Advertising has somehow become a dirty word in our modern times. Mass market brands and overreaching tech companies have used up most of the goodwill among consumers to the point where the majority of people out there would probably say that they “hate” any form of advertising.

The rise of privacy regulations and ad-blockers can attest to that  trend. But the art of advertising and the skillset associated with it, are nonetheless more important than ever nowadays, particularly in luxury travel and hospitality when it comes to reaching affluent travelers online. I would even go as far as to say that the whole future of the industry is reliant on the adoption of smart, sophisticated digital advertising approaches that work.


Why does most digital advertising fail?


People approach advertising usually in the wrong way which in most cases leads to lackluster results. The three most commonly used, doom-to-fail type approaches are:


1) Short-term direct to consumer type messaging for luxury products or services
(you need to warm them up first)

2) Unfocused, unmeasured brand marketing ads that have a weak positioning and no tangible personas behind it (you are talking to everyone)

3) No advertising at all or just a low – budget PPC approach due to lack of stakeholder buy-in from the management (you barely even tried)


If you recognize yourself among these three approaches than congratulations, you still have time to change what you are doing right now and adopt an advertising approach that ACTUALLY works in luxury travel and hospitality for your brand.

full funnel advertising

What is full funnel advertising?


Full funnel or lifecycle advertising is an approach where you seed the idea of a luxury brand experience in the mind of the affluent consumer first at the beginning of his buying journey through awareness building tactics, then solidify it by driving him to your website through consideration focused traffic campaigns, and finally get his conversion (direct booking, qualified lead etc.) with a call-to-action focused sales campaign. This approach requires the most resources, time and budget when it comes to advertising but is usually the only one that actually works over time.


Why do you need a whole funnel?


In luxury hospitality and travel affluent customers need time to get to know you. Time to learn about you and your company, time to learn which of your offerings is right for them and enough time to develop a lot of trust with your brand and team to be able to comfortable move forward. Short term, low cost approaches can never fulfill that need for education, connection and communication that most high-net-worth individuals have. There is just too many charlatans and short-term oriented providers out there that make them afraid of potential bad travel experiences. That is why you always need to view the booking or buying process in luxury travel and hospitality as a long-term, multi-touch journey that you need to guide appropriately.

The fear of not getting proper luxury service and having a lack-luster travel experience is just too great to react to any unknown brand that just shows up and displays a “book now” type ad one time to get the sale. Building a brand takes time, building a booking or sales pipeline needs time and consistent effort across the whole funnel in terms of targeted, strategic advertising is what can bridge that gap and produce results if you allow for that time period to pass.


full funnel advertising

How to design a luxury advertising funnel


Now that we know why we need full funnel advertising and how it relates to digital luxury travel and hospitality buyer journeys, it is time to break down the structure of a sophisticated digital advertising funnel in detail. The full funnel model has three stages:


Top of the funnel (Awareness)


First of all you need proper personas based on data, luxury marketing best practice, customer research and psychology. Without good profiles and a clear brand definition you will never be able to flesh out your campaigns in the right way, starting with awareness at the top. The best type of awareness campaigns aim to educate and enchant affluent travelers with unique storytelling, video and a distinct artistic style that communicates luxury vales, heritage, humanity and emotions. KPIs you should aim here for are appropriate cost-per-mille (cheap is not always good), cost-per-view or downloads, frequency, reach and total number of impressions. CTAs should focus around terminology like “learn more”, “watch this video”, “explore…”, “become part of…” and similar inviting phrases.


Middle of the funnel (Consideration)


The middle of the funnel is all about consideration. Consideration ultimately means spending more time with your brand and your company after a positive initial impression is made in the awareness phase. This usually manifests in the form of clicks to your website, follows on your social media channels, content downloads that inform your customers and opt-ins for your email list to learn more over time. Essentially anything that allows you as a luxury brand to further strengthen your value propositions in the mind of the affluent traveler. KPIs that make sense at this stage are cost-per-click, clickthrough rate, time on page, bounce rate, amount of opt-ins and new social media followers. CTAs should center around things like “click here…”, “visit the website”, “subscribe”, “follow us on..” and “sign up for…” amongst other things.


full funnel advertising

Bottom of the funnel (Booking)


If you have done good work with your awareness and consideration campaigns than you can finally harvest the fruits of your labor at the bottom of the funnel. Now you can do what most ill-informed marketers do from the beginning, talk about offers, packages, pricing and closing the deal. You can be as commercial as you like here, but you still should maintain your luxury position and not devalue yourself by becoming vulgar or pushy. Well-timed and executed purchase or conversion campaigns will often use retargeting features of advertising platforms to reach people who have previously engaged with your brand.

Another option is to target profiles that you know are far along their booking journey from other data points (sales history or finance data, loyalty programs, engagement data from your email, social channels or CDP and so on). KPIs that make sense here are conversions, conversion rate, cost-per-conversion, cost-per-lead, cost-per-acquisition, return-on-advertising-spend (calculated for the whole funnel), sales, revenue, profitability and return on investment (again calculated across the whole funnel). CTAs here are transactional in nature with common phrases like “book now”, “request a quote”, “talk to an advisor”, “book a meeting”, “submit an inquiry” and “reserve now”.


The importance of creative, content and analytics


Throughout this whole process, making sure that your creative is on point is crucial to the success of any kind of luxury advertising campaign. Starting with the more lavish and storytelling focused brand marketing creatives at the top of the funnel and then moving towards the more USP driven, click provoking consideration ones you always need to maintain strong art direction if you want to end up with successful commercially oriented booking ads at the end. Great creative is probably the most important success factor for each stage of the funnel apart from targeting, personas and channel mixes.  Producing great creative requires creativity, a good eye for (fine) art direction and branding know-how.

Organizing great photo and video shoots, covering multiple angles of your property, destination or travel experience and your respective team, booking models and photography talent if necessary and so forth is a lot of work. The resources and effort required to do this in luxury travel should not be underestimated due to high quality standard in terms of aesthetics that affluent travelers expect from you. While you can get away with stock footage based creatives in some cases, you should still always aim for a mix of static, animated and video creatives in your production plan if you can.


full funnel advertising


If realistic personas, accurate targeting, planning, timing, channel selection and creative production are the number one priority in full-funnel luxury advertising, then having a solid content experience once somebody clicks on an ad to your website is the second most important one. Having a fast loading, mobile optimized web or app experience that is optimized in terms of UX/UI and still ticks all the right boxes in terms of copywriting, luxury marketing best practice and branding is crucial to not loose the traction and interest you are building at each stage, especially if you want to capitalize on all that time investment from your affluent customer.

Recommended content types are long or short-form landing pages that tell a brand story (with video ideally) for the top of the funnel. F&B, MICE, suite, amnesties or destination focused landing pages with opt-in or follow options and a lot of info about products, services and USPs for the middle of the funnel and last but not least booking forms, product pages, contact forms and pages with live-chat options for the grand finale.

The final puzzle part of full-funnel advertising for luxury travel and hospitality is obviously measurement. Analytics allow you to track where your traffic is coming from, how channels and creatives are performing at each stage and what users are doing on your website (where they are clicking, where they get stuck etc.). Spending time and energy to track all the KPIs we listed in this article in some form of dynamic dashboard or report is highly recommended. Only by analyzing your funnel or lifecycle over time can you as a marketer gain useful insights and make incremental improvements to your advertising strategy that result in more performance over time.

If all of that seems like magic to you and if you need a reliable advertising or media buying partner to empower your digital advertising then reach out to us, advertising is our specialty after all.

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