What Punk Culture Can Teach Us About Effective Marketing

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As a self-proclaimed punk, marketing tends to leave a sour taste in my mouth. An overwhelming amount comes off as manipulative, over-sanitized, and greedy, which is about as far from punk values as you can get. However, I’m a member of the marketing industry myself, so it can’t be all bad…right? 

Many businesses will do anything to make a quick buck, but my existence as a punk marketer proves that effective marketing doesn’t need to focus purely on profit or rely on unethical practices to drive sales. “Effective” is a subjective term, with as many meanings as there are people in the world, but I believe there’s more to effectiveness than financial gains alone. Truly effective marketing is able to connect with its audience on a genuine and personal level, building a rapport that fosters long-term loyalty and support. 

This is no easy task, but looking at marketing through the lens of punk culture can make the feat much less daunting. Personally connecting with your audience requires a level of humility and authenticity, which is the bread and butter of punk culture. At its heart, punk is about staying true to your core identity, so understanding the culture’s root principles is invaluable to creating an effective marketing strategy that resonates with your audience. 

The Foundation of Punk Culture

“Punk” isn’t the most well-defined term, and there are a lot of misconceptions as a result. One of the most common assumptions about punk is that its members are aggressive, destructive, and rebellious, but that’s an inaccurate representation. Punk culture was founded on the idea of injecting passion and authenticity into everything you do; core values that still define the culture today. 

Punk music emerged during the 1970s, in direct opposition to the overly-manicured, generic, and increasingly corporate mainstream music of the time. Punks disapproved of the shift from passion to profit, hating how the industry had started pandering to the masses, and aimed to maintain a sense of authenticity in their own music. To distance themselves from the marketability of mainstream music, punk was grounded, passionate, and a little rough around the edges, and this naturally led to a tight-knit community culture. Musicians were connected with their music, listeners were connected with the musicians, and punk culture as a whole was connected by a distaste for an otherwise hollow-feeling industry.

Over time, the newly empty nature of corporate culture spread, and it was infuriating. The focus on money above all else was becoming near unavoidable, so punk culture adapted accordingly. What started as a small community of musicians and their fans slowly grew into a united group that refused to be treated as a dollar sign, and the seeds of distrust towards corporate culture grew alongside it. Punks never did, and still don’t, hate capitalism at its core. They’re simply frustrated with what business has become, longing for a sense of connection and belonging in a world that’s otherwise purely transactional. 

Are the pieces coming together yet?

Punk Marketing is Effective Marketing

Punk is ultimately a culture formed for authentic connection, so building a marketing strategy around punk values is a great way to make this same kind of connection with consumers. Punk is a never-ending rabbit hole of expansive and nuanced beliefs, but the vast majority of these beliefs fall under three issues with corporate culture: exploitation, inauthenticity, and mass pandering. Understanding and avoiding these elements won’t necessarily guarantee effective marketing, but they’re a great place to start. Below are a few important rules to remember when developing punk-style marketing to connect with consumers.

Don’t Prey On Your Audience

Believe it or not, consumers aren’t stupid. Even if they fall for a marketing trick, they usually know they’re being manipulated, and that’s no way to earn their trust. But what counts as “preying” on an audience? Where’s the line between harmless influence and malicious persuasion? Punks have developed a particularly keen eye for exploitation to keep their culture pure, so looking through the lens of punk culture can make it much easier to spot. 

When it comes to marketing, one of the biggest red flags is unnecessary and overwhelming negative emotion. Negativity isn’t completely off-limits in effective marketing – even punk bands use feelings of anger and disappointment to make their point – but that negativity needs to have a clear purpose. This purpose can take any number of forms, but it needs to be enough to offset the negativity and leave your audience with a feeling of satisfaction. In the case of punk, that means using anger as a way to inspire listeners and leave them with an underlying feeling of hope, as opposed to riling them up just for the sake of it. 

In contrast, consider how the beauty industry approaches negativity. Much of beauty marketing relies on feelings of shame and inadequacy, framing a purchase as the only way to solve a problem. Embarrassed by aging? Buy our anti-wrinkle cream. Horrendous acne stunting your social life? Just use our product for a few years. Even makeup is marketed as a cure for ugliness, rather than a way to enhance your look. Beauty marketing doesn’t aim to inspire the consumer and earn their support, like effective marketing should. Instead, the industry preys on their audience, intentionally stirring up negative emotions to compel a purchase. And without anything to offset the crushing weight of insecurity, this is the epitome of audience exploitation. 

If you want to connect with your audience, take the punk approach and treat them as something more than a means to an end. While working on your own marketing strategy, think about the emotions you’re trying to evoke. When negative feelings are unavoidable, make sure your audience feels something else to overwhelm that negativity. If a consumer feels worse after viewing your marketing, then you’re doing it wrong. An unhappy audience is an exploited one, and that’s no way to form lasting relationships. 

Show Off Your Passion

Punks want to support people who care about their work beyond a financial incentive, and effective marketing works off a similar idea. Think about the businesses you’re personally most loyal to. Chances are you’d support them even if their prices went up or their services changed, but why? Quality products and constant deals are great for fostering transactional relationships, but effective marketing needs a little something more. If you truly want to connect with your audience, they need a reason to stick around other than your product, and letting your passion show is a great way to start.

But how do you actually do that? The most effective way is to focus your marketing strategy on the “why” of your brand over the “what,” giving your passion the space to naturally shine through. The objective facts about your business are good for pushing sales, but the emotional “why” is what an audience will really connect with. Apple is a company that does this really well. Historically, Apple fans have been far more loyal than those of other tech companies, and this is largely due to the way they frame their company. Instead of focusing on their products, Apple has positioned itself at the forefront of technological progress, and this passion for innovation is what draws in their loyal audience. 

However, there’s another lesson to learn from Apple’s marketing – If your passion is inauthentic, then it’s worthless. There are still plenty of Apple purists out there, but the fanbase isn’t nearly as solid as it used to be. More and more Apple fans have left for other companies over the years, and that loss of loyalty can be directly tied to Apple’s loss of passion. The company is no longer pushing the envelope or advancing the industry in any way, so their claims of innovation have become meaningless. Apple’s advantages have slowly shifted down to the product level, the “what” of their business, so it’s no surprise that their audience is starting to lose interest. This transactional appeal leaves nothing for consumers to connect with on a personal level, making it much easier for Apple fans to justify leaving. 

No one feels connected to a purchase on its own. It’s the surrounding circumstances that make buying something special, so effective marketing requires something beyond transactional appeal. Advertising your product or service in some capacity is important, but it’s even more important that you don’t get caught up in it. While the financial aspect of a business can’t be overlooked, it shouldn’t be the main focus of your marketing. Leave some breathing room for your identity to shine, and the core passions of your business will show through. Let your audience see what really makes your business tick, and they’re sure to respond.

Embrace Imperfection

Punk is often dirty, raw, and unsanitized, but that’s not for the sake of it. The world is a little grimy and imperfect, so embracing these elements of life helps to ground punk in reality and makes the culture easier to relate to. Naturally, then, imperfection is also a key element of effective marketing. It can be tempting to cover up every tiny blemish with a picture-perfect, cookie-cutter brand, but perceived flaws can actually give your business a sense of humanity that’s far more conducive to audience connection. 

It’s understandable why so many businesses aim for a squeaky-clean brand image. Consumers can be touchy, and they have the potential to run at the first sign of anything negative. Perfection is a way to minimize that danger, by covering up anything that might drive away a customer. However, this risk-averse strategy can feel very empty to your audience, making it difficult to form a real connection with them. The key to effective marketing is walking the line of desirability, effectively working to find the sweet spot between risk and audience connection. This ideal balance is slightly different for each business, but it generally means acknowledging your flaws and actively working to improve them, while avoiding the temptation to sweep everything under the rug and pretend your problems don’t exist. 

Starbucks is a business that does this really well. They own up to their imperfections – be it lackluster diversity, deceiving drink names, controversial holiday imagery, or anything in between – and this is why so many people feel personally connected with the brand. Their transparency shows that the business isn’t afraid to lose a few bucks here and there in the interest of improvement, giving Starbucks a relatable sense of depth that would otherwise be absent. It’s an excellent show of good faith, and this kind of non-transactional, genuine relationship with their audience is exactly what’s so attractive to their loyal fans.

Every business has flaws, and it’s pointless to cover them up. Perfection is unattainable, so a flawless business often feels fake and empty. To give your audience something real to latch onto, it’s vital you acknowledge your imperfections. Don’t deny your weaknesses, and be sure to address any issues that may come up. If you embrace your flaws and learn from your mistakes, your audience will thank you.

Learn To Love “Failure”

In an industry that speaks in numbers, punk-style marketing might seem like a failure.

And that’s okay. 

Shifting your focus away from pure profit could potentially decrease short-term revenue, and that might seem like an immediate red flag. The marketing industry is built around quantitative statistics, so it’s natural to worry when your numbers start to drop. However, it’s important to recognize the trade off and stand your ground. A decrease in revenue doesn’t have to mean a net loss, since you’ll more than make up for it with a growing audience of dedicated consumers. 

If your marketing is a “failure” in traditional terms, that’s okay. Punk-style marketing has a different goal, so its measurement of success is different, too. It all comes down to what you consider “effective” marketing and where you place the most value. If you want your marketing to work, step back and assess your priorities. Financial gain is great, but is it your only metric of success? Is it really worth giving up on personal connection just to make a few extra bucks?

If you’re ready to embrace effective, punk-style marketing, it’s time to love “failure.” Because punks know it better than anyone – some things just can’t be measured in cash.

 July 2022 Hotel Digital Marketing News | GCommerce

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  1. GA4 Ads Bounce Rate! (and other features)

July 23rd marked the 1 year countdown for the sunsetting of Google Universal Analytics. That means if you haven’t set up GA4 to track your hotel’s website data, there’s a very real possibility you won’t have a full year of data once Google makes the full switch to GA4. There has been a lot of feedback regarding GA4 and I think a lot of marketers will be happy to hear that Google has now added bounce rate to GA4 (although it is a slightly different definition then UA bounce rate, so study up!). Learn more about bounce rate in GA4 and more here.

2. Google Announces It Is Delaying the Demise of 3rd Party Cookies
Google has officially delayed the demise of 3rd party cookies from July 2023 to until late 2024, stating it needs to provider marketers more time to test new Privacy Sandbox tools. What’s your reaction? Shocked or were you expecting this to happen? Our thoughts - not totally shocked is the main reaction coming out of the GCommerce camp.  Learn more here.

3. ICYMI: Introducing Metadesk

Have you heard about Metadesk yet? It is our new metasearch platform built for performance. From variable pricing to integrated custom audiences, metasearch has never been easier. Learn more at metadesk.pro

4. LinkedIn Launches Native Carousel Posts 

Have you been using the “ol’ sneaky” way of creating carousel style posts on LinkedIn? Good news! LinkedIn will be rolling carousel posts out to all users later this fall. Learn more and how to use the new post type here.

5. Facebook Announces Change to App Home Feed

Noticing anything different in your Facebook app? Facebook announced two feeds will now be found in it’s apps, mimicking app navigation and layout popular in TikTok. Over the past year it’s made other changes to keep up with the popularity of TikTok. Make sure your marketing isn’t falling behind. It’s time to jump in and start creating short-form video content to feed the algorithms and stay visible.  Learn more here.

6. Netflix Announces Partnership with Microsoft For Ad Inventory

Netflix has officially announced that Microsoft will be it’s ad partner for it’s new lower priced ad-supported subscription plan. This is a BIG win for Microsoft after it’s recent acquisition of Xandr media, which was announced this past December. Want access to this CTV inventory? It will be exclusively available via the Microsoft platform. Haven’t considered CTV/OTT ads as part of your strategy? Learn more here.

Flywheel News | June 2022 Digital Marketing Month in Review

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  1. GCommerce Announces Metadesk, It’s New Hotel Metasearch Solution

GCommerce announced the launch of it’s new hotel metasearch solution, Metadesk, during HITEC’s 50th Anniversary in Orlando, FL the last week of June. The new platform offers on-demand data insights, easy-to-understand pricing and direct access to your campaign optimization specialists. Learn more at metadesk.pro

2. Google Ads & Microsoft Ads Officially Discontinue Support for ETAs

As of June 30th, 2022 advertisers are no longer able to create or edit expanded text ads (ETAs) on Google or Microsoft Ads. Since you’re still able to let them run, we recommend keeping an ETAs in your account if they are top performers. We also recommend taking those top performing ETAs and creating responsive search ad (RSA) versions. Responsive search ads are the new standard ad format and allow up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. Google then takes those headlines and descriptions and creates multiple ads using different combinations of those assets. It’s multivariate ad testing to the max.

3. New Google Ads Travel Features

In June, Google announced a few new travel specific features. The first is the ability for hotels to add/manage rates directly into their Google Business Profile. While this might sound appealing, we recommend only approaching rates and inventory via a direct connection to your hotel’s CRS via a connectivity partner since rates/inventory update constantly. Next is Feedless Onboarding that would allow advertisers to great hotel campaigns without needing a Hotel Center account. More to come as this is currently in beta. Finally, they announced adding travel specific goals to the new performance max campaign type.

4. GCommerce Attends HITEC’s 50th Anniversary, HSMAI and ROC in Orlando, FL

GCommerce was excited to attend the 50th anniversary of HITEC as well as HSMAI Marketing Strategy Conference and ROC in Orlando, FL during the last week of June. The week included catching up with some of our incredible clients and partners as well as the announcement of our new hotel metasearch advertising solution, Metadesk.

5. Microsoft Advertising Now Requiring Advertiser Identity Verification

Following suit with Google, Microsoft Ads is now requiring advertisers to verify identity to ensure it’s users are seeing ads from trusted sources. Learn more here and be prepared to supply your agency or advertising partner with necessary documentation. 

How GCommerce's Programmatic Bidding Strategies Benefit Our Hotel Clients

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If there is one thing that is absolute in the hospitality internet marketing world, it’s that we must constantly be testing, analyzing, implementing changes (or not) based on test data, and testing some more.

GCommerce utilizes programmatic bid optimization for paid search marketing, which is now a must in a world of constant changes and bid management. Programmatic bidding allows bid adjustments throughout the day and uses data based on previous days data. For an individual to be able to delve into the performance and history of a specific keyword would take hours to be able to optimize an account of 100+ keywords, multiply this by 10 or more clients a day and there is now no time for other important client optimizations.

Programmatic bidding is not just a set-and-forget machine learning tool. If you use programmatic bid optimization you must make sure that you are making the most of it and getting the best results possible for clients. How do you do this? Test. Analyze. Implement (or not). Test Again.

Earlier this year, I ran a test on a sample of clients using a different bid strategy model to see if client performance could benefit from it. It wasn’t that the current automated bid strategy wasn’t working, it was based on the idea that we always want to improve our results, therefore we test different theories and strategies.

This particular test yielded some pretty significant results:

Due to the seasonality of our clients, the best data to gather is to compare year over year with a significant amount of time. Using a date range of 6 months of data, here is what we found:

  • Average CPC’s increased 1%
  • Reservations increased 89%
  • Revenue increased 100%

When comparing to GCommerce’s entire hospitality paid search marketing portfolio, here is what we found:

  • Average CPC’s increased at a much lower rate
  • Reservations increased at a much higher rate
  • Revenue also increased at a much higher rate
Programmatic bidding strategies performance

Rising CPC’s are a constant battle in the paid search marketing world. At GCommerce Solutions, our hospitality internet marketing teams are constantly optimizing paid search campaigns to help decrease this metric as best as we can. After reviewing performance across GCommerce’s entire portfolio, I found that, on average, GCommerce clients experienced an increase of 4% in average CPC’s during the same time period. This leads to a conclusion that our clients and the hotel industry continue to see ever-increasing rise in CPC’s across the board in order to compete in the SERP. But the fact that we have been able to slow it down while ramping up reservations and revenue is a huge win.

After pulling all of the data and seeing such clear results, it was obvious that it was in our clients’ best interest to switch gears on our overall strategy to best reach our KPI (key performance indicator) goals and maximize their spend. So we did.

What is Structured Data? A Guide for Hotels

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Definition of Structured Data

"refers to information with a high degree of organization, such that inclusion in a relational database is seamless and readily searchable by simple, straightforward search engine algorithms or other search operations."

But what exactly does that mean and how does it apply to hotels? In order to best describe Structured Data, it is probably easiest to start with examples.

Structured Data Examples

If we do a Google Search for "spinach and artichoke dip", the first thing on the result page is a list of ingredients and instructions on how to make it:

Recipe-Example-1024x770

That formatted list of ingredients and instructions is a pretty straightforward example, but what about more complex, personal details to your gmail account? If you do a Google Search for "my previous flights" - so long as you have flight info in an @gmail.com account and you are logged in, you should see every flight and details that are in your gmail account displayed in the search result page for Google:

We can also click into those details and see specific information about the flight that is listed:

My-Previous-Flights-Example-2

We can see the same information on hotels if we do a "my previous hotels" search in Google:

My-Previous-Hotel-Reservations-Example-1024x503

The question then becomes, how does Google take recipe information from a website or flight and hotel data from your gmail account and display those details in a clean table in the search results? The answer is that the data is organized in a way that inclusion in a relational database is seamless. In other words, it is Structured Data.

We can markup data on a hotel's website in a similar fashion so that necessary elements for a hotel are present so that inclusion in relational database is seamless. An example of how this is done can be seen on this page here.

On the right side of that page, we can see that there are different types of data marked up. Website, Hotel, Hotel Room, and Organization. We can click into each of those sections and Google will display all of the data that is marked up for us to view:

Schema-Example-1

However, this is how it looks within the code of your website:

Schema-Example-2

What is important to note here is that the Structured Data markup is not actually meant for the audience of your website, it is meant for bots and spiders that crawl the internet to aggregate information for users in other platforms (Google, Bing, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.)

How Does Structured Data Impact Organic Performance

While Google has said that Structured Data is not a ranking factor, they have stated that it helps the engine better understand the content on your pages and there is evidence that it helps provide additional information to the end user, which can increase CTR. CTR is correlated with higher rankings in search engines and a higher CTR can help move rankings up in Organic Results, which would lead to a higher CTR, higher rankings, and so on.

Our goal here is to create a positive feedback loop that starts by providing more information to the end user and contributes to higher rankings with higher CTRs.

Get Ahead of Competition

From the limited tests that we have run, we see that the vast majority of hotels are not currently utilizing Structured Data. As Google has confirmed benefits of having it on a website, this is a great opportunity to get in front of competitors.

Impact Positive Performance On Your Site

So far, clients that have implemented structured data have seen some positive improvements to organic search traffic and we encourage our clients to implement Structured Data for improved website performance.

Contact GCommerce today for more information on implementing structured data to your hotel’s website.

Google Page Speed Update: Will Your Hotel's Website Be Impacted?

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GOOGLE’S PAGE SPEED UPDATE IS NOW ROLLING OUT TO ALL USERS

Search Engine Land and our agency Google representative have confirmed that Google’s Page Speed Update is now being released to all users.  As of July 9th, 2018, Google “has begun incorporating the new Speed Update algorithm in the mobile search results as a search ranking factor”.

Google has confirmed that right now, the update “only impacts the slowest of sites on the internet”. But….what does Google consider slow or the slowest in terms of mobile site speed? Our Google agency representative stated that RANK COULD BE AFFECTED FOR PAGES THAT LOAD SLOWER THAN 3-4 SECONDS. In addition to page rank and organic performance, it’s also important to understand that pages with slow load times also impact your paid advertising performance. How much of the traffic from your hard earned paid advertising dollars are bouncing from your site because the page takes too long to download? This can add up to a lot of wasted advertising dollars.

How do you know if Google’s Page Speed Update could impact your website? In Google’s most recent blog post on the Page Speed Update, they state that, “Although there is no tool that directly indicates whether a page is affected by this new ranking factor, here are some resources that can be used to evaluate a page’s performance.” These include Google’s Test My Site Tool.

Image Placeholder

Our Google representative encourages immediate action to improve page speed if your site is loading slower than 5 seconds. Back in May we dove into the importance of mobile page speed for organic search rankings. Now is the time to act, don’t wait until your site is negatively impacted. Chances are, it is already seeing the negative impact of advertising dollars wasted on site visitors that bounce.

Reach out to GCommerce today to inquire about how we can help improve your site’s page speed.

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