FEMALE CONSUMERS DOMINATE TRAVEL BUSINESS PURCHASING

But Many Service Marketers Look Past Them and Their Revenue-Boosting Potential

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It's not just Willie Nelson. It's you and me and lots of others. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates American business travelers take 405 million business trips a year. I spent about 80 nights in hotels last year and racked up enough frequent flyer miles to earn some pretty nice privileges -- that is, if there still were any these perks left (sigh).
More than 75% of all travel-related purchasing decisions are made by women.

Women business travelers
Forty-three percent of business travelers are women, and women make more than 75% of all travel decisions (for their families, their businesses and themselves). For example, destination celebrations are a big travel trend. Typically, women are the ones who make the arrangements for groups of family and friends to commemorate milestones like weddings, "big" birthdays and major anniversaries on cruises, tours, and exotic locales.

Savvy hotel chains are taking note of this and offering amenities, safety features and getaway packages with women in mind. Kimpton (Women in Touch) and Wyndham (Women on Their Way) hotels recognized this need early on and others are following suit. The number of women-only travel companies has increased 230% in the past six years.

Marketing saavy lags
Advertising and marketing campaigns aren't catching up as quickly. Some are starting to address the things that make women sit up and take notice; most are not and thereby missing a major revenue-boosting opportunity.

Another trend is the "girlfriends getaway." Whether they're off to the city for shopping and culture, relaxing at a resort or on the golf course, women revel in the fun, frivolity and freedom from daily chores. Nearly half of the respondents to a recent poll reported that they've taken an all-female trip in the past three years and it seems that those who haven't gone yet are jealous -- 88% of those surveyed said they'd love to go on a ladies-only trip. Talk about "You go, girl!"

Travel-related ads
We're going to look at a trio of travel-related ads, but before I get into specifics, I'd like to make a couple of general observations. People and stories are the most direct way to seize a woman's attention, yet less than a quarter of the travel ads in my (admittedly unscientific) survey included people. More often than not, the ads that did show some humanity showcased a single traveler blissfully soaking in the scenery or the spa. Not to say that women don't enjoy a quiet moment alone -- of course they do -- but if you ask a woman to recall the moments memories are made of, most of the time she'll talk about whom she was with and the good times they shared together. The advertiser who shows her enjoying time with friends and family is far more likely to catch her eye and hold her attention.

ADS BAD, BETTER AND BEST

Bad -- Let's start with this Bellagio ad. Headlines like "It's Not Pretentious if You've Earned It.


Bellagio ad
Embrace Extravagance" -- resonate with men, who like to see themselves at the top of a hierarchical pyramid. And I'm sure the art director thought the spacious black layout conveyed a feeling of elegance and luxury. The issue is that while men are into exclusivity and elite status, that message is less likely to resonate with women, who feel more comfortable within a peer group than atop a pyramid. Extravagance? Yes! Indulgence? Bring it on! But the "you've earned it" positioning smacks of snobbery and, ironically, is the essence of pretentiousness. The sad thing is I absolutely adore the Bellagio -- the fountains, gardens, art collection and restaurants excite and delight me. But this ad is from a dark galaxy far, far away from that reality. What a waste.

Better -- This Hyatt ad is typical of a lot of travel ads. It focuses on the destination, in this case a


Hyatt ad
serene beach at sunset, and a simple, natural promise -- fresh fish. The problem with beaches is that most of them are lovely, and "serenity" can be kind of an abstract concept when you can't see the people enjoying it. Clearly "enjoyment" is not part of this service philosophy. And the problem with the ad is it's fairly generic and unengaging. Why not demonstrate how that legendary Hyatt service is going to help a woman enjoy her vacation because someone else will take charge of the arrangements. Or tap into women's greater sensory response by capturing a melt-in-your-mouth experience so rare and different from everyday dining. Never forget to keep the focus on the prospect, not the product. The fish in the foreground means that this Hyatt ad still has room for improvement.

Best -- The week's best of the bunch is a Four Seasons ad that is clearly seeking to build its weekend


Four Seasons ad
business by attracting leisure travelers. The visual is people powered -- you can feel the connection between father and son. The copy tells a story. Where's Mom? She's at the spa. Who made it possible? The Four Seasons. By providing snacks, entertainment and a pint-size pool robe they made it possible for her to enjoy her afternoon, too. To twist a phrase, this savvy marketer understands that mama ain't happy unless everyone else is happy first. By highlighting the activities that the rest of the family will enjoy, the Four Seasons is going to win her business, her loyalty and her referrals. Room for improvement: The message is in the mouse-type body copy, not up in the headline where it belongs.

I'd like to know what you're thinking. Whether you agree, disagree or have an example of an ad you think speaks to women in their own language, drop me a line at Marti.AdAge@TrendSight.com

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Martha Barletta is the author of the 2002 book Marketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach and Increase Your Share of the Largest Market Segment and president-CEO of the TrendSight Group, a Chicago-based consultancy specializing in marketing to women.

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