This email piece was sent to over 25,000 targeted recipients through the Bell Insider mailing.

When it comes to travel, it helps to have a common language. And that’s also true for travel industry partners: agencies and tour operators need a shared understanding of their customers to deliver on the promise of dream vacations.

Recently, two leading names in the travel industry—Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) and Rocky Mountaineer—discovered the power of a common language when they collaborated on a targeted digital campaign. CWT operates 150 travel agencies across Canada as part of a global network and Rocky Mountaineer is the largest privately owned luxury tourist train in the world, offering 65 vacation packages across Western Canada.

For both companies, one key to their success has been data-based marketing. Both CWT and Rocky Mountaineer have been using the PRIZM5 lifestyle segmentation system from Environics Analytics (EA) for several years to help them identify, understand and connect with their best customers. Early last year, they joined forces on an innovative email campaign, using EA as an intermediary so that neither organization had direct access to the other’s customer data, in accordance with Canada’s privacy regulations.

“Developing strong partnerships with travel agencies is very important for our business,” says Rocky Mountaineer’s Manager of Analytics David Spira. “So if we’re using the same PRIZM segments as a partner, it is much easier to work closely, compare notes and understand the segments we have in common. It’s a win-win situation: better understanding leads to closer strategic alignment and stronger business outcomes for both our partners and ourselves.”

“We spoke the same language,” adds CWT’s Director of Marketing, North American Leisure Christine Ufniak. “And we both saw the value in targeting a customer segment with a great offer in the travel world.”

Both companies also recognized similarities in the upscale profile of their respective customers. Because a train trip on the Rocky Mountaineer is a premium experience, a partnership with CWT could help its travel advisors identify wealthy prospects living near its 150 locations. But the prospect of developing an email marketing campaign also appealed to Rocky Mountaineer. The company already used a number of different marketing channels, including partnerships with auto clubs and TV and newspaper advertising in major U.S. and Canadian cities.

But Spira was eager to test the digital channel. “We wanted to see if there was some beneficial effect to linking segmentation and a digital campaign,” he explains. “Using segmentation on an email address list offered the perfect opportunity for this assessment.”

To better understand the customers of both organizations, EA analyzed each customer database using PRIZM5, which classifies Canadians into 68 distinct lifestyle types. Analysts identified three target groups of segments that were strong performers for both organizations. They then used CWT sales data to add geography to the analysis, giving priority to targeted residents living near select CWT outlets in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia for emailing.

Last spring, analysts purchased a list of 25,000 to 30,000 privacy-compliant email addresses from Bell Media’s Insider distribution list to reach PRIZM-segmented prospects in the targeted geographies who were likely to respond to an offering from Rocky Mountaineer

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. Marketers tested two different subject lines for the email piece, ultimately choosing “Adventure Meets Luxury Onboard Rocky Mountaineer.” According to CWT’s Ufniak, the phrase “hit the right audience with the right message.” As for the messaging, the email copy highlighted the train excursion as a luxurious, must-do experience: “A life-changing journey, the moment you step on board.”

The email strategy proved to be well designed. During the spring campaign, inquiries to CWT agencies jumped 50% and Rocky Mountaineer ridership from the CWT account increased 77% compared to the same period in 2015. Meanwhile, Bell Media reported that the open rate for the email piece was 90% higher than the industry average in English Canada and 310% higher in French Canada. And the impact was also felt on CWT’s website, says Ufniak, noting “a high increase in sessions from click-throughs.”

The PRIZM collaboration also included a social media component. As Ufniak describes it, “CWT leveraged EA data for a Facebook initiative, with a staff member using lookalike surrogate segments for that platform.” Segments in Facebook’s Ad Manager were constructed to mirror the target groups created for CWT and analysts selected markets for promotion based on the presence of target groups. The result surpassed expectations: “The Facebook initiative recorded an engagement rate 47% over our benchmark,” she says.

Given the success of the collaboration, Rocky Mountaineer and CWT are planning more joint email campaigns in 2017. Officials at both companies observe that PRIZM provided the common language that allowed their organizations to work together for mutual benefit and to the delight of their customers.

That’s a message that resonates beyond the travel industry. Spira observes that PRIZM segments can serve as the common denominator for a variety of marketing initiatives involving multiple organizations. “Even if you’re a telco and thinking about a sponsorship or contest, a lot of people don’t ask if their potential partner uses PRIZM segments,” he says, “and they should. It would make their lives easier.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Direct Marketing.


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Jason Dunkel

Jason Dunkel is a sales consultant at Environics Analytics, with a focus in the travel and tourism industry.