4 lessons from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel campaign

Lonely Planet’s 2018 Best in Travel landing page

I recently had the pleasure of attending one of CIM London’s evening sessions — a look at cross-platform marketing with Laura Lindsay, Lonely Planet’s Director of Global Communications.

Using Lonely Planet’s flagship campaign Best in Travel as an example, Laura outlined some of the key ways in which the travel content giant ensures cross-platform marketing success. Here’s a rundown of the four key takeaways from Laura’s session.

1. Choice is key

Laura emphasised that Lonely Planet is a content-first business — whether travellers are looking for travel inspiration, or a detailed itinerary for an upcoming trip, Lonely Planet wants to be their trusted first port of call.

However, nowadays consumers don’t just expect to be able to find the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible; they also expect to be able to access content across all platforms. In other words, don’t assume you know which platforms will work best, but instead give your customers the choice of how to access your content.

The Best in Travel campaign is a prime example of this. Originally just a book, the campaign has now evolved to cover not only multiple channels — from the website (as an aside — for a reminder of how far digital has come, check out Lonely Planet’s 1996 homepage below!) to the book to the mobile app — but also 15 languages.

Lonely Planet’s homepage in 1996, courtesy of Wayback Machine

2. Stay true to your brand and its story

Lonely Planet is lucky enough to have a great brand story — its co-founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler set out on the road more than 40 years ago and documented their travels as they went, passing on useful nuggets to future travellers, and turning their findings into a book — Across Asia on the Cheap — as well as founding Lonely Planet.

The company’s brand purpose still holds true today — people still want to know how to do things when travelling, preferably from others who have been there, done that. Today Lonely Planet boasts over 200 writers researching on the ground across the globe, who provide the expert, highly specialist know-how travellers are looking for.

Lonely Planet endeavours to stay true to its brand values, which of course inform Best in Travel, namely:

  • Responsible travel can be a force for good
  • Never stop looking to broaden your horizons
  • Put the traveller first in everything we do

Its choice of partner for the Best in Travel campaign this year demonstrates this; GoPro is the perfect brand fit, with a comparable focus on broadening horizons and putting the traveller first.

Never stop looking to broaden your horizons

Put the traveller first in everything we do

Its choice of partner for the Best in Travel campaign this year demonstrates this; GoPro is the perfect brand fit, with a comparable focus on broadening horizons and putting the traveller first.

Similarly, brand consistency from a visual perspective is also vital. Look at any part of the Best in Travel campaign, and you’ll likely not only instantly recognise the campaign itself, but also the Lonely Planet brand as one you can trust to provide high-quality content.

3. Think local

Despite being a huge global marketing effort, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel campaign also manages to remain locally relevant. Laura highlighted the importance of tapping into local pride with the Best in Travel campaign.

Best in Travel garners great press coverage across the globe — from the likes of The Guardian, CNN, and The New York Times — thanks not only to the strength of the brand, but also the campaign’s local relevance. Unsurprisingly, the chosen cities, countries, and regions each year wear their Lonely Planet recommended badges with pride, and are eager to shout about it. In the Los Angeles Times, for instance, the focus of their coverage was clearly on the Americas, with Chile, Detroit, and San Juan taking centre stage.

Los Angeles Times coverage of Best in Travel in 2018

4. Get internal buy-in

As Lonely Planet’s head of internal, as well as external communications, Laura clearly understands the importance of getting internal buy-in for marketing campaigns to give them the best chance of success.

When it comes to Best in Travel, a so-called Travel Hack is run across the entire company once a year. During the annual event, every Lonely Planet employee — from the executive directors to the interns — has the opportunity to vote for a location, empowering stakeholders and fostering a collective enthusiasm for the campaign.

Such processes are part of a wider iteration process adopted across the campaign and Lonely Planet’s marketing in general. Taking a test and learn approach is vital and, as Laura emphasised, ensure you learn from what doesn’t work, as much as you do from what does.