Interesting podcast interview on the iMedia Connection network with Dean Harris the CMO of travel meta-search player Kayak.com. He talks through not only the online and offline marketing activities of Kayak but also some general thoughts on the meta-search market. His comments are based on the premise that dedicated meta-search outside of the general search of Google, Yahoo! and MSN (GYM) is a proven model (I agree). He therefore focuses on the brand and customer loyalty building challenges of running a targeted search business.
Clearly Kayak has spent a fortune buying keywords from GYM but they are also strong believes on building community through user generated "buzz" but also from a TV campaign with a user built element (here are some examples on YouTube). I liked hearing a "search guy" being so prepared to invest in brand and consumer experience.
I think we are starting to see a bit of that shift back to brand spend in the Australian market as well. First there was Wotif's deal with ninemsn - which I am assuming had an upfront spend or at least is being measure on more than an incremental transaction basis. (I also did not mean to ignore Wotif's sponsorship of a yachting series in Australia - though I assume this is more for owner relaxation than marketing returns). GoStay's first marketing effort was buying bus stop advertising. Webjet has long loved buying distressed spots for TV advertising. HotelClub recently renewed its train station bill board campaign...and so on.
I am sure that branding (vs direct response) is a big part of reasoning behind these campaign - but also suspect that ever increasing PPC costs of GYM and CPM costs on the big 5 Australian online publishers (Yahoo7, ninemsn, Fairfax, News and Sensis) making offline marketing costs more competitive is also a factor.