Take it From Our Marketing Pro: Trends and Insights from Monya Mandich

The following interview with Expedia Group Media Solutions’ Global Vice President of Marketing, Monya Mandich, originally appeared in the Kentucky Travel Industry Association’s (KTIA) Journal of Travel & Tourism in December 2019. Below is a condensed version. 

Can you explain how Expedia Group Media Solutions came to be and how it helps partners create successful marketing strategies?

If you look at our history and how we came to be, it really boils down to one key thing: helping travel marketers get in front of the right audience for their individual objectives. Listening to and working with travel partners from our earliest days, it was clear that there was a need and opportunity to put our position and reach as both a publisher and e-commerce platform to work for them.
I’m proud of the team we’ve grown into – a passionate group who collaborate with advertisers to navigate this complex landscape we live in while also continually pushing the envelope when it comes to creating new and exciting ways to engage with travelers.

Expedia Group Media Solutions conducts a large amount of research, sharing insights with readers and partners. Why do you think research plays such an important role in the travel industry? Further, why is it so important for research to fuel marketing strategies?

There are many benefits to conducting custom research. We live and operate in a complex landscape, so having this research helps our marketing partners better understand the nuances of how people travel, uncovering areas of opportunity to reach them.

Custom research also enhances what we learn from our own data, helping keep our advertising partners at the forefront of the latest trends impacting how people engage with travel brands.

What do you view as the fundamental pieces of a successful marketing strategy, regardless of budget? For example, is social planning as important as paid placements, or should those paid placements include social?

Each individual campaign will leverage different strategies and tactics to achieve its goals, however the fundamental layer across successful marketing strategies is data. In addition to looking at your own data, which every brand has, find a partner that can provide reliable, real-time data that can inform action.
Working with our advertising partners, we tap into our large audience of travel intenders, meaning people who are telling us every day things like what they are interested and where they are within the journey, along with many other factors. When packaged up, this intender data is a very powerful tool, laying the foundation for planning and developing impactful strategies that drive results.

Can you reflect on the biggest digital marketing trends you’ve seen in 2019? What do you and your team expect to see in 2020?

Data-driven creativity remains a big theme in digital marketing as travel brands are using data to not only report on campaign performance, but to also create more personalized online experiences relevant to their target audience.

Big, emerging technologies – AI, machine learning, voice, VR/AR – will continue to carry the ‘wow’ factor. Brands are experimenting with how to incorporate these technologies to engage with and excite consumers in different ways. Publishers and marketing platforms are also getting smarter about creating opportunities for advertisers who may not have big budgets. By harnessing combined goals, strategies and budgets, advertisers can collectively reach travelers in new and creative ways.

One way we do this is through Co-Op Campaigns, which combine advertising partners’ purchasing power to create even bigger impact.

How can destinations, hoteliers and attractions alike do a better job of attracting potential travelers through digital? What are the biggest mistakes you see repeated and how would you address?

Finding, attracting and converting travelers in meaningful ways can be a complex task. Here are a few different considerations for travel providers looking to break through a noisy marketplace to reach and attract travelers.

● What’s your objective? Who are your stakeholders? Before embarking on any digital marketing campaign, make sure you really know how to answer both questions. Is the objective awareness, pure conversion or something in between?

● Once your objectives are clear, identify the platforms and partners that have both the solutions and the audiences to support those objectives.

● Having access to the right data is important. To drive meaningful results that tie back to campaign goals, the partners you work with should have the data to match your campaigns with the right audience and at the right time. For example, we capture the full booking path for a customer – from inspiration to conversion – providing a unique opportunity, through our first-party data, for our travel partners to talk to the customers they want to, wherever they fall within the journey.

● Make sure you have reporting that aligns to your campaign KPIs and objectives. This will help you identify if your campaign is working and where you may need to adjust to ensure you meet your goals.

The struggle of reporting ROI for marketing and media is a challenge many face. There is an influx of data and not much direction on what actually moves the needle and what doesn’t. What is your best advice for delivering a thorough report that is easy to digest and delivers the value we hope to communicate?

Demonstrating ROI: the million-dollar question and no doubt what keeps marketers up at night. Travel marketers face more pressure than ever to demonstrate quantifiable results from their campaigns.

We work closely with our travel partners to ensure they are best equipped to demonstrate the effectiveness of their marketing programs and dollars. Seeing which advertising techniques work, and which don’t, can help open the door to greater creativity and potential in future campaigns.

What is the best personal trip you’ve taken and why?

It’s always hard to pick a favorite trip, as the wonderful thing about traveling is that every experience is unique and offers something different, so pinpointing just one trip seems unfair. But, if I must choose, my trip to Croatia for my wedding was among the most memorable as it brought together my friends in the U.S. with my family in Croatia, which is where my father is from. I enjoyed playing tour guide and showcasing the beauty of the country to my guests who may have otherwise never traveled there.

Learn more about how we help brands connect with audiences throughout every stage of the travel shopping journey.