Brands can see risky marketing campaigns pay off — if they manage to strike the right chord between creative and controversial, like Plum Guide did.
In a departure from the typical rose-tinted travel campaign, luxury rental booking platform Plum Guide sent individuals dressed as grim reapers around London this month with the stark message “The End Is Nigh” around their cloaks.
The mortality-themed campaign has ruffled feathers on social media, but Plum Guide’s unconventional marketing approach is paying off. The London-based company reports, while spending one-fifth of its marketing budget, sales have increased more than 175 percent from this time last year as well as word of mouth recommendations more than doubling during the same period.
“We have a unique proposition so we’re trying to make a name for ourselves without the budget of the bigger players,” said Chief Brand Officer Ali Lowry, who came to Plum Guide after having worked at footwear manufacturer Hunter Boot Ltd and Giorgio Armani, among other companies.
“One of the things I really noticed when I came into travel was how many of the booking platform look similar. It’s a lot of very beautiful homes, which is incredible and we’re very proud of our website. But it alone isn’t enough to cut through and make noise in a very crowded marketplace.”
The campaign, which features the slogan “No Time for Average Stays,” is part of Plum Guide’s marketing efforts centered on steering travelers with seemingly limited vacation time to the platform. The company has also plastered billboards around London calculating how many vacations the average person has left in their lifetime, based on the assumption that most travelers will take one big vacation a year.
Although Lowry acknowledged much of the feedback on the company social media channels wasn’t necessarily positive, with commenters fiercely debating the appropriateness of highlighting mortality in marketing, he believes Plum Guide accomplished its goal of grabbing people’s attention.
“It’s better to have people talking … Maybe the only way to get engagement is to do something a bit edgy rather than just, ‘stay in a nice home,’” he said.
“This notion of mortality really resonated because it’s punchy. It’s not what people might necessarily expect from a booking platform. For me, as long as it’s done with a kind of wry smile, a bit of tongue in cheek, it felt like there was a huge opportunity there.”
Lowry also said the campaign to make an enemy of average, adding it reflects the mindset of a growing number of consumers worldwide. Plum Guide, which has expanded from 12 cities in 2019 to 30 countries in 2023, is also poised to take advantage of travelers increasingly to go on blended business and leisure trips, the evolution of which Skift examined in a 2023 Megatrend. So the company is eager to feature other ways of making the most of life in its marketing efforts, including introducing more positive messaging.
“We have this robust multichannel campaign and our strategy is to do these quick win moments that can be rolled out quickly, with very few resources, but with big impact,” Lowry said.
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Photo credit: An image from Plum Glide's marketing campaign reminding travelers they have limited time to book vacations. Plum Guide