Why High-End Magazines Haven’t Gone Away in the Luxury Travel World

luxury travel magazine image

Change is a constant in today’s world, and the far-reaching impact of the Digital Revolution is both a prime example and a significant driver of that trend. But, in some cases, change occurs around something rather than to it, and the effect is just as noticeable.

One example of this phenomenon is the luxury travel industry where the seemingly “old-fashioned” medium of high-end, glossy magazines — made with actual paper and ink — have not only survived, but are thriving amid the widespread migration to digital-only publication.

Savvy resorts and popular travel destinations worldwide continue to harness the power of these physical publications to reach passionate travelers long before they visit online booking sites like Travelocity or Hotels.com to start comparing prices and making reservations.

Is your resort property leveraging the value of print? In this post, we’ll cover why high-end travel magazines are still such a vital piece in the marketing mix for luxury travel destinations, and how to take full advantage of what they have to offer.


Who Still Buys Travel Magazines?

The first thing to realize is that luxury resorts and popular destinations rely on a very specific target market of passionate travelers. These are not average American day trippers or business travelers who are likely to stay at economy hotels. And they aren’t families who need to bring the kids to Disney World while they’re still young enough to really enjoy it.

These are wealthy, highly educated, upper-middle-age individuals or couples who have both the means and the desire to spend a significant portion of their lives exploring what the world has to offer. These travelers are willing to invest in experiences and adventure. Here are some identifiers:

  • Vacation planning begins months or even years before it’s time to take off.
  • Plans aren’t dictated by approval of a vacation schedule, tight budgets or highly structured timetables.
  • Last-minute deals on popular, low-cost hotel or airfare booking websites don’t influence their decisions.

Overall, these people do not hunt around for a destination running the best deals at the moment or make travel decisions because tickets are only available for the tiny slot where they can coordinate vacation time with their spouse and kids. Instead, their planning begins far earlier in a vital stage we call “the Dream Phase.”

What is the Dream Phase and Why Does it Matter?

People who purchase high-end travel magazines are passionate travelers who make vacation plans based on the experiences they wish to have. When a future vacation starts taking shape, these travelers do not initially look at a computer screen for the best prices on airfare. Instead, they flip through a copy of Conde Nast Traveler or Travel and Leisure — just two of the half-dozen magazines artfully displayed in the center of their coffee table.

Subscribing to these magazines is about having a relaxing or invigorating experience. They might have a glass of wine, turn on some music, and pick up the latest edition of Architectural Digest simply to look at the beautiful homes. While looking at the pictures, they might stumble across an article about the Top 10 Resorts to Visit in Arizona and think, “I’ve been meaning to check out Sedona for years.” That’s where the dream begins.

That’s how this target market begins their buying journey: by losing themselves in gorgeous photographs and highly detailed content that’s geared to stoking the fire of their travel dreams. Flipping through high-end, beautiful pages of magazines with content and reviews they trust is what whets their appetite for adventure.

If your resort, travel agency, airline or national tourism board doesn’t appear in these publications, you’re at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to catching the eye of this highly lucrative and loyal group of consumers.

It’s tempting to assume that focusing the marketing budget exclusively on digital media, search and travel site profiles makes sense in 2017. But if the upscale travel market is one you’d like to attract, these high-end glossies need to be part of your marketing mix. If they aren’t, then by the time they go online to start making concrete plans, they’ll already be heading to the competition.

Why Print is Part of a Well-Balanced Marketing Mix

All of us are attracted to quality content that speaks to our hobbies and passions. The target market we’ve been discussing considers travel their hobby. It’s what they love, and something they invest in routinely.

There’s no denying the fact that plenty of travel-focused content is available online. In fact, all the most popular travel magazines have highly developed online, tablet-friendly publications or blogs that supplement and support their print editions. But as noted above, the demographic of this target market skews older, usually between 45 and 75. As a result, many of them still gravitate toward holding a physical magazine in their hands rather than consuming their favorite content via laptop or iPad.

A variety of tactics are needed to reach this audience and each tactic plays a different role in the purchase cycle. While a strategic mix of digital, TV, radio and display ads are important, advertisers cannot assume everyone goes online first.

Luxury travelers will likely go online at some point, but after they already know exactly what they want to investigate. After they’ve read the article about the Top 10 Resorts to Visit in Arizona, they will likely take the magazine over to their laptop and look each one up individually. This is why magazines should be included in the mix. If advertisers ignore the pre-planning, dream phase, they are losing out on the best possibility for maintaining occupancy rates and profitability over the long term.

Of course, achieving the right balance of media, getting the timing right, and creating the most appealing and persuasive marketing content is a tall order for any business. And, in many cases, tourist destinations employ a smaller team of marketers than might be expected. This presents an ongoing challenge for those professionals responsible for marketing these destinations.

How to Embrace all Phases of the Funnel

To widen the very top of your sales funnel, you need to be highly visible to high-end travelers during The Dream Phase. Accomplishing this requires a strategic mix of advertising and advertorial content in the glossy travel magazines that are most relevant to your location and timed to accommodate your destination’s unique seasonality.

It’s important to remember that most magazines work months in advance to get everything ready for print. The editorial calendar for a magazine focusing on spring break is decided way before families begin to plan a getaway to thaw out from the winter. To get a resort in Hawaii featured in the right issue, a media buyer will watch editorial calendars to get ads and content lined up way before anyone is thinking of swimsuit season so you can be in front of a potential buyer at the very beginning of their journey.

At the same time, it’s important to maintain a thorough online content hub where interested prospects can continue their research and satisfy their curiosity as the buyer’s journey progresses. Whether it’s a blog or a highly active and engaging social media presence, good content resources take your brand and message much further than your profile on Travelocity or Hotels.com. They also create opportunity to attract and educate prospective guests throughout the buyer’s journey.

These marketing efforts should be supported and augmented by targeted TV, radio and digital efforts. Finally, as a guest gets closer to making final arrangements, you need to be easily accessible and appealing on those travel websites that they will likely to use to solidify their plans.

By following this process, you ensure not just a rise in occupancy over the next few weeks — the sweet spot Travelocity and similar sites can assist with — but, more importantly, you get on the radar of hobby travelers who consider vacation plans months or even years in advance. This balance promotes short- and long-term success through high occupancy rates across seasons and return business year after year.

Of course, accomplishing this mix can be challenging and time-consuming. It’s easy to spread a marketing budget too thin by trying to attack all media at once.

Where Blue Onion Media Fits into the Equation

At Blue Onion Media, we’re proud to look back on nearly 40 years helping resorts worldwide achieve this perfect balance through strategic media planning and media buying services.

The following case study exemplifies the kind of results we achieve for our clients in the travel and hospitality industries:

Blue Onion had the opportunity to work with a major southern California resort that was operating under the umbrella of a larger international hotel group. When that relationship came to an unexpected end, the resort suddenly found itself heading into the busy summer season at a loss of over 1,000 room nights (which had been reserved under the parent company’s membership reward programs). At the same time, they were faced with a name change and had to figure out a way to boost brand visibility, while ensuring that any guests that did arrive were sufficiently cared for.

To address the resort’s need for a high volume of reservations in short order without sacrificing their long-term success in the process, the resort called on us to create and execute a marketing strategy. Our solution included advertisements and editorial content in Conde Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest and appropriate high-end regional magazines, along with a layer of radio targeting travelers looking for something new to do during summer vacation.

To address the need for good brand exposure, high-quality reviews and a positive experience, our media strategists leveraged Spanish-language Pandora (an online radio service) to attract enough maids, housekeepers and other staff members to support the resort’s increased expectations for summer occupancy.

The result was an incredible 95% occupancy rate for the vital weekends of that first summer, as well as a smooth transition through the subsequent seasons where their longer-term efforts yielded plenty of reservations and return engagements.

Of course, every destination and set of circumstances is completely unique. That’s why we approach every client and project as a brand-new opportunity to study the situation, explore the options, and develop a fully customized solution designed to get the best value for every marketing dollar being spent.

If you’re struggling with hitting that vital balance of media to promote both short- and long-term success for your tourist destination, contact Blue Onion Media to discuss strategic and creative options.

What Does an Optimal Digital Mix Look Like for a Retail Store?

digital marketing for retail storesFor large retail chains operating in an extended geographic area (from one county to nationwide), it is wise to use traditional mass media options like TV, radio and print for top-of-the-funnel offers. The visual and audio aspects of these media channels create brand recognition and elicit a craving for your products.

Strategically targeted digital campaigns supplement that traditional mix. Digital ads can be hyper-localized to individual store locations, making them an excellent way to translate broad brand recognition into actual consumers walking through your door.

These campaigns can be focused on a specific event, like a sale you’re promoting, or a more extensive goal, like encouraging customers to join your loyalty program. In either case, the localized targeting allows for highly effective search optimization, budget-friendly mobile and display ad placement, and a range of fun and interesting social media options that can actively engage customers who are close enough and intrigued enough to stop in within minutes or hours of interacting with your marketing content.

Of course, this optimal scenario requires strategic media planning and a lot of coordination on the backend, including collecting and analyzing a tremendous amount of data in order to make the most cost-effective decisions as to which channels to focus on, when, and with what message. Among other factors, marketers putting together these kinds of digital campaigns will need to analyze:

  • Goals
  • Target audience
  • Timing
  • Scale
  • Size of target market
  • What media options exist
  • Competitive set

All of this information is available, but most retail brand marketing departments don’t have a performance reporting solution as well as the know-how to gather, collate, analyze and benefit from that data consistently.

To put this into context, let’s walk through a few case studies:

Ace Hardware

Ace Hardware is a well-established brand on the national scene with years of accumulated brand authority and a strong retail presence in a wide geographic area. Their top-of-the-funnel marketing efforts were consistent and effective in maintaining that position, but they came to us with a challenge.

They were struggling to produce quantifiable results via digital because their channel mix and range of tactics were led more by a “me too” philosophy rather than a true strategy, which diluted the effectiveness of every campaign. To resolve this issue, our retail experts analyzed reams of data and discovered some golden nuggets that yielded valuable answers.

One particularly important discovery was the fact that 80 percent of each location’s revenue consistently came from a relatively small geographic footprint around that location. This provided a basis for a series of test campaigns that we set up using a small group of Colorado-based locations as a subset of the national chain.

We established a clean test by only promoting previously un-marketed products and services, and we used our tools and proprietary methodology to monitor an array of digital channels and formats in various combinations to determine the optimal mix that produced the best results while maintaining positive ROI.

The winning combination produced a stunning 2:1 return on investment based solely on actual physical sales of just the products and services promoted. These returns don’t take into account other valuable factors like any other purchases customers made during their visit or the lifetime value of that customer if they were brand new.

That winning combination served as a template for Ace Hardware’s ongoing digital strategy on the national scale.

Good Feet Arch Support Stores

In this case, our goal was to drive traffic to Good Feet Arch Support Stores using a multi-channel, multi-platform media mix to maximize the reach while controlling the targeting. To accomplish that, we incorporated the following strategic elements:

  • Geo-Targeting/Proximity Targeting – By specifically targeting a radius or zone around Good Feet’s retail locations, both budget and frequency were maximized.
  • Education – Good Feet’s messaging focuses on both educating and addressing the specific needs of their customers. The media mix included long-form infomercials as well as a paid search strategy to drive traffic to videos on their website. The webpage where the video was hosted also featured a strong, prominent call to action to visit the store.
  • Continuity – From broadcast to digital, the video messaging was consistent across platforms. Broadcast drove awareness, serving as a reminder to targeted consumers. Digital reached those light TV viewers in the same targeted area.
  • Community Partnerships/Cause Marketing – Good Feet partnered with the Denver Broncos for a multi-element campaign that was both philanthropic and a consumer-facing promotion. Every time the Broncos kicker scored, Good Feet would donate money to Goodwill. Fans would then be encouraged bring their old shoes into a Good Feet location (who would then donate them to Goodwill) for a discount on their purchase.

So, what should you do with this information?

Consider getting help from the experts.

At Blue Onion Media, we’re navigators of evolving media. We guide our partners and clients to success through wise investment. Our retail marketing experts have the access to this data as well as the knowledge and experience needed to leverage it on behalf of your brand.

Creating that strategy requires collecting and analyzing data to determine an optimal mix of channels and formats unique to each brand’s target market, brand authority and budget. If you’re ready to streamline your retail marketing strategy by leveraging digital data, contact us today to discuss your options.

Call: (303) 597-9661

Email: VP Business Development, Peter TenEyck PeterT@blueonionmedia.com

Email: COO/Parnter, Eileen Weinert EileenW@blueonionmedia.com

Why Integrated Media Plans Drive Retail Success

integrated media marketingFor marketers in today’s constantly connected digital world, no conversation is taken seriously if it doesn’t include something related to digital marketing strategies and tactics. After all, that’s pretty much all that’s left for retail marketers to work with if they want results, right?


The digital-only approach is a misconception that many companies and marketing professionals fall into, and it can wreak havoc on a campaign and deplete a budget in short order.

Of course, digital marketing is important. But the reality is that driving reach in retail requires the strategic interplay of many different tactics—including some you might have considered “dead”—with new options and vendors appearing every day. The reason behind this reality is simple:

Customers don’t hear about you for the first time via Instagram

That is to say, if a customer has never heard of your brand, or if they’re unfamiliar with who you are and what you represent, seeing a passing image in a long stream of passing images on an endless social media feed isn’t going to spark a sale. There’s simply too much information passing through every phone screen to expect digital to accomplish that difficult task on its own.

Other media options do a much better job of establishing that initial contact, forming the top of the conversion funnel for most retail brands, including:

  • TV
  • Radio
  • Print

That’s right, the “Big 3” that digital was supposed to put out of business are still alive, well and vital to a successful retail marketing campaign even today.

TV, radio and print do a better job of creating an emotional response

Consider how effectively a TV commercial can create desire in the mind of a consumer:

From a shiny black luxury sports car whipping around a slick asphalt oval to a beautifully stacked burger dripping ketchup, 30 seconds of stunning visuals, matched with the right music and voiceover, can produce actual physical hunger or other strong, emotional desire. It’s worked for decades. That’s an effect that your average Tweet or Pin can’t match.

Digital video advertising does have nearly the same impact as TV and radio when it comes to creating the customer’s craving for a product. However, it also contains built-in limitations including cost, reach, targeting and competition, making it more complex and a deeper commitment than most digital marketing tactics.

These tactics also translate better for mass distribution

There’s also the matter of creative bandwidth. While the same TV, radio or print ad can run essentially unchanged on thousands of channels nationwide, every digital channel has its own range of optimal formats. Message length, type and size of image, and means of engagement, as well as unique metrics, must be collected and analyzed to determine a campaign’s success. These requirements can make a large-scale, long-term growth campaign highly labor intensive on digital.

Carrying out a digital-only campaign that produces positive ROI requires an intimate understanding of your target market and their online and mobile habits—a subject that’s constantly evolving due to the ever-changing nature of digital platforms and devices. What works on one major social channel will have no effect on another, and may not even be an option on a third. TV, print and radio, on the other hand, have established formats and options that have remained essentially unchanged for decades, making them comfortable for the audience and predictable for the marketer.

Despite all this, digital is still a vital tray in the marketer’s toolbox

Don’t get the wrong idea when we’re discussing the limitations and challenges inherent in digital marketing. These days, under most circumstances, you’d be foolish to invest in a campaign that doesn’t include a digital element. The key is strategic balance, letting the strategy lead the way rather than the tactics.

Digital marketing, unfortunately, lends itself to a common human failing: “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

This is the tendency we all have to be distracted and enticed by the latest “shiny object” and suddenly decide we absolutely must have or use that thing, simply because it’s new and different. While social media channels like Facebook and Snapchat aren’t actually new anymore, they’re constantly evolving and keeping themselves relevant, which keeps them in that “shiny object” category for most people.

As a result, we have a lot of clients who come to us with decisions already made, certain that they have to be on Facebook, Snapchat or (enter the shiny new app of the day) when, in fact, that channel makes little or no sense for their brand or marketing goals. But convincing them that they’d be wasting time and money entering that shiny playing field can be difficult, to say the least.

The smarter, more profitable, choice is to begin with a thorough understanding of your marketing goals, your brand identity and your current assets, then use that information to determine which digital channels offer the best fit and most cost-effective path to success. That’s what we struggle to teach our clients.

And that’s the choice you’ll need to make as a retail marketer who wants to include a smart and effective mix of digital tactics into your marketing strategy.

So, what about next steps?

It’s very easy for retail marketers to waste time, effort and money chasing each new “shiny object” in digital if there isn’t a well-thought-out strategy leading the way.

Creating that strategy requires collecting and analyzing data to determine an optimal mix of channels and formats unique to each brand’s target market, brand authority and budget. Most retailer marketing departments don’t have the tools and know-how necessary to accomplish this, but Blue Onion Media does.

If you’re ready to streamline your retail marketing strategy by leveraging digital data, contact us today to discuss your options.

Is Your Resort Getting its Fair Share of Group Business?

resort marketing group businessKeeping a resort filled and profitable is a juggling act. Certainly, occupancy rates are important, but success goes far beyond keeping a full house.

To really maximize profitability from your guests, you have to analyze travel trends and seasonal ebbs and flows, adjust marketing and sales efforts, and optimize the highest occupancy on the most profitable days. Also, although beyond your control, unforeseen world events and Mother Nature often create tricky circumstances that can affect your normal short- and long-term scheduling trends.

Travel marketing professionals and resort managers have faced the challenge of unpredictable circumstances for years. In addition, growing competition in the industry and a continually fluctuating economic outlook worldwide is making resort vacationing less consistent than it once was.

However, “expecting the unexpected” can be a powerfully lucrative ability for resorts. With the right approach to resort marketing, it’s not impossible to successfully meet or exceed both occupancy and profit goals for your resort—especially when you learn how to properly leverage group business, which can add consistency to your juggling act.

Gain additional insights by watching this short video from Blue Onion Media’s Pete TenEyck. Want more? Shoot over an email or give him a ring at (303) 597-9661. He’s a pro when it comes to helping businesses effectively navigate the evolving media landscape, and he’d be happy to answer your questions or discuss your pain points.

Leisure vs. group business

Group business on the scale we’re discussing can be an extremely lucrative if you view it as a B2B transaction rather than B2C, which is what you’re probably most familiar with in seeking out leisure guests. In this case, we are focusing on group reservations from corporations, schools, governmental agencies, and others who are organizing a retreat or annual meeting of some sort, and plan to have a large number of guests visit the resort on a given set of days.

The fundamental difference is the identity of your target market. Leveraging group business requires marketing to professional event planners and companies that specialize in managing incentive programs. Not only do these individuals have different motivations and goals than individual consumers and families interested in a leisure vacation, they also read different magazines, visit different websites, and work on a completely different timeline.

Successfully reaching this target market and convincing them of the value of visiting your resort requires a different strategy, media mix, and marketing investment than what you normally use to draw in consumers. And that’s where the real challenge surfaces.

What happens if you succeed?

Before going any further, let’s consider the possibilities. What if you could achieve an optimal balance of group and leisure business, and maximize profitability? In order to successfully harness your resort’s fair share of group business, you have to be willing and prepared to:

  • Better manage your inventory. Booking leisure guests on higher-priced weekends and filling lower-priced weekdays with large groups makes better use of inventory.
  • Get in front of long purchasing lifecycles. Keeping seasonal events top of mind, even one or more years down the road, enables you to plan accordingly to fill gaps. Group organizers often plan long in advance of an event with a process that can include seeing an ad, getting RFPs and visiting the property.
  • Be adaptable. Being willing to possibly bring in several smaller groups during non-peak periods can help fill gaps in inventory.
  • Advertise to niche markets. Advertising to the right target market, specifically to event planners or corporate organizers, helps you make better media buying choices.

Obviously, these are excellent outcomes any resort manager or marketer would want to achieve.

What happens if you consistently lose group business?

Inevitably, your loss is another resort’s gain. Group business is going to go somewhere.

Group business tends to generate a significant amount of repeat group business AND additional leisure business as well. Companies that have a positive experience at a certain resort are always more likely to book that same resort the next time they have a group event to plan. In addition, the individual employees who were exposed to the resort while on business could very well decide to return with friends and family for some hard-earned rest down the road.

This two-pronged dynamic—which is heavily impacted today by the power of social media—makes successfully obtaining group business even more important for resorts the world over. Catering to both group and individual needs should be a priority for your resort. If you ignore one or the other, the gap between you and competitors who nab group contracts will continue to grow in the months and years to come.

What does an optimal resort marketing strategy look like?

A healthy balance of leisure and group business can provide consistent occupancy and profitability throughout the year. In order to achieve this balance, you have to take into consideration seasonality and purchasing lifecycles.

Corporate planners who make decisions on where to stay for group business trips or conferences begin investigating options long before the actual date of the event. It’s important to get in front of them in advance to make time for a site visit, potential RFP process and rate negotiations. Ideally, you can convince this type of booking to happen during off-peak days and off-peak seasons when leisure travelers are less likely to crave resort time by:

All in all, it’s a heavy project to take on, and the concept could overwhelm even the most experienced resort marketing professional. But it’s definitely possible. In fact, it’s vital.

How to accomplish this optimal situation

It’s not likely that you or your busy marketing team can effectively develop the needed skills to make this optimal media strategy a reality overnight. Even with a dedicated budget for experimentation, the process could conceivably take years, and no resort has the luxury to remain uncompetitive for that long. But that doesn’t mean that achieving this goal is out of reach. Rather, it means smart resort marketers know how and when to get professional help.

At Blue Onion Media, we’re proud to be able to look back on over 37 years of experience as a premier media buying and planning resource. Since 2003, we’ve specialized in media and buying planning for resorts, helping leaders in the luxury hotel and resort industry optimize inventory, maximize marketing investment and fully leverage the lucrative but underserved group business market. In fact, we invest over $300,000 annually in data resources, including Nielsen TV & Audio ratings, Scarborough, Kantar Media Intelligence and Strata planning and buying software

We’re not a full-service advertising agency. No one on our payroll handles creative, so we’re not looking to propose a particular headline or logo or in any other way step on the toes of your in-house or contracted advertising pros. Rather, our focus is strictly on making sure your message reaches the right people at the right time and in the right format, all at the right price. We work to stretch every marketing dollar you invest and make sure it’s working it’s hardest for you.

See how Omni Hotels generated over $250k in revenue with the right media mix!

QSR Marketing Challenges and Trends, and How Media Expertise Can Help

drones delivering hamburgersThe quick service restaurant (QSR) industry has always been rapidly evolving and highly competitive. What worked last year could be a waste of money today, and every experiment—no matter how wild—has the potential for huge returns … or not.

While this isn’t an earth-shattering revelation for QSR professionals, there are recent challenges and trends in the industry that have snuck up on some and may not even be on the radar of others. These challenges and trends could make or break new and vulnerable operations, and could even put a dent in the budgets and futures of long-standing mega-brands that must constantly fight for their positions as QSR leaders.

One glaring example of a noteworthy challenge that’s impacting nearly every brand in the QSR space is the ever-changing smorgasbord of potential media options and the fact that “being visible” isn’t nearly enough to compete today. Every media buy needs to be strategic, offering positive ROI and growing the value of the customer’s entire experience in relation to the brand.

This is no easy task when new channels open up almost daily, fickle audiences migrate from one to the next in seemingly random bursts, and the ability to track and analyze the resulting data presents its own technological challenges.

Those brands that can successfully meet this challenge will reap huge rewards, including:

  • Greater control over their brand
  • Enhanced customer relationships
  • The multiplying power of customers becoming brand loyalists and ambassadors

Those who don’t are bound to be left in the dust since the trend toward wider and more diverse media channels isn’t going to slow down or reverse anytime soon.

Gain additional insights by watching this short video from Blue Onion Media’s Pete TenEyck. Want more? Shoot over an email or give him a ring at (303) 597-9661. He’s a pro when it comes to helping businesses effectively navigate the evolving media landscape, and he’d be happy to answer your questions or discuss your pain points.

What could make the difference for an individual QSR brand?

Since QSR brands are already used to working in a highly competitive vertical, successful marketing pros in these companies and in the creative agencies that serve them are already adept at experimenting and “failing fast.” However, the kind of strategic media planning and buying necessary to meet this industry challenge is often outside their normal wheelhouse.

Further, the data collection and analysis capabilities required to get ahead of the competition in media planning are either unknown or financially out of reach for all but the largest QSR brands. As a result, many marketing pros with the best of intentions simply can’t deliver an effective media strategy to the level needed to truly succeed in this rapidly evolving field.

The perfect solution would be to partner with an experienced team of media planning and strategy experts that can quickly and efficiently build an effective program nimble enough to remain relevant over the long term. But does such an option even exist?

Before we answer that, let’s look a little closer at the main components that must be considered when forming an effective media buying strategy for QSR brands.

Competitive research and benchmarking

Because of the cutthroat level of competition these brands face, keeping an eye on the competition has to be an integral part of any effective media buying strategy.

This doesn’t just include figuring out what channels the competition is using, but tracking their level of success or failure on each as well. As the saying goes, “a smart person learns from their own mistakes, but the truly wise learn from the mistakes of others.” Understanding the kind of all-encompassing competitive landscape in which QSR brands exist demand specialized tools (such as Kantar, Nielsen, Nielsen Audio, Scarborough, and Strata to name a few) as well as deep insight based on experience.

Effective competitive research and benchmarking can provide valuable direction regarding channel selection, messaging, timing, and how all three of those aspects of a given competitive campaign interrelate. With this data at their fingertips, QSR brands can optimize campaigns across all these areas, improving results and saving money in the process.

Not necessarily ‘following the leader’

There’s also a necessary balance to be met here: a QSR brand that bases their marketing decisions primarily on “what’s McDonald’s doing this month?” is bound to fail in the long run. A “copy-cat” strategy leaves the brand at the mercy of another brand’s costly mistakes. It also runs the risk of watering down or even eliminating the value of the brand itself as similar messages bolster the image of the company they’re emulating.

While keeping an eye on the competition is vital, it should be wise, prudent and influence a strategy that intentionally differentiate a QSR from the competition.

Laser-focused targeting

It’s tempting to assume anyone who eats is a potential customer for a given restaurant. However, there’s no way to sustainably and effectively market to such a wide audience. Effective campaigns are laser targeted on specific demographic and psychographic segments to select the best channel, timing, and messaging to resonated with a specific target market.

Again, locating and effectively analyzing the amount of data necessary to achieve this level of targeting goes beyond what most individual brands or creative agencies can provide. As with the competitive research, specialized tools and databases like MRI offer the only truly effective way to layer the data, analyze it and arrive at an actionable outcome.

It’s impossible to overstate the marketing value of leveraging competitive research with detailed actions and motivations of adult American consumers, which reveal powerful and penetrating consumer insights, including:

  • what people watch, read, listen to
  • what cars they drive
  • how they use the internet
  • their attitudes towards advertising
  • and, thousands of other data points

When a team exists that focuses solely on media strategy and invests in data collection and analysis, an optimal media buying strategy evolves to connect with each target market, no matter how niche-specific or seemingly small.

A wide range of media channels

As recently as 20 years ago, you could count the number of media channels on one hand that offered profitable returns. These days, there are dozens, each with their own combinations of strengths, weaknesses, costs, and level of commitment.

Although the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) method dictates that “less is more,” that’s simply not true in today’s wide-ranging media landscape. The average consumer spends hours each day absorbing content through a huge variety of channels and channel loyalty is notoriously fickle. With a new social network appearing every week and a new streaming service popping up nearly as often, consumers are hopping from one channel to the next quickly and without hesitation.

QSRs cannot depend on a shotgun approach to get their message out on a wide array of channels. An effective media buying strategy should approach each channel as unique and help direct the creative, the budget, and the tracking efforts accordingly to optimize the value of each.

As an example, review this media buying strategy for Arby’s.

A realistic understanding of what media will achieve

In a world that prioritizes instant gratification whenever possible, it’s tempting for brands to assume that a particular marketing investment should be able to provide instant or near-instant results that can be measured on a balance sheet. And, while many of the media channels available today can theoretically provide very quick, measureable results, expectations need to be realistic or the brand risks pulling the plug before the positive impact can be felt.

At the same time, the combination of the naturally fast turnaround in QSR marketing—after all, everyone eats every day, right?—and the speed with which campaigns can be launched and measured through many modern channels does lend itself to experimentation and extensive testing and optimization scenarios. The real key is leveraging the experience and expertise necessary to make the most of those experiments and arrive at the optimal circumstances before the competition figures it out.

A good place to start to determine if a media buying investment is being allocated to the best channels is with an independent media audit. These audits not only confirm that a brand is getting what it paid for, they also show if a target market is being reached most effectively to deliver positive results.

Is it possible for an individual QSR brand to achieve this optimal media buying scenario?

As we’ve already noted, the level of competition and speed of change in the QSR industry creates formidable challenges for most internal and agency marketing professionals who desire to effectively leverage the incredible variety and scope of media options available today. For most of them, the sheer number of available options and the extent to which data can be collected and analyzed for each of these channels puts a truly optimized media buying strategy out of reach.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for QSR brands to benefit to the fullest extent from all the potential this wide variety of media channels offers, because that seemingly unattainable concept we’ve been discussing—a wholly dedicated team of media buying experts with the necessary tools, capabilities, and experience—actually does exist.

Blue Onion Media is Denver’s premier media buying and planning resource, and we’ve been helping companies and creative agencies nationwide achieve optimal results from their media investments since 1979. We’re proud to have a long and successful history working with clients in the QSR industry, ranging from powerhouses like McDonald’s and Arby’s to up-and-coming brands seeking a foothold in the competitive QSR space.

If the idea of being able to effectively track and analyze media buys—from the initial planning stage through the post-buy audit and results analysis—appeals to you, and if you or your client would like to be able to effectively compete across multiple channels as a QSR brand, we’d love to discuss what we can do to help.

See how the right media mix drove a statewide sales turn-around for Arby’s.

Furthermore, if you are ready to get a discussion started on how Blue Onion Media can help your QSR concept overcome today’s marketing challenges, give us a call or shoot us an email. We have much more detailed, targeted QSR marketing insights that we can share with you.

Call (303) 232-1100

Email Peter TenEyck, VP Business Development

Email Eileen Weinert, VP Media

3 Ways Data Helps Creative Agencies Achieve Better Results

data driven media buying illustrationThe ability to get a client’s message to resonate with the appropriate target market is a key goal and measure of success for creative agencies. Whether that message is delivered through traditional or digital media channels, the aim is still the same: produce creative messaging that will drive awareness, recognition and action.

As a creative agency, your team’s expertise lies in making that message as powerful and persuasive as possible. But there’s more to carrying out a successful campaign than crafting a compelling message.

After all, where’s the value in that wonderful message if it gets heard by the wrong people? Or, worse yet, it doesn’t get heard at all? Or what if the timing is off and the target audience hears the message too early or too late in the decision-making process?

In all those cases, your top-notch creative is essentially wasted; leaving little room for a successful campaign.

Learn More about How Creative Agencies Can Make Money in Evolving Media Environments

The Indisputable Power of Reliable Data

The collection and analysis of data is an integral part of reaching the right audience, at the right time, in the right location to increase the impact of your creative efforts.

This isn’t a revelation. Every marketer knows it’s important to base campaign strategy on hard data like demographics, shopping habits and predictive analytics. The trouble is, if you’re like most creative agencies, access to this level of data requires a significant investment on top of the large expense of employing an experienced media team — we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year.

Of course, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to collect generic demographic data via the internet. Even a limited amount of psychographic data can be culled from online searches around specific target markets. However, these low-cost, widely accessible databases are often:

  • outdated and limited in scope.
  • not regularly backed by reliable resources.
  • limited in their analytical tools.

Having access to the right research tools along with media analytics and performance reporting eliminates these issues and ensures a results-driven approach to your campaigns.

Here’s where a strong media agency partnership comes in. By leveraging science and making data-driven decisions, a media agency can provide the following benefits to creative shops and their clients:

1. Targeting the Right Audience via Effective Channels

According to eMarketer, U.S. programmatic digital display ad spending will reach $22.10 billion. It’s true that programmatic digital advertising is gaining popularity fast, but it comes with a challenge familiar to experts in traditional media buying: making sure you are identifying the right channels from the beginning. Whether choosing the right television or radio spot, or deciding between digital media outlets, getting in front of the right people is still an essential part of campaign success.

Using a solution such as Mediamark Research & Intelligence (MRI) might sound like a dream because of the cost required to access its vast database of demographics, psychographics and consumer behavior. However, strategic media buying does not have to be a wishlist item for your creative shop. By partnering with a proven media buying agency equipped with MRI and other platforms, you can gain access to powerful resources for penetrating insight into the actions and motivations of adult American consumers, including:

  • what people watch, read, listen to
  • what cars they drive
  • how they use the internet
  • their attitudes towards advertising
  • thousands of other data points

This type of data enables us to make scientific decisions to find and reach the appropriate target audience for your messaging; focusing the client’s budget on channels with the best chance of success.

2. Choosing the Best Channels for Placement

Let’s assume your client needs to get their message out to a widespread target market across the country. You’ve crafted a series of fantastic ads designed to carry the brand’s message across television, radio, digital, and print to make sure your client gets maximum exposure. But there’s no way their budget could handle the shotgun approach with such a range of media vehicles.

Having access to the right data points allows your media buying partner decide the best placement for your client’s media to make sure campaigns hit hard and garner the most value.

This is especially important when dealing with nonprofit budgets. For example, we recently worked on a Lung Cancer Awareness campaign with an integrated approach involving print ads in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, digital ads and social targeting. By utilizing a strategic approach to media buying, we were able to guide them on the best investment to reach the largest audience and make the greatest impact. In order to reach both of their target markets (donors and lung cancer patients), we took a 3-tiered approach that included:

  • Broad: cultivated demographic data with gender/age/income, profile of those giving charitable donations
  • Receptive: identified people who follow lung cancer and other cancer organization social profiles
  • Diagnosed: leveraged an anonymized health database of lung cancer diagnosed individuals. Regarding this group we were very conservative with the number of ads that were shown to each person due to the sensitivity of the subject matter as well as to avoid the “creep-out” factor.

Using a data-driven approach to media buying, we chose to deliver the campaign in digital banners and pre-roll video in order to efficiently spread their message nationally and directly send traffic to their website. Here are some of the results from this campaign:

  • Facebook Page Likes – increased from 9,500 in November to 38,000 (as of Jan. 30, 2017)
  • Facebook Engagement on Posts – more than 28,000 likes, shares and clicks
  • More than 30,000 visits to the org website in the month of November
  • YouTube – 2,000 views on LCAM.Org Youtube channel
  • 60 Lung Cancer Survivors shared their story on LCAM.org
  • 20+ Partners Participated in 2016 Campaign
  • More than 25,000 Pins, T-shirts and bracelets distributed

3. Verifying Campaign Completion and Effectiveness with a Post-Buy Analysis

With the amount of money your client spends on creating and placing ads, it’s essential to know that they’re reaching their target market and receiving everything promised in your media buy. After all, media expenditures often represent one of the largest expense line items in a marketing budget. If they’re not getting what they’ve paid for, they’re going to be rightfully upset.

Believe it or not, media stations don’t always deliver what you ordered.

You can ensure your clients that the media partners you’ve chosen to work with are holding up their end of the deal by confirming vital statistics along the way like:

  • Did their schedule deliver the ordered gross rating points (GRPs) or impressions?
  • Did their spots run in the correct dayparts?
  • Did their spots run in the correct programs?
  • Did the correct mix of :15’s, :30’s or :60’s run as ordered?
  • Did they get charged the promised cost per point (CPP)?

Any shortfalls in the above can translate into large sums of money, aka lost opportunity costs.  When we hold the stations accountable to your client’s media orders, their media budget works harder for them — meaning more awareness, sales, and profits.

One of the best ways to gather this information is through an independent media audit. An independent audit not only prevents your client from spending time on this research, but it also provides unbiased scientific data to guide future decisions. Independent audits deliver valuable information such as:

  • Validation of initial research and assumptions used to create the media plan.
  • Evaluation of each placement to determine if actual results bear out the assumptions made in the planning stages.
  • Concrete data you and your client can use to inform strategic decisions down the road.
  • Recommendations on any adjustments to the plan that become necessary as strategy meets execution or placement.

Feedback from an independent audit allows your client’s campaigns to improve over time, which benefits all parties involved.

Creating a Win-Win Situation

It might sound daunting to try and implement all of the tools needed to gather sufficient data to improve your results. However, it is possible.

Creative agencies that specialize in developing killer marketing messages for their clients should continue to focus on this service. The world needs you. By partnering with a team of strategic media planning and buying experts, you can continue doing what you do best and heighten results at the same time. Additionally, working with a media planning partner can add a valuable new revenue stream to your suite of services, directly enhancing your bottom line.

Partnering with a media buying agency like Blue Onion Media creates an optimal situation for your creative agency to provide the most effective media buying and planning strategy for each unique client and campaign. Our team works as an adjunct to your agency’s talented creative team, with no stepping on toes or conflicts of interest, because we are not in the creative space.

Blue Onion is strictly focused on gathering and analyzing the full scope of data available and using it to ensure your clients’ marketing and advertising dollars are maximizing value on every campaign.

You get to maintain and deepen a great, ongoing client relationship where you focus on what you do best and boost revenue without having to spend a fortune or too much time on handling the data side of the equation on your own.

That’s the definition of a win-win for you and your clients.

For more detailed information, download “How Creative Agencies Can Make Money in Evolving Media Environments”!

Leveraging the Reach of Media Buying for Sports Programming

Let’s take a quick timeout from the seemingly endless discussion on the rise of streaming on-demand video services… and how that’s been impacting advertisers by allowing viewers to avoid commercials. There is still one genre that is still consistently viewed live: Sports.

From time to time, some overly optimistic soul thinks that he can watch the game the next day, secure in the belief that everyone would be mindful of his delay, and not spoil the score for him. Almost anyone who naively believed that has found their hopes quickly, mercilessly dashed as soon as they stepped out of the house. By the time the next game rolled around, they made sure that they saw it live with everyone else! It’s a passionate demographic that you can count on to be there during your TV advertising slots.

While the rise in on-demand viewing has altered viewing habits for nearly all program genres, live viewing remains the standard for sports. According to TV data from fourth-quarter 2015, 95% of total sports viewing happens live. It’s also worth noting that sports accounted for 93 of the top 100 live-viewed TV programs in 2015, compared to just 14 in 2005. So, if you decide to buy TV commercial time during a sporting event, you have a great opportunity to reach a huge audience.

When it comes to TV commercials during sports, you’ve got your viewers right where you want them, eyes riveted on the screen!

Not only do you have them where you want them, but you have access to a far broader demographic of viewers. Families watch the game together, bringing you members of each generation. Coworkers meet at a local sports bar to cheer on their teams. Millennials enjoy watching a game with friends over their craft beers and tacos. This is your moment.

According to Nielsen’s Year in Sports Media Report in 2015, sports content continues to thrive across all screens and formats, and ratings and engagement numbers are still steadily increasing. The amount of sports programming available has skyrocketed to keep up with the demand.

Even with this increased demand, it’s important to remember that not all live sports advertising comes with the mind blowing price tag of a Super Bowl ad. The term “live sports” covers everything from “The Big Game” to college athletics, outdoor sportsman events, and even newer sport trends like televised Crossfit and Tough Mudder competitions. There are always cost effective options available when it comes to reaching this audience.

A good place to start if you want to reach this audience is to let our team explore opportunities for national TV advertising rates and local TV advertising rates that match your needs, budget and goals. We want to help you get the most value from your advertising strategy, while taking away the headache of having to figure this all out on your own while running your business.

Second Screen Advertising

Not only can you advertise with the channels broadcasting, but you can also have complementing ads on mobile devices at the same time. According to the market research company Millward Brown, the use of multiple devices has become the norm worldwide. In the U.S., around half of media consumers use a second screen while watching TV, while in Asia and Africa the percentage is even higher!

70% of users stack content, meaning that they spend time viewing unrelated content on their digital device and TV. Some mesh content, which means that the content on their mobile devices compliments the content on tv. Meshed content on second screens can be a fantastic opportunity for advertisers and digital marketers to gain visibility. Some options to leverage this include companion app ads, sponsored tweets, or Facebook posts. They’re displayed at specific times in specific regions to capture the audience that is watching a particular game.

Platforms on the Rise

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some alternatives to broadcast TV & cable advertising, allowing you to target this massive demographic from other angles.

  • Sling TV – Since going online in February of 2015, more than 250,000 households have signed up – and that number is growing every day. It also targets millennials by offering a low base price, allowing you to access this hard-to-reach demographic.
  • Microsoft is now offering MLB and NBA packages for streaming through their Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles for about $200, which gives you access to sports fans who are likely to have some disposable income.
  • Sony recently launched its PlayStationVue streaming service with limited sports options available through its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles. It’s only available in a few cities right now, but will be expanding to more soon.
  • Verizon is joining the streaming market as well. It announced that it will launch an app that offers programming from the ACC Digital Network, CBS Sports, 120 Sports, Campus Insiders and limited live games from ESPN.
  • While the much-awaited Apple TV upgrade hasn’t yet hit the market, it is projected to be a huge opportunity for advertisers since it will offer a broad variety of sports networks.

When you’re ready to take the next step and make every advertising dollar count towards your success, we’re here to help. Our experienced team knows how to make the most of the changing TV landscape, and we’re committed to offering you the most effective strategy possible.

Give us a call today to learn more about how we can make the world’s passion for sports for you – (303) 232-1100!