From a very young age, we all learned the importance of cooperation. It’s a key component in building healthy relationships. We learned that working together, we can accomplish more and have a greater impact on society than when we try to do it all on our own.
Cooperative marketing has been a strategic staple for decades, from shared billboards to co-branded display ads. Likewise, cooperative marketing is nothing new to travel and tourism. States, destinations and partners pool their resources together not only to extend their reach, but also to enhance their messaging by aligning products that complement one another, giving the consumer a fuller understanding of the offerings available to them.
While cooperative marketing might not be new, the opportunities for creating shared marketing programs has expanded and continues to grow as advertising platforms release new ways for advertisers to share their message. Let’s look at some of the tried and true instances in which cooperative marketing works in travel, as well as some new innovative ways advertisers are partnering on their messaging.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing (SEM) is one of the earliest digital cooperative opportunities focused on creating efficiencies in pay-per-click search. Destinations recognized their SEM ads were appearing alongside search ads for their state tourism office, nearby competing in-state destinations, or their partners, and ultimately driving up one another’s costs. The only real winners in this scenario are the search engines who reap the rewards of the higher click costs.
To reduce this competition, partners banded together for centralized account management. By running all keywords and ads from a shared account, they were no longer appearing against one another, as the search engines will only show one paid ad per account at a time on any given search. Reducing the competition resulted in lower click costs for everyone involved. Even with all the evolution in search over the past 10 or more years, this cooperative methodology still delivers the same efficiencies it originally promised.
Building brand awareness among a highly targeted audience is the key function of display advertising. What’s great about a cooperative display program is you’re often able to extend your reach by combining two or more advertisers into the creative and grow the overall funds available for your media buy. When everybody pitches in, everyone wins.
An emerging cooperative opportunity is “remarketing.” By placing a remarketing pixel on your website, you have the ability to create pools of previous site visitors and show them display ads around the internet to convert them to travelers. By making this cooperative, you open that remarketing pool to your partners, allowing them to show their ads to your previous consumers. Remember: the ultimate goal is to put heads in beds. It could be your partner’s hotel, event, or attraction that inspires a dreamer to become a traveler.
For years, Madden Media has worked to develop their social profiles and followings. This is an owned audience that’s loyal to your brand and self-selected to receive your content. Where it makes sense, introducing partner content and promotions into your posting mix could provide you with more diversity, enhance the experience for your audience and lead them effectively down the travel planning path.
Social media also has a variety of paid ad options that could be turned into cooperative opportunities. For example, Facebook canvas ads are mobile-specific interactive ad units where you can share the creative panels (and costs!) with your partners to enhance the ad messaging and extend your reach.
There’s another exciting trend where destinations are developing co-ops around high profile businesses. We call this Co-UP as destinations are reaching up for greater brand recognition, reach, and/or dollars. A fairly recent (and clever) example of cooperating with a major brand was Idaho’s partnership with Uber Seattle where drivers handed umbrellas to riders around the Seattle area in January with a sunny marketing message on the inside promoting Idaho’s clear blue skies for spring vacation planning.