It's not just travel, it is more travel & hygiene marketing today: Mayur Hola

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Mayur Hola

Mayur Hola sheds light on how the very definition of travel and hospitality marketing has changed post-pandemic and the factors that the marketers need to keep in mind for the coming year.

The travel and hospitality sector has undergone some major changes during the pandemic and even post-second wave. Mayur Hola, Head of Global brand, OYO, and Jury member of Social Samosa 40 under 40 sheds light on the changing trends in the sector. He speaks about the evolving consumer behavior, the relevance of hygiene & sanitization for customers as part of the marketing strategy, and the mistakes to avoid in marketing tactics as we move towards 2022.

Edited Excerpts

How do you think the very definition of travel & hospitality marketing has changed post-pandemic? 

People still want to get away from it all. What’s changed is the ‘it’. We want to run away from the virus and as such the fewer people around, the better. We think of it as solitude marketing. A date in a sanitized room with vaccinated staff is way safer than one surrounded by hundreds in a mall. A place far, far away is worth the 12-14 hour drive. It’s more travel and hygiene marketing today really.

Safety has been one of the major concerns post COVID-19. How has this altered your marketing & communication approach?

In 2020, OYO introduced an industry-first Sanitised Before Your Eyes service, whereby frequently touched surfaces were sprayed with a disinfectant in front of a guest’s eyes. In 2021, we launched VaccinAid, displaying the COVID-19 vaccination status of our Patrons’ staff. Both are technology-enabled ideas, serviced by our hotel owners who partner with us. These are not traditional communication ideas, but ones that enable thousands of small businesses to reopen, livelihoods restored, and for our customers to reignite their relationships and work. Our approach to marketing today comes with this purpose and that’s a fundamental change.

While OYO has been very active on social media, can you take us through your retargeting strategy? How do you ensure maximum consumer conversion?

We have a robust PCC (power core consumer), a sticky user base with less than 77.8% repeat & organic demand across hotels globally which we consistently retarget. In particular, Facebook & YouTube retargeting works much better for us.

As consumer behavior changes, which marketing tactics work best in the hospitality industry?

The marketing initiatives have been working since the time cavemen started drawing on the walls. Every now and then, new categories come up, mediums change, attention spans shorten, and clutter increases. However, great ideas and the consistent brand building still rise above it all. There is a reason you’re reading this on the device you chose and bought, it’s called marketing.

If you ask me personally, what works for me or clicks with me, today? Well, genuine empathy does.

OYO has been active on print. What is your objective from print marketing?

At OYO, we believe that the press can be a hugely effective image-building medium. It’s where the brand’s voice can be read and felt. Our communication on this medium is honest and provocative, with an assured tone of voice. We experiment with the medium and challenge the reader to rethink what press can be.

For example, a press ad can be an Olympics calendar that jumps onto your phone and updates you when India competes. It can call out social networks for not doing anything to police lewd trolls. It can remind our nation of sports beyond cricket with a simple coupon code. 

In these cases, whenever we get it right, a press ad goes from press to pixels. The opinion formers pick our ads up and share them on social media and that is totally one of our objectives.

Having worked with leading agencies & brands - how do you think the brand-agency dynamic evolved over the years? What do brands expect from their agency partners?

The brand-agency dynamic is like that of a marriage. The long-lasting ones have invariably survived ups and downs and are stronger for it. Those are the ones consistently building great brands. Sure there are noticeable ideas coming through on projects, but those are like first dates. If you don’t go beyond, you’re just flirting with options.

What brands expect from agency partners is immaterial. The thing that matters is what brands wish to achieve with their agency as an extended part of their marketing team.

Also read: Agencies should try to follow an Asset Light Model: Sam Balsara

In terms of AdSpends, do you think 2021 saw some relief? Are we back to the pre-pandemic levels?

I will address our category in particular. While a few brands in the travel and tourism category have started to invest, at OYO, we have been conservative both on performance marketing as well as the mainline marketing segment. We have the advantage of a loyal repeat user base which enables us to ramp up in a judicious manner.

Any AdSpends trends you foresee for the coming year?

  • YouTube is the new TV which will continue to grow. However, TV is not going anywhere. It will retain the bulk portion of the Adspends.
  • OTT is here to stay and will play a significant role.
  • Watch out for influencers. They’re effective for plenty of D2C brands and some categories in particular. That graph is shooting up as we speak.

3 marketing tactics that should be absolutely avoided in the coming year

  • Random jokes in the name of brand positioning.
  • Ripping off formats made famous by global brands.
  • Superstars endorsing  ‘mouth fresheners’ (a.k.a Gutkha).

As a jury member of Social Samosa 40 Under 40, what is the one element that you will look at in every entry?

Real impact over faux presentations.

Any message for all the participants?

Use sunblock, hydrate, take care of your teeth. Oh and live a little. Your best work will be inspired by life, not more work.

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