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Was Thomas Cooked by great competitor marketing?

We recently saw the sad demise of Thomas Cook – a travel institution that has lasted 178 years, employed 9,000 UK staff and left 150,000 British holidaymakers stranded overseas.

There are many reasons why this amazing brand collapsed; not least a huge debt pile and corporate hubris amongst the leadership over several years. However, I can’t help but think that some brilliant marketing on the part of its arch rival has also played a part.

It is easy to forget that TUI was formed out of the venerable Thomson brand only two years ago. Remarkably in that time it has achieved over 80% brand awareness and is ranked second of forty-one travel companies on BrandIndex. Much of the credit for this achievement must go to a powerful brand marketing strategy, allied to a significant media budget of circa £50m per year.

Given the concerns over declining effectiveness of marcomms (see Murray Calder’s excellent piece from a few weeks ago), I thought it was worth exploring why this campaign has been so successful:

  • Emotional Resonance – It would be easy to get tied up in a practical sell based on price, range or experience. Instead TUI have committed whole-heartedly to a strategy that is based on the emotional benefits of holidays as a way for loved-ones to reconnect. As the dad of an almost-teen, the spot resonated immediately, and the narrative of re-engagement over the course of the ad engages and holds the attention.
  • Music and Dance– Much has been written about the power of music in advertising, and the choice of track (Someday by The Strokes) is catchy, distinctive and perfectly on-brand. The power of the music is amplified through the choreography and is committed to completely, playing throughout the spot.
  • Casting and Script – It is not easy to tell an emotionally engaging story in 30 seconds and without any dialogue. That it has been achieved owes much to a very tight but never forced script, and fantastic casting. Personally I also think the choice of a single parent and child is inspired. It amplifies the emotional engagement and is distinctive in an advertising landscape that normally presents a two-parent family as the norm.
  • Commitment – Tui’s communication strategy is very simple – the positive emotional power of time with loved ones, allied to a simple brand strap-line. What is unusual is that both in the ads themselves and in their overall marketing mix, they have maintained a laser focus on communicating these two elements, without being distracted by tactical considerations.

If you’re considering how to promote your brand, consider how you can align it to a powerful emotional truth, and how you can amplify this through appropriate music. Perhaps most importantly, when you decide on a strategy, commit to it wholeheartedly and without reservation.

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