It’s an animal’s world out there for third-party hotel booking and travel related sites with TripAdvisor’s owl-eyed brand logo, Ctrip’s whale and Alibaba-owned platform Fliggy’s rather controversial flying pig. Hotels.com became another online travel agency (OTA) site with an animated animal sidekick when it launched a pug as its new mascot last month.
But, one might ask, why a pug out of all the species in the animal kingdom? Jessica Chuang, regional marketing director, Geater China, Southeast Asia and India, for Hotel.com told Campaign Asia-Pacifc that a dog is known to be very loyal (cue the fickled-minded travellers) and coincidentally, it’s the year of the dog in the lunar calendar next year. “We also think that a (cute) mascot tend to attract female travellers, and women are usually the key travel decision makers for couples and within the family,” said Chuang.
Admitedly, Chuang said a mascot will help the Expedia-owned platform to build a stronger brand equity among travellers. “There are a few players in the hotel booking space, and everyone is fighting for that piece of pie. Although we have very attractive offers, we think a mascot will definitely help us to differentiate our brand,” she added.
Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand are marked for the mascot launch campaign created by Grey Group Singapore. The activation activities include a Hotels.com branded-pug-themed in Bangkok and Checked Inn Taipei which Chuang said sold out within six days of its launch. "We know that we are a very strong brand, but based on our data, we still need to build more brand equity in Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan. Even in Hong Kong, there is strong competition, we need something to protect ourselves. Strategically, we are at the starting point. " said Chuang.
She further explained the activation campaign is data driven, as Taipei is the top travel destination for millennials and a popular city during New Year's Eve, while Bangkok is another popular destination. "Millennials have quite a unique taste and they typically don't like traditional hotels. Both Taipei and Bangkok have a higher number of boutique hotels that we are unable to find in other markets. We have strategically selected the destinations to create a new experience for our users," said Chuang.
Other activation activities for the mascot launch include coverage on paid media platforms such as Singapore-based humour site Sgag and hosted trips for influencers. Chuang said the engagement for the campaigns had a reach of 400,000 collectively on all media platforms as of early December.
Besides the new mascot, Chuang shared that Hotels.com is actively improving its mobile navigation as one in every three bookings is made on mobie for the brand globally. The mobile tracking survey carried out by the platform recently shows a large number of bookings made on mobile were last-minute reservations and 60% of mobile travel bookings from Thailand were last-minute.