When do you Feel Real?
Once a household name, Topdeck is now 47 years old and the team decided that a shakeup was necessary both to regenerate the brand itself, but also to react to the shift in youth attitudes towards travel. In her role Fawcett has been and still is, “focussed on the re-positioning and re-vitalisation of our brand."
The team worked alongside creative agency ZAK over an intense year-long period of research to get to the point where they were pulling off, as Fawcett explains, “a full business transformation.” The brand was re-launched in January 2019 under the new proposition, FEEL REAL that included a new look and feel, tone of voice, website, products and the brand’s first ever above the line campaign, ‘Time to get Outta Here’.
The campaign’s focus is on the real experience, the moments that shape travellers. It reflects the shifting attitude to ‘I’m a traveller not a tourist’; to capturing the need to explore and experience and for both of those things to be done in an authentic way. It is about cultural immersion rather than checklist tourism.
Fawcett believes this shift towards cultural travel is driving trends such as digital detoxes and a focus on wellness. She points to Skyscanner reporting “a rise in JOMO (the joy of missing out) travel, where people are more interested in experiencing the adventure in real life rather than through their phones.”
This translates into what Fawcett believes will be the rise of “tangible advertising” from brochures to experiential and brand activation partnerships. Fawcett says she sees Gen Z reaching more offline, for merchandise and promotional items. This trend, she adds, is backed by research from Generation Travel in 2019 which suggests this analogue revival is a push back from a world lived online and therefore “not real”.
How the influencers influence
Yet despite the fact consumers want to step more offline to have ‘real’ experiences, they still experience other people’s travels vicariously, through the omnipresent smartphone in their pockets. This is particularly true because of the huge growth of what Fawcett labels as “digital nomads,” who are influencing what truly defines both ‘travel’ and ‘tourism.’
These nomads are what would now be known as Influencers, a facet of marketing that Fawcett labels as “really just endorsement on speed.” Fawcett was previously Global Influencer Manager at VisitBritain, having set up and run their influencer marketing programme before the influencer bubble burst; as Fawcett explains, “back when an influencer was called a ‘blogger’, people were authentic, and customers believed what they said.”
She believes that’s not the case anymore explaining that, while influencers are a very valid part of a marketing plan, that’s exactly all they should be; a part of it, not the whole thing. She points to the savviness of the younger generations as part of the reason for this: “People no longer trust [influencers]. Gen Z aren’t stupid; they know these people are paid or sponsored. The same way people know that advertising is paid for.”
For Topdeck, influencers stay part of the strategy but perhaps not of the kind you’d think: “we’ll be looking more to our own staff and customers to be those real influencers.” Fawcett doesn’t want to announce the “death of the influencer” as such but is rather commenting on the progression of the space, as every type of marketing has evolved before it.