Thomson Holidays is confident it will steal market share from rivals by launching a £5 million advertising campaign more than two months before the traditional turn-of-year period.
The operator’s head of marketing Jeremy Ellis revealed the decision to launch the company’s biggest-ever brand campaign on October 22, instead of on Boxing Day, was based on achieving a “greater share of voice pre-Christmas when none of the other holiday companies are advertising”.
The timing of the campaign – which pips rivals such as Thomas Cook to the post – will allow Thomson to further build its brand awareness prior to consumers booking next year’s summer holiday post Christmas, added Ellis.
“We wanted consumers to understand our message well in advance of the time when we ramp up our sales. It’s always been hard to launch a strong brand message at turn of year when everyone else is advertising.
“The opportunity was to go in with a powerful and emotive message now if we wanted to really cut through and get a head start,” he said. “It would be foolish to think we would not get more market share.”
The campaign, which does not feature price-led calls to action and focuses instead on the importance of spending time with loved ones during a holiday, will run across TV, cinemas, online and national newspapers until May next year.
Ellis admitted the campaign would not “suddenly bring forward the turn of year booking period to October” but would drive more consumers to its brand and keep it “top of mind”. He added: “This is not a repositioning, it’s strengthening what Thomson stands for. TV advertising is very much about getting to the heart of the consumer and tapping into their feelings.”
But observers in the trade were less optimistic that a “tug at the heartstrings” campaign would pay off in the current economic downturn.
Former Hoseasons boss Richard Carrick, who previously worked in a variety of senior roles at Airtours, said: “It’s a brave move and good on them for trying it but they will be hard-pressed to get people to change their buying behaviour because for most people now it’s all about Christmas and tightening their belts.”
Despite the opportunity to take market share while Thomas Cook was focused on its internal structure only value messages were likely to sway consumers into booking, he added.
“Thomas Cook has a strong brand and Thomson and First Choice have always been playing catch up. Now is the biggest opportunity to try to steal the market while Thomas Cook is regrouping but it’s the deals at the end of the day that will count.
“People have very short-term memories and brand loyalty only goes so far,” said Carrick, who predicted the post-Christmas peak season would be a “bloodbath”.