Dimitra Arida is Brown Hotels’ VP of Marketing & Sales and based in Athens, Greece. Here, she breaks down how a customer personas-based strategy combined with AI ads to drive rapid growth in brand awareness and conversions for an entirely new market.
It’s no secret the travel industry experienced a shake-up over the last years — and as we opened the doors to 12 of our new hotels in a brand new market — we had to be sure our diverse campaign efforts supported a unified strategy.
Recently, inflation and the cost of living crisis marked a steep rise in domestic travel. Rising temperatures caused people looking for a getaway to cast their eyes further and wider than typical Europe summer holiday preferences. Needless to say, stability in travel demand became harder to predict.
But advanced AI-powered campaigns afforded us the resources to do the heavy lifting in analysing historical data and current trends. Tools such as Performance Max for travel goals allowed us as a hotel business to boost effective reach by selecting and combining property-specific assets in real time, while utilising multiple Google channels with one consolidated campaign.
In extending our new locations into Greece — for the first time, and marking the beginning of our European expansion — these tools have been critical. But first we had to take off in this new market.
Emphasising highly relevant content and tapping into digital, AI-powered campaigns, we could succeed in reaching the right users with the right message to create meaningful connections with potential guests.
Building brand awareness from the ground up with customer personas
Pandemic restrictions were lifted and the travel industry was bouncing back. Seven of our hotels were newly opened, staffed, and ready to go — with five others on the way.
But we faced a major challenge: Brown was virtually unknown in the Greek market. And we needed to find our new audience, fast. Since entering Greece in 2021, as with each Brown Hotels location before them, we carefully selected new opportunities for transformation into distinct stylised boutique experiences.
With this in mind, we knew that by emphasising highly-relevant content and tapping into digital, AI-powered campaigns, we could succeed in reaching the right users with the right message, to create meaningful connections with potential guests.
Our strategy to make this a success was simple. With the help of Relevance Digital Agency, we conducted research into two different sets of potential customers: domestic and international travellers. We then focused on creating customer personas: both for our urban hotels located in Athens, and for our seaside resorts spread around Greece and its islands.
We designed a wide range of copy, images, and video creatives to best fit our customer personas with the distinct appeal of each individual hotel, which we put to the test with Performance Max. With the help of signals relevant to each group and hotel, Performance Max played a pivotal role in visually conveying the essence of our accommodations to our receptive individual audiences. Additionally suggesting audience hints based on our listings, while compiling the specific creative combinations that would resonate most with our perceived customers.
Pairing Greek hospitality with hotel marketing magic
Our strategy allowed us to reach more relevant users for each specific hotel with attractive assets across ad formats to maximise impact, rather than relying on more generic creatives covering all locations.
In this way our Google AI-powered ads highlighted different selling points according to the hotel in question. This is why for the beautiful modernist building of Brown Acropol, the campaign zeroed in on its ‘60s interior design renovation, or for the urban Dave Red Athens, its youthful hotel feeling inspired by the city’s revolutionary heritage. While more family-oriented options highlighted the feeling of spending quality time with one's children and the feel-good vibe of family holidays: such as with the floating ocean playground at our 5-star resort and spa, Isla Brown Corinthia.
By understanding the attraction and amenities of each hotel, Performance Max for travel goals could further determine the audiences we aimed to meet across channels and appear at the appropriate points of a customer's purchase journey.
Taking performance to the max with 5-star AI ads
Without a large source of first-party data, combining our persona-based strategy and Google AI’s ability to understand Search data brought us successful results at speed.
We managed to build brand recognition that is leading us to ongoing growth. The new campaign increased direct bookings in Greece by 19%, reduced our cost-per-booking by 55%, and more than doubled our revenue with a 2.2X increase.
With plans to open a further 28 hotels to total 40 in the country, spanning highly desirable urban and resort locations, we’re just getting started. Here’s what we learned about making the most of Performance Max for travel goals in our marketing — and how it can help your own marketing, too:
- Tap into AI-powered campaigns: let AI do the heavy lifting when it comes to analysing historical data and current trends to meet fluctuating travel demand by leveraging Google Search data.
- Create visually appealing, highly-relevant content across the consumer journey: allow Performance Max for travel goals to streamline your ads to multiple formats to reach customers at every stage of the decision making process.
- Ensure assets are as specific as possible: the more detailed assets your campaign has access to, whether pulled by Performance Max from your website or provided by your design team, the more relevant connection your ads will have with potential customers.