Expedia repositions for an era of more meaningful travel

From the C-Suite newsletter: With travel intent on the mend, the company is investing heavily to show it can be a holistic partner.

Expedia

Travel booking company Expedia has unveiled a new global brand positioning with the goal of becoming a true “companion” to travellers in a post-pandemic future, in which customers seek more meaningful travel experiences.

The new positioning acknowledges that “who you travel with matters,” with the new tagline communicated in a campaign that comes with Expedia’s largest marketing investment in more than five years.

Nearly every aspect of Expedia’s brand has been refreshed, including its logo and its web and mobile app experience, and enhancements have been made to its product offering to help it better serve as the “ultimate travel companion” to customers.

For the last 25 years, the company has focused on driving volume and transactions on its website and app, where customers can book everything from flights to hotels and car rentals to all-inclusive vacations. But according to the company, research revealed that people expect travel companies to do more than just help facilitate transactions – they want them to serve as trusted partners at every stage of the experience.

The global effort comes as the travel industry, hamstrung by more than a year of restrictions, various lockdowns and consumer health and safety concerns, begins an arduous journey to recovery. While every country has faced its own challenges and is currently experiencing the pandemic differently – depending on how quickly vaccines have been rolled out, for example – consumers are universally dreaming about the day they can get back to travelling, says Chandreyi Davis, global VP of brand marketing at Expedia.

“So we are here to meet customers, wherever they are, whether it’s in that imagination stage, or whether it’s in that booking stage, because I know that as soon as I’m ready to travel, I want that trip booked. But I want it to be flexible enough in case something goes wrong.”

At the moment, Expedia research shows 83% of Canadians value travel and vacations more today than they did before. Among global travellers, 66% have travel bucket lists that have grown longer over the last year. These numbers suggest there’s been a shift towards more meaningful travel, Davis says. “At the same time, there’s so much ambiguity around what travel will look like, as they come back, that they’re looking for someone that can be with them on the journey and that can support them at every single step,” whether it’s booking a trip, exploring potential new destinations or making a last-minute cancellation.

In Canada, an anthem spot, led by Team One Saatchi in the U.S., will premiere on Big Brother Canada on April 21 and will be followed by a more comprehensive cross-channel rollout starting with the Oscars on April 24. The film appearing in Canada features American actress, writer, director and producer Rashida Jones, whereas the U.K. and European spots feature English actress Naomie Harris.

Both versions of the commercial focus on the notion of companionship during travel, with Jones and Harris serving as “shortcuts to those brand attributes of being travel savvy and being intuitive, and being optimistic and empowering about these new journeys that we all want to take together,” Davis says.

To reach a broad target consisting of “trip maximizers” who value simplicity, flexibility and convenience in travel, Expedia put greater investment into building a cross-channel strategy, including more mid- and upper-funnel touchpoints, according to Davis.

“As we came out with this new conversation with our travelers, [Expedia looked to be a part of] moments that were meaningful, like the Oscars… as one way to engage their imaginations,” she says. “So to bring this creative platform to life, as a launch opportunity with the Oscars, it felt like a really appropriate moment to do that, with all of the deep emotional storytelling that happens there.”

To coincide with the launch, Expedia also unveiled a number of changes to its website and mobile app. The changes include a new itinerary feature allowing travellers to see all the details of their trip in one place, new pre-bundled product packages, enhancements to its virtual agent platform (including a “one-click cancel” function), a simplified Expedia Rewards program, and the ability to shop by lodging amenities – what it claims to be a first for the travel industry.

“You’ll see a bit more simplicity throughout,” Davis says. “The new logo is simplified, modernize. It signals how we’re seeing this new travel era moving forward.”

Going forward, the company will continue to lean into a more “emotional narrative that’s optimistic and presenting that [element of] companionship as a whole new way of looking at Expedia.”