MyIndia campaign

Instagram & Twitter

With 116k+ and 160k+ followers on Twitter and Instagram respectively, MakeMyTrip is not so far from being touted as the social savvy online travel brand. From spewing topical creatives to informative pieces to presenting the A-Z about travel, the company has been walking the talk on the new age platforms – Instagram and Twitter- in the overall scheme of MakeMyTrip marketing strategy.

Whether it be taking a jibe on Mr Zuckererg when Facebook or Instagram applications had crashed or spreading colours of joys while associating varied hues with different places of India through the #MyIndiaRangRangeela hashtag on the occasion of Holi, MakeMyTrip has been utilizing the platforms to create real-time content for audience engagement.

Apart from topicals and festive greetings, being a travel brand, there’s no place like Instagram for the company to paint a canvas of travel inspiring posts and showcase the beauty of India. The MakeMyTrip Instagram page boasts of some of the finest work of travel photography by travel enthusiasts and also sprinkle enough motivation for the wanderers to book the next train ticket to their favourite places.

Discount and safe travel plan announcements and giving 100 more reasons for everyone to travel more forms the core of the MakeMyTrip marketing strategy on social media through Instagram and Twitter.

On the microblogging site, with crisp and quirky copies romancing various travel destinations across India, MakeMyTrip adopts a similar strategy as Instagram but also talks about the expert sessions that the platform carries to keep the consumers informed about developments in the sector.

Youtube & Facebook

Travel vlogs, ad films, brand campaigns form the content umbrella for MakeMyTrip on Youtube and Facebook where it prominently shares travel videos posted by its community of travel bloggers.

The Youtube page of the company amasses 65k+ subscribers while the Facebook page has garnered 2M plus likes and followers. The platforms serve as a great companion for the brand to amplify video stories and enhance the campaign reach across the social media travel communities along with leveraging the live section.

Suresh adds here, “During the pandemic, guides on field live telecasted the experience of the Kenyan safari in the Masai Mara region on Facebook and Youtube which saw significant amount of engagement.”

Influencer Marketing  & Celebrity ambassadors

“Influencers have been important for us as they bring in their own set of audiences and also bring in the expertise of creating great content,” shares Suresh when quizzed about how significant influencer-led marketing tactics have been to boost the MakeMyTrip marketing strategy given the travel nature.

In one of its activity, the company roped in Rocky and Mayur who went on the trip through Himachal where they educated aspiring travellers on how they can travel safely amidst taking precautions.

There’s a content series called ‘Reclaim Your Travel’ that Goibibo had initiated where they had influencers showcasing road trips along with exciting adventurous activities.

The current ‘Unseen India’ campaign amplified by the hashtag #MyIndia has 40 plus travellers creating content and contests where they urged consumers to share their travel photos and stand a chance to become travel ambassadors.

“So across every single state and Union territory, we have got our ambassadors and community of travel content creators who are depicting the beauty of India through their vlogs and inspiring people to travel safely. Off-the-beaten tracks, hidden gems and give the people an opportunity to rediscover India,” states Suresh.

To further boost the campaign thought and reach, MakeMyTrip’s celebrity endorsers including the likes of Alia Bhatt and Sanya Malhotra could be seen sharing their two cents getting caught by the travel bug and thereby asking consumers to travel safely.

Suresh claims that the initiatives sort of gave MakeMyTrip a significant bump in user acquisition and a fresh set of travellers joining the tribe while it also focused on reactivating its existing customer base. 

Marketing Mantra

When asked about the marketing mantra that he swears by, Suresh replies that it takes three things that it takes to succeed in marketing-

1.Being relevant

2.Make engaging content

3.Be distinctive

“A few years back it was a lot about Television, point of sale, print and branding sort of messaging and communication. Today it has changed quite dramatically with the advent of digital tools and platforms- marketing has become a lot more about conversation,” he adds. 

It’s a dual conversation between you and your consumers where both the parties seek validation and understand choices and feedback.

According to him, what marketers need to sort of get comfortable with is not being able to control every single aspect of what’s happening.

“Earlier when only the brand spoke- it was easier to control the narrative. In today’s age conversation can get sparked off by small things and hence it’s very important to be agile. As a brand you are the curator of conversations and are co-creating along with your consumers,” he concludes.