Club Med Looks To Beach Rivals

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Club Med is running a direct marketing campaign to promote its new Total All-Inclusive daily open bar and unlimited food concept as a means to stand out from copycat packages.


Called Total Escape, the May through July effort by agency Wunderman New York encompasses direct response television, radio, print and the Internet. Ads draw attention to a toll-free number and Web site for a brochure or to book vacations at Club Med's 11 villages in North America.


"Our story is more about what has not happened," said Mark Wiser, vice president of marketing at Club Med Americas, Coral Gables, FL. "The market for all-inclusive vacations is very diluted, and people don't know the difference anymore. So what we're doing is going to be a sequential array of steps to give tangible proof to the consumer of what all-inclusive means at Club Med."


The campaign, part of a $15 million marketing push for the next 12 months, began this month with two 60-second direct response spots. They air multiple times weekly on 12 to 18 cable channels. The adult-oriented spot for couples runs on channels like MTV and VH1. The family-focused ad airs on channels like Fine Living.


Spot creative shows families and couples enjoying themselves in Club Med villages, of which there are 110 worldwide. The music is lively and the imagery vibrant, and the themes are present in print and online ads as well as collateral like brochures.


Radio is the other broadcast element. Starting June 3, 600 spots will air in the New York metro area. Sixty percent of the spots will run during morning-drive time and the rest in the evening-drive period.


As for print, quarter- and full-page black-and-white and color ads will run in newspapers. New York is the primary market, and Los Angeles is secondary. The media buy also includes newspapers in Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta and South Florida.


Online, Club Med will continue to rely on its extensive deal with AOL Time Warner Inc.'s America Online Internet service. AOL is said to have brought in many new customers since the national deal was struck a year ago.


An expanded pay-for-performance deal with Web sites takes effect next month. Banners on Club Med's TV partners' sites and others will encourage online visitors to click for more information or to book packages. This includes sites like MTV.com, VH1.com, SmartLiving.com and TravelSmart.com. Finally, consumers can visit clubmed.com. They can join Wave, an online club that delivers promotional offers to opt-in members.


Though Club Med uses mail to prospect and retain customers, it is not using this channel for the Total Escape effort. The company has a database of 500,000 former guests who receive mail one to four times a year depending on their value and other factors.


Great hope is vested in DRTV. Each spot has a separate toll-free number based on the channel where it airs, in order to track performance on the various channels. Club Med owns 60 toll-free lines, though not all are at the disposal of this summer campaign.


"We'll see 80 percent to 90 percent of our total response rate come in within 15 minutes of our spot airing," Wiser said, based on preliminary results. "So for us we think the call to action is working."


It better work. People tend to book in cycles, and Club Med typically aligns its marketing calendar for when the target audience is in the market for a vacation package. Hence this summer timing to persuade vacationers to try Club Med for packages that cost $1,100 to $1,200 per person for stays in U.S. or Canadian villages.


There is no dearth of competition for the pioneer of the all-inclusive vacation concept. Chains like Radisson, Wyndham and Comfort Suites are in the business, along with smaller labels like Paradisus, Catalonia and Iberostar. Then there are the more direct players such as Sandals, Beaches, Hedonism, Allegro, Couples, Breezes and Grand Lido.


"The sad thing is, collectively, they have really diluted what all-inclusive really stood for," said John Vanderslice, president/CEO of Club Med Americas. "Some really do include a good array of meals, activities and entertainment. But others are not much more than an overpriced hotel room with a modified meal plan and a playground."


Thus Club Med embarks on a two-year mission to tout its unique selling point. At the core of the all-inclusive notion is one price for all bar beverages, food and snacks, sports and shows.


To buttress this package, Club Med invested more than $150 million to redo its villages in North America, adding touches like CD players in every guestroom.


Also, open-air massages next to the sea will debut this summer. Pagers for parents in family villages may be next, as may family movie nights. Every activity or amenity will be rethought and feedback sought from customers.


These changes aim to carve a unique positioning for Club Med. They are also necessary in an environment where consumer confidence is low, travel activity down and those with the means to take vacations more discerning.


"In our world, consumers trade off location, activities and value," Vanderslice said. "We've focused on all three. To stay in the game, you have to make a case for your product in all three areas. But to win, you have to pick one that you will be committed to in good times or bad. And for us there's no doubt about it -- it's total all-inclusive value."


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