In 2015, the newly merged travel retailer, Stellar Travel and AOT Group, realised it had major problems. The group was losing market share to Flight Centre and House of Travel, Air New Zealand was increasingly active in retail and online was growing fast.
The problems were compounded by the fact that while the competition could focus on building single cohesive brands, AOT needed to support two franchise brands, United Travel and Harvey World Travel.
Worse still, the brands were increasingly perceived as ‘bit players’.
Swift measures were needed, so the company made the decision to close its two historic brands and create a new one – Helloworld.
“Our insight was that to become a challenger brand, we needed to be the category thought leader,” says Helloworld.
This meant creating a brand perceived as modern, fresh and exciting but with stature and gravitas as the experts in travel.
“We went to market with 60 percent less budget than that of our two main competitors combined – Flight Centre and House of Travel. We needed to create brand cut-through with smart thinking.”
The new brand required a ground-up business transformation to be completed in record time. Plans for launching were veiled in secrecy and a launch was set by the business for April 2016, while behind the scenes, many complex sales deals and travel contracts had to be unravelled as the group negotiated as one business.
The marketing strategy looked to create an ‘always on’ pipeline of leads, focusing on three pillars: community marketing, brand-response advertising that focused on lead generation, and a programme of ongoing ‘killer deals’ to create a point of difference.
“We named these exclusive deals ‘Wh@t the f@&#k’ offers,” says Helloworld.
“To add urgency and hype, we ensured limited availability to create extra value and distance from conventional discounting and sales.”
By any standard, the new brand’s launch was a major success.
“Despite Flight Centre and House of Travel upping advertising to a collective $3.8 million ratecard vs. our spend of $1.5 million, we achieved a share of voice equal to Flight Centre at 25 percent and only three points behind House of Travel.”
Not only that, but one in four Kiwis recalled Helloworld when prompted, jumping to one in three in the crucial 34 to 44 age segment.
After 15 months, Helloworld is firmly positioned as a legitimate challenger travel brand with year-on-year enquiry levels up 80 percent compared to United and Harvey World Travel’s performance.
“Getting the vision right is key but we learnt that optimal execution of the plan is the hardest part,” says Helloworld.