Hospitality is from the heart
Campaign: In Our Nature acquisition
Client: Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts
2011 IAB AWARDS – Search Marketing – Paid Search Winner
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts wanted to find a way to extend the significant brand awareness it enjoys in its established base of Asian market destinations to the global arena. It felt that its target audience of high value business and leisure travellers in the UK, US, Australia and Middle East did not extend top of mind consideration to its hotels and resorts, instead favouring more familiar US and other local brands.
The Group had an ambitious vision for what it wanted to achieve and, working with Maxus, it opted for a paid search campaign to complement its offline activities. The campaign, which exceeded all its campaign metrics, was praised by the IAB Award judges for the way that its clearly defined strategy was shaped and driven by the application of intelligent and extensive research. The confidence to buck the trend of the category norms and reallocate budget was highlighted by several judges as a testament to Maxus’ informed insight and intuitive thinking – and helped Maxus win the Search Marketing – Paid category at the 2011 IAB Awards.
Shangri-La was launching a new TV, in-flight, print and digital brand campaign ‘In Our Nature’ in key global markets, emphasising its core brand essence that ‘hospitality is from the heart’. It wanted to ensure that its search marketing activities were implemented to leverage the interest generated from its offline activities and drive potential customers to an online or telephone booking.
Maxus was tasked with finding the most effective way of reaching this audience in order to position Shangri-La as a leader in luxury hospitality and raise brand awareness, increase revenues generated by paid search by 25 percent to $1.5 million per month while maintaining ROI, increase search revenue to 60 percent (from 53 percent) of total online revenue and educate all Shangri-La hotel managers about campaign performance.
The key to a successful paid search campaign is to let returns dictate the investment, but many businesses miss out on valuable revenue by being inflexible with their allocated budget. Instead they rely on existing category norms that do not take into account evolving technology, changes in consumer search behaviour and the way paid search can amplify offline brand campaigns.
To counter this, Maxus conducted an extensive audit of Shangri-La’s current paid search activity to gain a clear picture of current ROI from branded search and search engine optimisation (SEO) keywords, keyword ownership and visibility and consumer search behaviour. It then used its experience and learnings to recalibrate both the budget and scope of activity to maximise direct response, drive online sales and support the brand-building activities.
Particular attention was focused on ensuring global channels dovetailed with local activity to stretch and maximise the company’s investment in paid search.
As research indicates that 65 percent of consumers believe that the leaders on Google search results are the leaders in their category, Maxus sought to build the Shangri-La brand by ‘owning’ search results for the most important brand keywords. While Shangri-La had some visibility within most general hotel related searches, it did not position well for the searches most relevant to its core brand values, for example ‘five star hotels’.
Maxus’ propriety research recognised that there was an opportunity to drive incremental revenue, while maintaining ROI, if it could reach out to low-cost broader keywords, leveraging the awareness and momentum of the offline activity and growing the total search channel. It therefore increased its investment in non-branded keywords, growing the bottom of the search funnel, and ensuring it owned key searches related to Shangri-La’s refreshed brand.
To do this, Maxus reduced the amount spent on branded search to 10 percent of the overall paid search budget – the existing category norm is a 30 percent spend. It took this approach as its learnings suggested that paid search significantly cannibalised SEO for branded search. This way, 90 percent of available spend was focused on attracting the high value business and luxury leisure customers that Shangri-La aimed to attract, with 20 percent of the budget saving being invested in non-branded keywords.
Maxus also developed an online dashboard that delivered search reports to hotel managers in a transparent and easy to understand format to ensure that on the ground staff understand how search performance contributes to booking rates. This additionally served to reduce reporting overheads and enabled local on the ground staff to provide valuable feedback and insight to the centrally managed campaign.
Successful search marketing also needs to connect with all other elements of a marketing campaign and the judges liked the way that the campaign was smartly executed with local activity running alongside the global cross media framework. “This was the antithesis of silo search marketing,” one judge observed, going on to praise the campaign for the smart way it allocated its extensive budget to amplify Shangri-La’s worldwide campaign.
For Maxus and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, the campaign exceeded all expectations and performance metrics.
The campaign’s core objective to position Shangri-La as a leader in luxury hospitality and raise brand awareness was comfortably achieved, with Shangri-La reaching the number one position for 60 percent of all search impressions (Google and Yahoo! search engines July 2010 to February 2011) and holding an average position of 1.9 for ‘luxury hotel’ searches for all destinations.
The paid search related revenue for Shangri-La was also lifted to record highs during the campaign with an ROI that was 33 percent above targets, while search bookings as share of total online booking grew to an average of 63 percent from the base of 53 percent at the start of the campaign.
The campaign’s final objective – to educate all Shangri-La hotel managers about campaign performance was comfortably achieved with 70 percent of all hotels using the dashboard on a weekly basis and average monthly log-ins of 3.5 per month for each hotel. The data provided valuable and tangible insight to the key stakeholders of the effectiveness of paid search activity and allowed for local insight and knowledge to be fed into the overall campaign strategy.
Critically, Maxus began and ended its campaign with a focus on the consumer. As one judge noted, “It should be a basic tenet, but it is something countless paid search campaigns overlook.” By thinking about the consumer, understanding what they want, how they search for information and how they consume that content, Maxus was able to significantly extend Shangri-La’s brand to a new audience and establish its ownership of the luxury hotel category.