by Allison Banko
Bonvoy Adventure Travel has guided its clients through heart-pumping activities ranging from cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa to climbing up the icy Colorado mountainsides. The company provides user-friendly adventure trips to people 21 years old and older while its experienced crew heads its personally-scouted itineraries. But adventure trips aside, the company’s marketing tactics have trudged through plenty of terrain.
"I've experimented with what seems like a million different strategies," said Sean Jackson, Managing Partner, Bonvoy Adventure Travel. "I’ve done a little bit of TV, a lot of online pay-per-click advertising, expo and event sponsorships — so this whole gamut of all the different ways you can advertise."
As a whole, the travel industry has experienced popular promotions via deal-of-the-day outlets, such as Groupon, Living Social. While Bonvoy has utilized such services, the presence of inevitable coupons and discounts has also created some speed bumps when it comes to the consumer mindset.
"There are always promotions going on," Jackson explained. "There are always coupons, there are always discounts, and people are waiting around for those. It feels like, in this day in age, people rarely expect to actually pay full price for anything."
This sparked an idea for Bonvoy: Rather than cranking out coupon codes or offering deals that expire, the company would provide its consumers with full-time access to discounts, courtesy of an ongoing flex pricing plan
Bonvoy would explain its pricing model to clients, outlining hard costs and all that's involved with organizing adventure trips. The company would then present the asking price. From there, the clients can price their own trips between the asking price and hard costs.
In other words, customers name their own discounts.
"At any moment in time, they have the ability to go out there, look at a trip and know they can get a discount, regardless of when they're planning it," Jackson said. "More than anything, it cuts out the middle man that's so prevalent now in the consumer scene."
With a new flex pricing plan, Bonvoy needed a way to effectively market it to its 25- to 35-year-old working professional audience. However, one of the primary problems travel companies face today is cutting through the inbox and social media noise to connect with its target audience members.
Bonvoy is headquartered in the hustle and bustle of New York City, positioning the company on a stage suited for interacting with a mass of potential customers offline.
Though previous marketing efforts included TV and online pay-per-click ads, Bonvoy opted to help market its flex pricing plan via a one-day live event, promoted with the hashtag, #BonvoyTakesOver.
Step #1. Brainstorm an event that coincides with the name-your-own-price concept
Bonvoy had pinned down the idea of hosting a live event, but the crew still had to decide what type of event would be the right fit. The campaign was established to market the flex pricing plan, so Jackson said the main objective was that the event paralleled that name-your-own-price idea.
The team also wanted to ensure the event's environment would be conducive to getting Jackson and the Bonvoy team interacting with customers. They then thought about the one thing that brings people together: food.
A food truck event hit all of Bonvoy's objectives.
"We started hammering out and spit-balling some ideas and we thought that the food truck takeover would be a relatively easy, simple, exploratory event," Jackson explained.
With that, Bonvoy planned to "take over" or rent the Gorilla Cheese NYC mobile food truck, known around the Big Apple for its delectable varieties of grilled cheeses and other specialty sandwiches. That day, customers could name their own price for lunch.
Step #2. Specify goals and relative messaging to determine location
Bonvoy had its wheels, but it needed the perfect place to park.
Promoting flex pricing was at the forefront of the #BonvoyTakesOver campaign, but so was introducing a target audience — that 25- to 35-year-old working professionals group — to the company. That demographics’ pulse beats in New York City's Midtown.
Because of this, Bonvoy scheduled to hold the event during the lunch hours of 11:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. in the Midtown area of the city. The company planned to get in front of customers by handing out promotional items for flex pricing. Most importantly, Jackson and his team would be interacting with those in line to give potential customers a feel for the attitude of the company — one of its biggest selling points.
Showing potential customers how the Bonvoy team lives and breathes the lifestyle they promote is one of the company's biggest advantages to in-person marketing.
Take Jackson, who is an avid outdoorsman, runner and cyclist. He even trekked 150 miles across China’s Gobi Desert with just a backpack for one of the toughest adventure races in the world.
Step #3. Publicize event through influential food bloggers
There were three weeks from the moment the #BonvoyTakesOver food truck event was hatched until its go-time: Oct. 10, 2013.
With a food truck, location and time in place, the team was next tasked with promoting the event. Bonvoy publicized the event on its website
, through the distribution of promotional materials, and the utilization of the hashtag on social media.
However, Bonvoy gained one of its largest touch points through New York City food blogs and websites. The team compiled a list of food blogs and outlets to reach out to, mainly those that covered food, food deals or targeted that 25- to 35-year-old set. The team pitched the event via traditional PR outreach methods including emails and phone calls. These outlets included:
- Guest of a Guest
- The Skint
- Roaming Hunger
Bonvoy's event details were featured on NYC food/deal-related sites to plant the seed for original interest in the promotion with hopes of gaining additional traction organically once the event kicked off.
Step #4. Set up camp and "take over"
Beginning the morning of October 10, Bonvoy was equipped for the takeover. The truck's full menu
of specialty sandwiches was available for pricing at the helm of the customers, whether it was the triple cream brie with prosciutto di parma and strawberry preserves nestled between French bread or a gooey Philly cheese steak melt.
Customers soon lined up
, ready to dish out their own prices for the day’s lunch. While they waited for their specialty sandwiches, Jackson and other reps worked the line, explaining the pricing concept for lunch, the flex pricing plan and the Bonvoy brand. Jackson said it was fun seeing how surprised customers were to have the opportunity to pay whatever they wanted for lunch — even if that was $0.
The team also passed out business cards printed with the Bonvoy website that consumers would take back with them. The event grew organically throughout the day via pictures and posts on social media, texts to friends or through word-of-mouth to co-workers.
Giving customers the freedom to price things themselves tends to carry the preconceived notion that they'll simply make everything free, but Jackson said it was interesting to see most people paid for about an average of 60% of the normal cost for their food.
"People know that the products and the services they buy cost money to provide to you," he said. "If you have a quality product or service out there, they will see the value and it and be willing to pay for that."
After taking the #BonvoyTakesOver campaign offline in promotion of the flex pricing plan, the team saw impressive results online.
Whether it was people clicking through trips on the Bonvoy site and requesting itineraries or signing up for mailing lists or sharing on social media, the one-day event produced the following results compared to the same time the previous week:
- 775% increase in direct traffic to the website
- Social media referrals to Bonvoy's website up 120%
- 800% increase in Facebook reach
- Reached 24,000 Twitter accounts, making 34,000 impressions
- Searches for Bonvoy or Bonvoy-related keywords up 1,225%
By thinking outside of the box, and the constraints of a screen, Bonvoy was able to effectively target an audience in an engaging, delicious way.
"We want to do something different that nobody else is doing and see if we can make that work," Jackson said. "You've got to try new things."
"You've got to put yourself out there — that's really what it's all about,” he concluded.
- Flex pricing
- Food truck
- Line at the event
SourcesBonvoy Adventure Travel Blue Fountain Media
— Bonvoy's digital marketing agency in New York City
Related ResourcesGorilla Cheese NYC Inbound Marketing: 15 tactics to help you earn attention organicallyMarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013 Wrap-Up: Top 7 lead capture, qualification and nurturing takeawaysSocial Media: 4 simple steps to calculate social media ROI