There's a ton of pressure on Booking.com's new chief marketing officer, especially given the fact that his boss said a few months ago that the brand's creative hasn't been up to par. The company wants to lean into brand marketing, but that means there has to be some stellar advertising to lean into. See the challenge?
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Arjan Dijk spent more than a decade running marketing from Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters. But as senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Booking.com since the summer, he’s now charged with building the U.S. profile of a Europe-based brand that has had trouble unseating Expedia stateside among travelers.
However, Dijk thinks Booking.com, based in the Netherlands, can meet that challenge on the caliber of its online and offline offerings. “For Booking, I am excited to take on the challenge of solidifying the brand as the beacon of all things travel in consumers’ minds, particularly here in the U.S. where I’ve spent so much of my career,” Dijk said.
Dijk, of course, has global responsibilities for Booking, and he joined the brand, the largest in the Booking Holdings portfolio, at at time when CEO Glenn Fogel wants to increase its brand marketing spend to hike direct bookings. Fogel expressed disappointment in November about Booking.com’s creative efforts, and has high hopes for Booking.com’s new chief marketing officer.
One of the challenges, according to Dijk, is that Booking.com’s marketing messages have varied by channel, whether it was TV or performance marketing, for example. He vows to unify that message.
Skift: Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel in the past has expressed some concern with Booking.com’s brand marketing, and perhaps this is a reason that Booking has not tilted more rapidly toward brand marketing. So how will your approach differ from past efforts?
Arjan Dijk: Booking.com has always been incredibly data-focused, analyzing things from all angles, testing different models and strategies and using insights to make business decisions. It’s important to understand our data and use it to inform our marketing strategy so that we can better serve offers to customers at the right time via the right channel and engaging with our audience in a relevant, convenient way. This won’t change, but I firmly believe there is both an art and science to marketing, and marketers must ensure both cohesively work together.
I firmly believe that activating multiple marketing channels for an overall integrated approach, so that all channels are working together to promote the same message, is key to our success looking ahead. If someone only pays attention to one channel, they should leave with the message we want to get across, and for people who are active on multiple channels, they shouldn’t be left with mixed messages, but the same, cohesive story. This is a shift in approach to marketing at Booking.com, but I’m excited to see our initial successes as well as early learnings.
Skift: Booking.com recently took over an apartment building in New York City to promote travel tied to New Year’s resolutions. How did that go and what were your learnings from that?
Dijk: Everyone sets New Year’s resolutions and so we launched our Book Your Resolution campaign, with a goal to inspire travelers to kick-start their resolution by booking a trip and showcasing how Booking.com makes it easy through customized search filters and a seamless mobile experience. We have done these types of unique stays all over the globe previously to demonstrate our breadth of diverse property types, but our 20 Resolution Suites were one facet of an overall, integrated brand marketing campaign in the U.S.
The fun began with ideating around universally relatable resolutions and how to creatively bring them to life for consumers. We look at a variety of factors to measure success of our experiential campaigns and take learnings to our next campaigns — from earned media to engagement on social media and even things like how quickly the stays are booked, which in this instance, was a matter of minutes once the experience went live on Booking.com.
I believe in “moment marketing,” as it allows us to be focused on a message that is top of mind and universally relatable for our audience, while putting our own Booking.com flavor on it and making it tangible for our customers. After all, those real life, tangible experiences are what travel is all about.
Skift: In the U.S., Priceline still has wider brand recognition than Booking.com. Why not leverage Priceline when Booking.com is a tougher job?
Dijk: Booking and Priceline have different value propositions for different subsets of customers, so I believe we can continue to grow both brands in the market. For Booking, I am excited to take on the challenge of solidifying the brand as the beacon of all things travel in consumers’ minds, particularly here in the U.S. where I’ve spent so much of my career. We have a ways to go here, but 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, Booking.com has the ability to be a “go to” resource from a product perspective and truly make it easier for everyone to experience the world.
Skift: Could you talk about the complexity of doing brand marketing for a brand that is indeed global? How does your approach differ in Germany versus the U.S. or Mexico, for example?
Dijk: The media landscape is so complex today, particularly when you look at it from a global perspective. As a marketer, you now have to think about print and TV, sure, but also Google, WeChat, Instagram, Youtube, Baidu, Amazon, 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.
This is particularly true for Booking.com, as our brand awareness differs across markets, which adds an additional layer of complexity. Nevertheless, our global message remains the same and I think that’s particularly important in such a fragmented world. We want customers to know that we’re here to make it easier for them to experience the world and that there is a booking for everyone.
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Photo credit: One part of the lobby of the Booking.com headquarters in Amsterdam. The online travel agency is the largest unit in Booking Holdings, and Arjan Dijk is its new chief marketing officer. Dijk will speak on stage at Skift Forum Europe June 29–30 in Madrid, Spain. Skift