According to Wendy Olson Killion, the director of product management for Expedia Media Solutions, “Travel sites are highly functional and rational. But travel is personal and emotional.” This misalignment between travel technology – which asks you where you’re flying from and to, when you’re departing and returning, how many rooms you need, and how many adults and children will be travelling with you – and consumer expectations offered Expedia an opportunity.

That’s why Expedia, which is the world's leading online travel site, launched a brand campaign three years ago called “Find Yours.” The campaign featured much user-generated content – including videos from consumers explaining how travel had changed them.

Expedia: Using Video to Tell the Story of Travel

The 'Find Yours' campaign was a departure from the usual commoditized approach of online travel booking for Expedia.com. For example, as part of the campaign, Expedia also became a platinum sponsor of Passports with Purpose, an organization dedicated to doing long-lasting good for people who live in the places travelers visit.

One of the first videos in the “Find Yours” campaign is entitled “Find Your Understanding.” It follows a father’s journey, both literal and figurative, as he deals with conflicting emotions relative to his lesbian daughter's same-sex marriage. The short video is composed of real footage taken of Artie Goldstein, a retired business owner, Jill Sloane Goldstein, a seasoned advertising executive turned writer/producer, and Nikki Weiss, an agent and producer in the feature film and advertising commercial industry.

Yes, the video incorporates real footage of Artie travelling from Georgia to Jill and Nikki's wedding in Malibu. But there’s more to this story than can been seen in the footage of a real traveler finding a unique, personal experience through his trip. For example, Expedia has been a long-standing supporter of gay travel and features an LGBT travel store offering 1,400 IGLTA certified hotels. And Expedia made a statement in support of the marriage equality legislation on the 2012 ballot in Washington State, where the company is headquartered.

Yes, travel can take you out of your comfort zone and change your perspective. But Expedia’s “You’re your Understanding,” which was viewed over 2 million times on YouTube, is a rare example of a brand walking the walk as well as talking the talk almost three years before the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

The Travelers Story: Find Your Strength

Another one of the early videos in the “Find Yours” campaign is entitled “Find Your Strength.” It demonstrates how travel helped one young woman fulfill her promise to her best friend who lost his battle with cancer. The film follows the journey of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital patient Maggie as she prepares to share her message of strength after coming to terms with her own cancer and discovers a renewed purpose in life.

“Find Your Strength” tells a story that demonstrates every trip is unique and has the power to be transformative. And Killion says the video increased site traffic, bookings, and overall brand health. But, once again, Expedia did more than tell Maggie’s story. The brand also invited consumers to join the brand in donating to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Methods included:

  • Expedia’s Facebook Share Campaign: for every Facebook user who shared the Find Your Strength post from Expedia’s Facebook page, Expedia donated $5, up to a total of $50,000.
  • Consumers could Retweet to Donate on Expedia’s Twitter page; for every retweet of the campaign hashtag #ExpediaStJude, Expedia donated $1, up to $10,000.
  • Via SMS Donation Matching, consumers could text GIVE to 50333 to donate $10 to the kids of St. Jude. Expedia matched those donations, up to a total of $25,000.
  • Find Yours Donation Matching: Expedia also matched every dollar consumers donated when they visited www.Expedia.com/FindYours, up to a total of $165,000, bringing the total donation directly from Expedia to $250,000 in addition to donations from consumers.

Travel Videos: Find Your Spontaneity

Two years ago, Expedia commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a survey more than 2,000 adults based in the U.S, aged 18 and over. Respondents were asked about holiday activities, last-minute trips, and how they used their tablets and smartphones to plan travel. The survey found that 92% of U.S. adults consider themselves pretty spontaneous when it comes to travel planning and activities, including 30% of those who replied who confirmed they had planned last-minute trips out of their town. 26% stated that they a spontaneous trip to the beach.

To demonstrate how easy it was to use the Expedia app for local or international travel, Expedia hired Adam Shuty to approach people on the street and tell them that if they agreed to drop what they were doing to leave for their dream trip right away, Expedia would pay for the vacation. As the video entitled, “Expedia Trip A Day Giveaway - Find Your Spontaneity,” shows one lucky man took the offer and was given a free trip to see the Great Wall of China.

Once again, Expedia went beyond just telling a story about finding your spontaneity. Customers who downloaded the Expedia app on their compatible Android or iOS devices were entered into an Expedia Trip-A-Day Giveaway. A winner was selected each day and given a $1,200 coupon to put towards any trip booked through Expedia. According to Killion, the Trip-A-Day Giveaway generated thee following results:

  • 870,000 total YouTube video views,
  • 725,000 total mobile app downloads,
  • 425,000 total entries, and
  • 18 total trips booked.

Expedia Video Marketing Campaign: Find Your Alberta

The success of the “Find Yours” campaign prompted Travel Alberta, the tourism marketing organization for the province in Western Canada, to approach Expedia Media Solutions to launch a custom version of the campaign called Find Your Alberta. Travel Alberta asked Expedia Media Solutions to generate some innovative video content that would increase the visibility of Alberta to potential visitors, and push the destination via social media.

As the video entitled, “Expedia Road Trip with Travel Alberta: Captain and Clark in Edmonton,” illustrates, the team sent travel bloggers Captain & Clark to Alberta and produced video content around tourist destinations, which served as a Viewfinder vlog series and pre-roll within home page video units.

According to Killion, the two-month campaign generated the following results:

  • 9 million Twitter impressions,
  • 2 million Facebook impressions,
  • 76,000 Google+ impressions, and
  • 8,200 total YouTube video views.

That means a total of more than 4.1 million impressions were generated across Twitter, Facebook, G+, and YouTube. But, these are marketing metrics, not business outcomes. From Travel Alberta’s perspective, the two-month campaign generated the following results:

  • More than 133,000 travelers visited Alberta from the U.S. and Canada,
  • They booked over 81,000 nights in hotel rooms, and
  • They booked 22,250 airline tickets.

Killian concludes, “Expedia set out to make travel personal again with the ‘Find Yours’ campaign. We leveraged the power of video – including a mix of user-generated and produced footage – along with storytelling to communicate the emotional journey that travel can unlock.”

All I can add is this: Expedia tapped into the emotional power of travel videos to maintain its leadership. But, taking risks and sharing the rewards with partners also turned out to be a smart strategy for generating traffic and growing revenue.