From generations becoming more fragmented to the evolution of content consumption, marketing is becoming increasingly complex. SVP and Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com, Arjan Dijk, shares his thoughts.
Click.: What marketing trends are you currently noticing?
Dijk: The shift from offline to online is something that is still happening and when you look at linear tv, for example, you see that especially younger people are not watching anymore and media is being consumed much differently now. Then, in different areas of the world you also see a shift in how people consume content online. Previously, people would search on Google a lot, but now you see people turning to social media to access information.
Those trends are nothing new but are clearly still going on and continuing to evolve. Anyone who works in the travel industry really needs to give good thought to how they can connect with their customers and consider how people discover content now - that’s something that’s really top of mind for me at the moment.
Click.: At Click. 2019 you spoke about the days of “lazy marketing” being over, can you elaborate?
Dijk: I worked at Unilever in the 90s, pre-dot-com bubble where the web existed but in a very sporadic form. Back then, you worked with an ecosystem of media that had been around for at least 30-40 years. If you wanted to create a brand campaign it was very simple: you briefed your agency, they came back with a proposal and presented you with about four different push channels you could choose from. You would then push that message out to people and control it significantly. I call it “lazy marketing” because it wasn’t actually that difficult. You could spend a lot of money very quickly without necessarily having to do that much - you just needed a 30-second commercial you would put to air with the guarantee that people would watch it.
Nowadays, we can connect with customers online, we know much more about them and we have the opportunity to be far more targeted, specific and relevant for people as a result. But it also makes things far more difficult. There are many different customer segments and behaviours - you can’t get away with a one-fits-all approach. As an example, Gen Z is much more fragmented than other generations; there are thousands of different segments we have to look at within that one generation, making it impossible to cater to the masses.
There are many different customer segments and behaviours - you can’t get away with a one-fits-all approach
When I grew up in the 80s, everyone was dancing to the same songs because, in the Netherlands at least, there were only two TV channels and maybe three or four radio channels. The way people consumed media was very different because we were all served the same thing and liked it more or less. Although everyone was still very individual, these tastes weren’t catered to. Reaching large numbers of people with the same message is not that easy anymore because they are all looking at different things at different times in different places. It’s far more complex.
Click.: What’s the secret to catering to all of those different segments?
Dijk: To target specific customers it’s crucial to really understand and know your data, and then use it to inform your marketing strategy - which is one reason we employ a lot of data scientists at Booking.com. Once you’ve gathered your data it’s about dissecting it to find the patterns and diving deep to understand it, so you can serve offers to customers at the right time via the right channel.
There’s always an art of science to marketing and it’s not always numbers that are important but I do think that creativity can be driven by data. Just coming up with ideas that might work is a very risky strategy and is like throwing spaghetti at a wall: it might or might not stick.
Click.: What technology do you think is going to be key for marketing moving forward?
Dijk: I do think the marketing industry is in the early days of Artificial Intelligence and algorithms because prediction is not really done that well yet. When I look at my newsfeed for example, generally there’s no intelligence to it except that I’ve searched for a specific car brand and my feed serves me that specific product all the time as a result. Is that intelligent? No, that’s just a very simple script that says “Arjan liked this car” so let’s serve him this all of the time. That needs to evolve and I do think that AI moving from being very simple rules-based to far more predictive will be key in the future.
Click.: If you had one piece of advice for smaller businesses when it comes to their marketing strategy, what would it be?
Dijk: I really believe in making sure you have a good product for a good price that you can promote in an engaging way, that’s the start of it all. How I see it, the role of marketing is really to accelerate momentum, not to push products. Bring it back to basics: look at the numbers again and identify what works, what doesn’t and why? Really dissect that information to discover the elements that really matter to your consumers. The reality is that the world hasn’t changed that much in the sense that it’s still about selling a great product at a great price and in a convenient, engaging way.
- The way people are consuming content online is shifting, with social media channels increasingly being used over search engines to access information
- Customer segments are becoming increasingly fragmented. You can’t get away with a one-fits-all approach anymore
- To target specific customers it’s crucial to really understand and know your data, and then use it to inform your marketing strategy