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In sombre times, Pamela Whitby hears why metasearch firm momondo takes travel inspiration so seriously

Hugo Burge, CEO of momondo Group, is an upbeat sort of guy. He is, by his own admission, “an optimist and a pragmatist”.  

At a recent WebinTravel event at London’s Tate Modern, the week after the UK had voted to leave European Union (EU), Burge said that while he was “deeply surprised” by the referendum result, and had voted to remain, he was positive about the future. “I’m an entrepreneur,” he said, “and entrepreneurial DNA is about positivity and adapting to change”. And there were some reasons for momondo to be positive post-Brexit, as the firm’s US revenues jumped 10% thanks to the slide in sterling.

Speaking of DNA, Burge also pointed to the success of his firm’s recent marketing campaign, The DNA Journey, which he said, “brought a tear to his eye”. Call it foresight, or call it luck, the campaign, which launched in early June just a few weeks before the Brexit vote, seemed to be speaking directly to the central theme of the ‘remain’ campaign - that ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’. And it was, he said, “a pretty amazing time to be embracing diversity and uncomfortable truths about where we come from and who we are”.

[It’s] a pretty amazing time to be embracing diversity and uncomfortable truths about where we come from and who we are

Hugo Burge, CEO, momondo group

Pretty amazing too, that by late June, the video had been viewed 120 million times on YouTube and Facebook. A month on, EyeforTravel caught up with the team to find out how the campaign is faring. As July draws to a close, Momondo Head of PR Julie Pedersen says that to date there have been over:

  • +150 million views on Facebook (including views on third-party pages), YouTube and momondo’s site Letsopenourworld.com

  • 7,5 million social engagements (comments, likes, reactions and shares)

  • 150,000 DNA Journey competition sign-ups

Pedersen, who conceived and delivered the project, says: “The campaign has been a tremendous success globally, and people have been sharing it in connection with many different events in the world with the underlying message that there are, indeed ‘more things uniting us than dividing us’”.

Ongoing efforts 

Perfectly timed this campaign may have been but, argues Burge, it is the result of ongoing efforts to develop an online travel brand with a difference. A few years ago, the firm began a process to explore what got staff out of bed in the morning.  While the team is “passionate about technology, product and user experience, they also love to travel, and understand the power of travel,” he says.

But it’s quite hard to articulate that energy in a brand message - 'to bottle' the essence into a single phrase; ‘Let’s open our world’ is the result of those efforts.

Burge continues: “So often search is quite boring, it lacks personality and is easily corrupted by advertising and commercialisation.” He also complains that for too long the travel industry has been doing “inspiration in such a mediocre way”.

While it is “so easy to get stuck into a web DNA where everything is about conversions, what we need is some emotion, some purpose”.

The DNA campaign is certainly an emotive one, but not all responses have been positive. Criticisms have been that the scientific claims are patchy and that momondo used actors rather than members of the public, giving the video rather too professional finish.

…a business without passion won’t survive

Again the firm takes a pragmatic approach with Pedersen arguing that it is natural for some reporters to be critical. The policy, however, “is to always be available to clarify if there are specific questions”.

To clarify some of the issues momondo produced a video about the making of the campaign, which can be viewed here.

Yes, of course, profits are important to the firm but Burge says you can’t separate brand from product and timing and engagement really do matter. The timing of this DNA campaign may have been lucky but it was also made with passion, says Burge, and “a business without passion won’t survive”.

Hugo Burge, CEO of momondo group, is a regular speaker at EyeforTravel events. Join us soon to hear more insights from the fast-changing travel industry

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