Marketing is broken, at least marketing as we know it. A non-marketeer dredges up the ugly and the beautiful in the marketing world.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

First Offender: Travelocity

Travelocity is the first offender under the microscope. They've a bit of a risk on the "roaming gnome" campaign - it's certainly an oddity in the downright antiquated travel industry. I've got a beef with a current ad of theirs, and with their strategy.

The current ad is a radio spot. The announcer states that many people believe that you pay more when booking hotel and travel together. The gnome responds that they're wrong, that Travelocity saves money when you book them together in most cases. This is the message they WANT you to get.

Then, the announcer says that many people believe that jellyfish are harmful. The gnome says that's also false, that they're perfectly cuddly. And proceeds to yell 'Ouch!' in pain, presumably from cuddling a jellyfish.

So they're trying to deconstruct a common belief in the travel industry, and the moment they have you thinking about that, they proceed to prove the gnome a liar by challenging a commonly known truth about jellyfish. So can I save money booking travel and hotel together, or not? I'm sure they were thinking they'd add whimsical gnome humor to the ad, but it's straight up dumb to have your spokesperson prove themselves unreliable 10 seconds after they act like an authoritative voice selling the feature you're trying to market. You just undermined your message - good job.

Now on to the campaign. I don't have a problem with the idea as a whole. Starting with the guerrilla, 'Where's my gnome?' campaign, they've built a pretty decent association with Travelocity and this gnome in just over a year. When I see or hear the gnome, I ignore him less than other ads. There's something peculiarly amusing about garden gnomes - I can't explain it, and I'm not along. In the end, I hear the word Travelocity as I listen to the gnome, and they pop into my mind when I'm on the web and think about booking travel. So far, so good.

But they're afraid of the gnome. They started bold, and then chickened out. At launch, flyers were handed out in NYC with a phone number and web site asking to help someone find their gnome. But like an old company, their guerilla web site fed data from a submitted form into a consumer database. Guess they've never heard of permission marketing. They are an old company. Travelocity pretends to be new, but their parent company, Sabre Holdings, is a Fortune 500, and has been in the game since the 60's. The gnome is their 'spokesperson', but gets buried in the bottom left corner of their web site, pimping their sale fares.

They know that if they're really effective, some people will become emotionally attached to the gnome. I know, because he has his own web store, where you can buy gnomes and gnome merchandise, but the link is ",,TRAVELOCITY%7C1751
%7Cmkt_main,00.html", and can only be reached by clicking the microscopic "About Travelocity" link at the bottom of their home page, and THEN clicking on the gnome. Hardly a starring role. Meanwhile, they still own their original site,, but there's no content there. They own, but it redirects to Why not have point to the gnome store? Why not post all the ads you've paid big money to develop on that site? Why not pay a few bucks to continue posting photos of the places the gnome has traveled? If people WANT to connect to your ad campaign, let them. But like I said, the gnome scares them. They've put too much money into the campaign to ditch it yet, and they have McKinney + Silver on retainer. So instead they sit on the fence, afraid to even leverage assets they already own to promote themselves.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get a life!

2:55 PM


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