Thursday, July 12, 2012

Can User-Generated Content Transform Expedia?


According to Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing at Expedia, the company’s new campaign, which carries the tagline ‘Find Yours’, "focuses on how they strive to create an experience that makes each and every trip more relevant, rewarding, and transformational.”  Clearly they read the happiness studies.

But where does user-generated content fit in?  Walia says they are bringing humanity and emotion back to traveling.  Hmm.  It seems to me that there’s a bit too much emotion on plane flights these days.

In addition to mini-documentaries and travel-themed films which will be posted on their website, the effort includes a Twitter photo contest that seeks to get participants to post photos based on key words such as “innocence” and “nirvana.”  On Pinterest consumers are invited to create a travel photo board.  Winners of the contests will of course be treated to 4-day trips, with $10,000 going to the winning film. (Irwin, 2012)

So what do you think?  Will you play the games and take a shot at a free vacation?  More importantly will you book your next trip with Expedia?



Irwin, T. (2012, July 10)  Expedia Campaign Features Real Experiences.  mediapost.com.  Retrieved July 11, 2012, from
http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/178456/expedia-campaign-features-real-experiences.html?edition=48844

11 comments:

  1. Creating a user generated content campaign or platform must be handled with care. On one hand, the concept can build brand awareness and yield incredible success. Facebook is a perfect example of a successful user generated platform. At the same time, the idea can backfire. McDonalds created a campaign based on the concept of people posting their own stories about McDonalds. The hashtag #McDstories was used to ignite the campaign. While the campaign was supposed to be promotional, but it backfired and people posted their stories of the restaurant using pig meat from gestation, people getting sick from their food, and other horror stories. The concept of bringing emotion to traveling is a great idea. If it is handled successfully, it will create a sense of community at Expedia, extending beyond merely logging on to purchase travel tickets. Then again, if it is not engaging enough, it is a waste of time and money. Additionally, the campaign could quickly transform from Find Yours to Up Yours. Will the concept encourage me participate in the contest and book my trip through the site? Probably not. My initial thought it that they are handling the concept with the wrong execution. Actually, after just reading the details of the campaign, it is DEFINITELY not being handled properly. Filmmakers are not the audience and having filmmakers create short documentaries is not going to engage the audience. I thought initially the campaign would have users upload their OWN experience. Too long. Too complex. Too time consuming.

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  2. This sort of social approach will take a lot of monitoring manpower from Expedia. Photos will have to be reviewed and carefully selected before allowing the user-generated content to be posted to the site.

    I personally feel that there can be value added by learning more from another user than the hotel itself. I recently saw that many hotels actually post FAKE photos of their own resorts to make them look more appealing (look at the slideshow here: http://www.oyster.com/hotels/photo-fakeouts/jamaica-sexy-lady/. I would be more likely to purchase a trip based on a gorgeous user-submitted photo than one that was taken by a professional photographer, due to the increased credibility and lack of commercial bias.

    The Pinterest idea is interesting, but they may have more success with the up-and-coming site www.thefancy.com. Very similar to Pinterest, however everything on the site is supposedly purchasable. Hotels are already taking advantage of this opportunity by posting incredible photos of their surrounding landscape...I've been scrolling through a page on the site, been totally taken aback by some scenery, and then realize after the fact that I could actually click to book a night (you may have to sign up to check this out, but here's a try anyways: http://www.thefancy.com/things/137595699595317515/North-Island-Resort-%40-Seychelles).

    I'm not saying that the 'Find Yours' campaign will dramatically alter Expedia's course, but in an industry that is reliant upon imagery (just check out http://www.jetsetter.com/), additional content never hurts. Plus, the contest will generate more interest around the brand itself, and I'm sure will get people talking in social circles on the web. Expect to see many, "PLEASE VOTE ON MY PHOTO SO I CAN WIN A FREE TRIP!!!" Facebook statuses in the coming months.

    When it comes down to it, people love having their photos adored online.

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  3. I completely agree with Paul's last comment about being too complex and too time consuming. As I started to read the article I was on-board with the idea of sharing your experiences. As we all know from this class, experiences provide longer positive sentiment than material objects. However, the logistics of the campaign (post on Pinterest, finding keywords embodied) does not seem like anything I want to do. I'm on vacation and the purpose is to get away from assignments! Rather had the contest submission been as simple as posting a regular photo/video from my trip, then I would most likely submit.

    I do think Expedia is on the right track, just too far down.

    -Karan

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  4. I saw the Expedia "Find Yours" commercial this weekend and it did evoke a warm and fuzzy feeling for travelers. I thought the commercial was appealing, but it didn't make me want to book with them especially after I heard that Orbitz showcases the more expensive options for Mac users:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-18595347

    Even though Orbitz is not Expedia, they do seem like one and the same. It would have been more successful (for me) if Expedia showed how it was a better option compared to orbitz and travelocity.

    At the end of the day, I don't think that the user generated content will woo customers. It comes down to price.

    Jee Young

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  5. I believe user generated content has the potential to transform Expedia and make the site more interactive, as well as attract a younger clientele.

    When looking on travel sites, such as Expedia, customers often want two things: The best prices, and lots of information about where they will be going and staying (especially if they’ve never been there before). User generated content will essentially give “unfiltered” (at least by the user, because Expedia will definitely be filtering the content) testimonials about different locations. Viewers will have an emotional connection with these testimonials. (People trust testimonials more than regular ads)

    If the happiness studies are correct, people are the happiest when enjoying experiences… this might translate over the video and pictures, thus inspiring viewers not only to travel, but also to venture to locations that they previously would never have thought to go; because they saw how much fun this new location could be.

    People like to upload content showcasing: where they are, what they’re doing, what they’re eating, and how much fun they’re having while doing all of the above. Expedia is trying to tap into this frenzy and attract a younger crowd.

    A lot will depend on how user friendly Expedia makes the process of uploading content. If you have ever been on any travel sight, you already know that navigating the site requires a certain amount of computer savvy. If Expedia makes uploading content just as easy as sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., users shouldn’t have a problem uploading content.

    With that being said… I will not play the games or take a shot at a free vacation. I absolutely deplore telling the world where I am, when I am there, or who I am with. It’s my personal preference not to take part in things of that nature.

    I am admittedly more inclined to log into Expedia for my next trip and watch a video, or two, the next time I want to travel. Just because I don’t like posting content doesn’t mean I can’t watch others do it!


    Rhon

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  6. Interesting travel story, however, with all of the reasons why travel plans get touched (late arrivals, departures, cancel, over-booking) I'll stay with the major carriers AND I'll even book a vacation package with their travel desk. Expedia never enters the thought process.

    Now, for their program...I do see GenY-ers jumping on board and submitting their pictures. Should they go public with some of these pictures is a different story.

    I like what they are attempting but the audience is rather limited in my opinion.

    Regards,

    Kevin

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  7. As an employee of a web site that is almost solely run on user generated content, I think this is not a smart move for a company like Expedia. It takes a huge amount of work on their end to monitor and find "worthy" content. I think cheapens the website as a whole, full of personal picture and home movies. Eh creepy. However, I do think the Pintrest Board is a brilliant idea, let Pintrest do what they do best and Expedia do what they do best. Overall, I don't think this is going to be super successful.

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  8. Expedia's campaign is based on the insight that consumers ages 13-28 like sharing their experiences online for the public to see/hear/comment on. What they are doing, where they are, who they're with, what they're eating, what they bought... the list goes on. I think that the photo contest is a fun idea, and I also like the fact that they are building a tool to help travelers bring their stories to life via video, by integrating their travel photos, currently posted on Facebook, into a personalized, digital storytelling video. It seems like a no-brainer - not only is the campaign relatively low in cost, but the users will be doing all the work by creating AND sharing content!
    However, I also have some negatives to point out. Although this campaign may encourage people to travel and to find their “nirvana” or “innocence” or whatever they desire, but who says they will want to do so through Expedia? “Where you book matters” implied that Expedia should be the choice of website for travel planning. This campaign advertises traveling in general, but doesn’t say that booking through Expedia will make it any better/easier/cheaper. One thing it may do is increase traffic to their site and awareness in general. But like the others said, this campaign alone won’t persuade me to book through Expedia.

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  9. Based on Expedia’s site, the campaign will use 100% of user generated content, which I would assume they would have to have the man power to review and maintain the website for content. On the other hand, they are saving money by having users essential market for them. Expedia is trying to capture that bliss and excitement in an effort to recruit more members, and as a frequent traveler, I can relate to that - except I would focus on the destination not the actual travel journey.

    As for me, I would be open to enter the contest and sharing my travel experiences at a chance of a free trip. It’s a good concept to see first hand perspective of the traveler; however that can also backfire on them – especially with the demands travel companies impose these days.
    I have booked with Expedia in the past and am open to booking with them again.

    Karina

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  10. When it comes to traveling I love it and live for it. I will not go out of my way to enter a competition for a free vacation because usually those trips you are limited to what your travel experience will be like. When I go on to travel adventure I am in control and the sky is the limit. I will make sure that my travel experience is superior better than what mere contest winning can do for me.

    The service and happiness is being drain from the travel industry especially in the airline industry. The economic downturn has made the airline charge for everything. You have to pay for happiness now? REALLY ??? They charge you for luggage, drinks, food, and soon ... air on the plane.The only emotions on the flight are usually negative ones mainly due to the experience of the flight and the cost.

    Expeida is going to have a hard time promising the actions of the airline and the other entities responsible for your trip experience. Their reach and payroll only go so far and the same goes for this campaign .

    ~Christopher Larca

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  11. Nowadays so many companies like Expedia are embracing new social media platforms like Pinterest and Twitter (two major social sites) where many users like sharing content and mentioning brands and companies they support and follow. However, not sure if this new contest they're promoting is for me, but people who like sharing their vacation photos publicly," I say go for it!"
    -Altovise

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