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Ep.36 Noble Performs talking digital marketing trends coming from the US to the UK in 2024

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13 Feb, 2024

Noble Performs digital agency conversation – Digital marketing insights in travel and tourism 2024 with Jarrod Lopiccolo & Kate Sikora

In today’s conversation I spoke to Jarrod and Kate from the digital agency Noble Performs. I wanted to speak to them, not only because they have recently become podcast sponsors, but most importantly because they have a successful digital marketing business in the US working with some interesting, forward thinking destinations such as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. In 2018 they opened an office in Bristol and have brought their experience and skills to the UK.

“There a thing that’s going to hit the UK called Search Generative Experience, SGE for short. And that is currently already in play in the US. It’s basically changed how people are using the Google search results. From a travel and tourism perspective by 98%. Because the experience is just completely different.”

The US is generally slightly ahead of the UK in its adoption of digital marketing and I thought it would be good to get them on the podcast to talk about their experience of moving to the UK and the differences between operating in the US and the UK and what we, in the UK, can anticipate is coming next in the world of digital marketing.

We chat about:

> Insights into the future of digital marketing, including Search Generative Experience, AI, and the first-party cookie approach to overcome the abolition of third-party cookies in 2024.

> Changing behaviours regarding search on social media platforms, such as TikTok, versus review websites.

> The growth of interest in second and third-tier destinations, luxury markets, and wellness and sustainable travel.

> Jarrod expressed his love for the Cotswolds (as a US citizen), and Kate shared her appreciation for the whole of the South West of England.

>We also talked about our favourite places to eat, including Roots and Snobbies, Pho, River Station (all in Bristol), and the Porthminster Beach Cafe in St Ives, Cornwall.

Full Transcription
Kelly Ballard 02:31
Kate, tell me a little bit about Noble Performs and what you do

Kate Sikora 02:37
Noble is a performance marketing agency that focuses on web and performance. So we build really high-performing websites and then make them perform all the time after that release. Through SEO, PPC, and paid social. We have a heavy focus on data. We’re very data-driven, doing a lot of work within conversion rate optimisation and ensuring that when we get people to our website, what are they doing when they’re there? And how are they essentially completing what we really want them to do? So very, very much a performance-focused team.

Kelly Ballard 03:13
I was really interested in your story, because when I first met you, you moved to Bristol, and you are part of a wider us group specialising in travel and tourism. So can you tell me why Bristol and what you were doing in the US?

Kate Sikora 03:32
I lived out in the US for seven years. I got my masters over there, got married and started my career in agencies on the West Coast. I had my eye on Noble pretty much the entire time I’ve been there and eventually got a job at the agency, and thrived in the travel and tourism part of what we did over there and worked in some amazing accounts with Yosemite. Visit Lake Tahoe, Santa Monica and the list goes on.
In 2017, it was time for my husband and I to move back to the UK and Jarrod and I chatted about it and decided that we wanted to open up a UK office and go for that. So we looked at three different cities. We knew we wanted to be close to London, but we wanted to be somewhere other than London. We looked at Brighton, Birmingham, and Bristol. Bristol was the perfect home for our UK office for many different reasons.

We did have a list of measurements we wanted to put against our choice of cities. So does it had to have a university, what was the population size, etc. But we also wanted it to be a cultural fit for us. And it’s funny how similar Bristol is to our US home in Reno, Nevada, even down to annual balloon festival.
Both of them have very much a foodie culture and the like. So that’s why we chose Bristol.
We have loved that the community here has been so welcoming and kind and has brought us along on our journey for the last six years.

Kelly Ballard 05:14
Well, it’s great to have you here, especially as somebody who’s been working in visitor economy for a long term. I’m always interested in what’s happening over in the US, I feel that the US is often a few paces ahead of the UK. We can learn so much from you.
Over the years that you’ve been here, there’s been a few clients that I’ve worked with you on. And I love what you do, but we’ll return to that.
Jarrod, tell me about some of your US clients. In fact, introduce yourself first because, Kate has told us a bit about her. Tell me about you.

Jarrod Lopiccolo 05:52
She’s definitely a rock star over here. You know, my name is Jarrod Lopiccolo, I’m the CEO and co founder of Noble Studios, we’ve been around for about 20 years. And we started out originally doing just sort of digital experiences. And then over the years, we’ve grown to be the full-service creative digital performance marketing agency.

So with what you call visitor economy, we call it travel and tourism in the US, we’ve really positioned ourselves as a record agency. And so that means we’re providing creative in the form of brand strategy, you know, creative messaging campaigns, all the way to the digital experience itself.

Website builds, micro websites, landing pages, and making sure all that messaging and that those brand touch points, you know, stay consistent. And then, of course, the performance marketing. So how are we actually attracting people to see our assets and stuff. In the US, when we primarily focus on travel and tourism, we like to be a record agency, because when we can own creative digital and performance, we’re effectively the most impactful for our clients.

So yeah, so I’m happy to be here today and talking about some of the things that we’re seeing in the US to your point, we oftentimes are, we like to think that we’re on that bleeding edge, but sometimes that means we’re falling over and hurting ourselves. But what’s nice is we are seeing quite a few trends. And in what we’re going to see soon is some of those trends start to hit, you know, this side of the pond?

Kelly Ballard 07:21
Well, I’m so keen to hear that, tell me just a few of the projects you work on, in the US that people can relate to here.

Jarrod Lopiccolo 07:30
Katie mentioned Yosemite, you know, that’s one of our largest national parks, in the US, it’s one of the most visited, and with that Noble are the creative digital performance marketing record agency for them. And so, things like during the pandemic, we had to really, you know, make sure that we were providing good messaging, we were having to target a lot of domestic travel, you know, because obviously, international travel was shut down. Now, with the fact that the parks are back open, a lot of people are visiting, you know, that sort of trend of getting outdoors. And in small domestic drive market travel, you know, we’re having to do a lot of campaigns talking about over-tourism.

We want to ensure that we’re not just showcasing the one Yosemite waterfall. How are we really spreading crowds out through the park and talking about the other assets they might have? And then we’re, of course, using different technologies and tools to measure where visitors are going. So we can directly tie that back. A month or so later, we actually look at the data and see based on visitors stats did they actually go to those areas in the park? So that gives kind of an idea of one of the clients that we’re working with, another one is Lake Tahoe.
We’re the full record agency for Lake Tahoe, and they’ve experienced over-tourism, as well. So getting them to spread the crowds to not just going to Emo Bay, which is the most beautiful part of Lake Tahoe. How do we get them to these other areas? How do we get them to go 15 minutes away, and maybe take a hike or, you know, start marketing all the different other activities and assets that they have.

Kelly Ballard 09:12
Cool. I want to avoid putting you on the spot here regarding the details, but how have you done that, trying to get people to go to different places?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 09:20
As an example, one of the trends we’re seeing in the US is a rise in sustainable travel or responsible travel. And, you know, when you think about what that means, it starts with the visitor – who’s coming to the area.
We wanted to target a more sustainable traveller. So we looked at different signals, like, does this person own or show intent to purchase an electric vehicle? Do they make a specific household income and show that they consume content around activities like hiking or biking or paddleboard stand up. So once we understand that we can build a customer audience with our paid media, we go in, go into that market, shoot the photos, and shoot the videos with people doing those activities. Then we market to them.

When they get into market, we use tools, one of them’s used, called Zarco. And it’s a tool that allows us to create the same lookalike audience we targeted into their platform. And then we can actually track them, you know, it’s all anonymous, of course, but we can track that type of audience and say, okay, yes, they actually stayed longer in market, they spent more money in market, they did these activities, because you can, you know, put tagging on to specific locations, like a tour operator that rents kayaks or paddle boards. And then we can actually see that they spent more money in market and for the repeat visitors when they come back into market. So that helps close the loop of saying, Okay, we’ve designed an audience, we’ve targeted that audience to the right content. And then we follow them all the way through market. And now we can repeat that in different audiences. If we want to target, you know, others with different attributes.

Kelly Ballard 11:09
Wow, that’s incredible in terms of being able to track, is that software available in the UK? Can you give us that in the UK, specifically,

Jarrod Lopiccolo 11:17
Zartico? No, but they’re in the process of coming to the UK, which will be the first market they’ll be in. So other ones do similar targeting Adara and whatno. You can never understand who the exact visitor is, all that information is anonymous, yes, privatised. But but because you can create those look-alike audiences with these types of tools, you’re able to simulate something quite similar. And so sometimes I’ll look at credit card data with a lookalike cell phone data, just by, again, IP address, but it all gets sort of washed.

Kelly Ballard 11:52
Wow, just going back to the first part of that analysis and the customer, what are they doing? What are they buying, that kind of stuff? Where do you find that information? How do you use that information? Because in this country, for example, we might use some something like Experian, well, historically. What kind of stuff do you use? What kind of software? And what do you have access to to give you that information?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 12:19
So all of that software, typically the client purchases, and then they load their own data into it. So if you’re a specific city like Bristol, you’ll load in all of your attractions that you have, whether it’s the bridge, or St Nicholas market or whatnot, and you put there like beacons, effectively, you put in IP addresses, and then when either cell phones come into contact with that credit card purchases, so visa offers up their credit card data, it gives a signal that says, okay, this is how many people are visiting.

Then you can say, well, I’m interested in specific cell phones that are coming from the East of London or something like that. And we know that those cell phones have a specific number attached to them. So we know it’s from that region. So if we start marketing in that market, Then a month later, we register and say, well, we get a baseline, we saw that, you know, before we marketed, we had, say whatever, 500 people in this in this area, after we marketed to that area, now we have 600. Now you can tie that back to your campaign and say, well, there’s no other things that are happening, clearly that increase in visitors to that specific destination was driven by our marketing campaign. And then if in quite the opposite effect, well, we didn’t see the needle move at all, then you know that either the messaging isn’t resonating with that audience or they just don’t fit and maybe need a longer window of time because bookings and getting visitors to travel.
So maybe it’s not just a month, you might have to wait six months, and you know, that kind of thing. But having that data and really, you know, understanding, reading, and getting the insights of that, and then getting that back to the front end of when you’re architecting campaigns. It’s really the magic.

Kelly Ballard 14:00
That you just described, is that currently available in the UK? Are people doing that?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 14:16
I don’t know. There’s more privacy, and actually, with, you know, the removal of third-party cookies, things like that, we’re going to have to start relying on more customer-centric data, you know, a lot more data analytics. So I imagine there’s a lot of that that exists here. But at the same time, you’re probably not going to get as deep into it; you’ll probably get a lot more anonymisation with that.

Kelly Ballard 14:40
Talking about the third party cookie situation. Is that something that is being adopted in the US?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 14:48
Yeah, they have eliminated third-party cookies in the US, right, so now they are only offering first-party cookies. So there’s a lot of tactics around that. How do you actually get more information about your exact customers? Some incentivise them to provide things like email or their telephone number or things like that. So you have gotten this first-party information on these consumers. And as long as they’re getting, at the end of the day, the experience or the products or the goods that they wanted a service, like me will offer up that information that you can no longer get it from, like third party software or tools that would scrape data or, use a unique identifier, and then start building that profile whether it was a phone number or whatnot. So really, you have to get that from the individual nowadays, which is the better way, right, you know, I want to give my email out, whoever is sending the newsletter is probably getting a much higher open rate, because I know them and I’m connected to that brand, then if I didn’t.

Kelly Ballard 15:46
I’m just thinking about the mobile phone number for a second.You’ve got that as a contact, but does that give you the ability to track? As you said before, if you’ve got that number, can you track the behaviour?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 16:01
Yes. And there’s definitely tools out there that allow you once you’ve provided that information.

Kelly Ballard 16:07
Kate, coming to you, because you know, you’ve come over here, and you’re leading the UK team. But what is different about working in the UK compared to the US in this market?

Kate Sikora 16:19
Yeah, it’s a great question. And when I started to put down my thoughts around this, in preparation for today, the list starts to get quite long, actually, the different ways, and some of them will be no more high level review on, for example, the way that we present culture and the way that we have to handle budgets in this country, all of those types of things. But I’m going to draw on a couple of specific examples from the list that I think are most prevalent.

I have to start with AI and the impact that that’s had on travel and tourism in the US, and how it’s meant that we’ve had to completely change our tactics, particularly in the last year. There a thing that’s going to hit the UK called Search Generative Experience, SGE for short. And that is currently already in play in the US. And it’s basically changed how people are using the Google search results. From a travel and tourism perspective by 98%. Because the experience is just completely different. You’re presented with very different assets within the search results.

It’s a box that sits at the top of your search and it hooks to various different things in a very different way. And it speaks to you in a much more conversational way than we’ve ever seen in search before. Now, this search generative experience is rolled out into 120 different countries. And it’s due to come to the UK in March this year, well, supposedly between January and March, but it’s looking like it’s going to be later in the year.

It will transform how we handle Travel and Tourism within the search results in the UK. Moving forward. Obviously, we’re very lucky in the UK office that we have a US team that can provide us with insights and a view on some of the things they’re seeing. The biggest thing is just making sure that we are preparing our websites for this change. We’re not filling them with content that’s been written by ChatGPT, because due to the recent changes around EAT, we know that the content that you put on your site has to be written as you the expert, with unique content. And so making sure that all of our clients are adhering to that. But then also looking for opportunities to add code to our images. That means you’ll be eligible to show up within this Search Generative Experience space, ensuring that we’re adding other snippets of information, again, setting us up to succeed in that space. So that’s one of the biggest ways we are currently behaving differently in the US when it comes to working with our tourism clients versus here.

Kelly Ballard 19:04
Is that something that is that you add on to Google? Or is that something that they are providing? And is it just Google?

Kate Sikora 19:14
It’s not something that we can do, we can manipulate our websites to provide the right kind of snippets of information within the code that means we’re eligible to be involved in those search results. But we can’t control how Google decides to change and transform the search engine to provide this experience we have to go along with the ride really.

Kelly Ballard 19:36
So it’s something that will be seen at the top of the search, that’s going to be visually different?

Kate Sikora 19:44
Visually very different. It is in a box format, and it will tell you that this is a Search Generative Experience that you’re experiencing, but it’s above the fold. Moving forward, what you see first will be the prime real estate’s essential search. You need to be ready for that change and really thinking about how your content and your website is going to perform within that specific space.

Kelly Ballard 20:10
Forgive me if you’re, if you’ve already answered this, I’m just trying to get my head around this. What do we have to do differently?

Kate Sikora 20:24
It’s a great question. There are things that we can do from a technical perspective to help gear your website up for being eligible for these these results. But it’s making sure that you’re not filling your website with content that’s not expertly written, coming from an authority, trustworthy and genuine.

We need to make sure that we have content that is really strong and relevant to your audience on your website to make sure that you’re able to show up for them.

Quite a few years ago now we started to talk about voice, conversational keyword activity being key because we had the influx of Alexas. So it is now thinking about your content and in a lot more of a conversational way. Because the Search Generative Experience is designed to be much more of a conversational way of searching for things. So where we’ve traditionally had much shorter, smaller keyword searches happening, we’re finding now that with this experience, especially in the US, people are putting really long sentences into Google search now. So ‘what is the best destination in the UK for me to go on holiday with my family with two small children, one of those two, and one is four’ it’s literally that long.
Yeah, instead of it being like ‘best holiday destinations for families’. Yeah, and it’s just getting much more vast and lengthy. And it’s making sure that even though Google and AI is a lot smarter, it can then see the intent behind your content, and that you are eligible to show it for these much longer tail, more detailed searches that we’re going to start seeing within the results.

Kelly Ballard 22:09
Interesting. Okay, you’ve got a few more points. So I’m not gonna ask any more questions.

Kate Sikora 22:16
Yeah, so going back to the question around, how is it different working with US travel and tourism versus the visitor economy in the UK, I would go down to the type of marketing campaigns and drawing a little bit on what Jarrod just said, as well, with regards to moving away from it being kind of destination marketing, but also destination management and helping to support that.

In the US, I draw on another campaign that we’ve done with Lake Tahoe, which was essentially solving the problem of them just being having too many people in markets and too many people in certain parts of the lake.

We created a campaign that was named ‘Rules To Lake By’, which was broken out into three different categories, thinking about the visitor, the locals and the government, and how we could support destination management, when they are actually there and in market more effectively.

So if visitors are aware of parts of the lake that were overpopulated with tourism, how are we then helping them as Jarrod mentioned, similarly, with the San Jose, are we then using campaigns and marketing to educate the audience before they get there and educate them when they are there, to make sure that they’re aware of the impact of their travel from essentially to that place.

And I think we’re starting to see, from our experience in the UK, destinations, shifting more to thinking like this. For example, we’ve worked alongside the Cotswolds, looking at Bourton on the Water and Bibury. They are overpopulated destinations, which is a challenge for that region as opposed to a good thing to a certain degree. And we worked alongside them really understanding from an analytical perspective, how we can start to raise the profile for some of the other towns and destinations within the Cotswolds to try and pull those tourists into those other areas to relieve those hotspots.

So we are starting to see this becoming more of a trend around destination management as well as marketing. But I would say in the US, it’s definitely very focal throughout their entire marketing strategy now.

Kelly Ballard 24:29
Ok, just to pick up on that and the work you did in the Cotswolds because I was working with you then. And I remember the tools that you use, you’re able to analyse those that have intent and search on those particular destinations. You can analyse them at different points in time to assess the effectiveness of the marketing campaigns. And I think historically, I mean, that’s the beauty of digital now is that you can actually see, you know what a difference marketing is making.

From an awareness perspective, from a destination marketing perspective, I think sometimes because you operate in that awareness element and the research element of that customer journey, you can’t always see the effectiveness of your marketing. So being able to see, the increase in search terms, is obviously beneficial to a destination marketer, like myself, I guess, or a client.

Kate Sikora 25:23
Yes absolutely. And we used a plethora of different tools on that project, to understand a search behaviour increase in volume of search terms for different destinations, and so on. And I would say since that project, we’ve also had a vast growth in our ability to be able to understand user journey to an even more detailed degree with Google Analytics 4 coming into play, understanding funnels through your site for different types of audiences, focusing on different parts of the destinations, if the Cotswolds obviously, there was several different places they were trying to understand and do user behaviour around and the way that we can now build out dashboards to show how users are interacting with these different destinations, how they’re making decisions around which ones they want to go to is, is really excited thing.

Obviously, it’s based on making sure that you’ve sufficiently set your website up and your event tracking up for success so that you can see and build out these funnels. But I would say that again, one of those things that we do in to a very large degree in the US is these dashboards, where we’re able to really get into the data understand what people are doing, and how the marketing is impacting their decisions and how they’re deciding to do what they want to do, whether it’s go to Castle Coombe versus Bibury versus, you know, maybe another one of the cities or towns in the Cotswolds.

Kelly Ballard 26:52
I’ve seen this dashboard, and it is impressive – and as a marketer, its a dream, watching those stats

Kate Sikora 26:58
When you think about how we can start to build those out across different councils as well as different destinations and start to see how user behaviour differs or is similar between cities and the North versus destinations down in the South. How we can then harness that to benefit those different destinations and have more cross-collaborative experiences, though, yeah, there’s a lot of a lot of exciting stuff that comes down to.
But data is also something you can get lost in, and it’s making sure you’ve got the right metrics in place and you’re looking at the right things, and you’re using it to actually benefit and drive impact. And that’s definitely what we really make sure that we we do as a team.

Kelly Ballard 27:38
Are there any other key? I mean, you said there were loads as you started thinking about it, but any other that kind of really stand out,

Kate Sikora 27:47
I would say, you know, we can talk about budgets, we all know budgets are smaller in the UK than the US they just invest more in travel and tourism at a government level over there. In the UK, you do have to think about how you can really drive impact with much smaller budgets.

That was something we had to really think about when we first entered this market. And now you know, we’ve worked with Super Weston on a brilliant campaign recently and saw some great results out of that, but the budgets aren’t what they are in the US.

I think because of that as well, we do find ourselves in the UK working alongside a lot more OTAs because it’s more commercial, we can see the the impact of the work much more on those. We do have a lot of OTA clients in the UK working with camper van websites and so on. And that has, I would say grown a lot in this market. For us, it’s working alongside those types of more commercial websites.

In addition to that, I would say the other big, big difference in the Europe, US versus the UK is seasonality in the UK, we have our four seasons. And for the most part, if you’re up in Scotland or down in, you know, the very tip of Cornwall, they might get cold out there, but you know, it’s still going to be winter, spring, summer autumn.
In the US, you can be up in the mountains, seeing one morning and getting your first track down the hill and having, you know the wind in your hair. But then later on that afternoon, you’re down on the beach surfing. And so it’s a very huge swing in terms of destinations over there and how we market them. And the seasonality is just very different.

Southern California is always for the most part warm flooding right now but warm. And you know, that’s a very different way of managing destinations. Compared to the UK. We are very much within our seasons over here, which is I would say quite nice,

Kelly Ballard 29:43
Thank you, Kate. That’s really useful. Jarrod can you tell me what trends you are seeing in the US that you believe that we’re going to be showing up in the UK over the next year?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 29:57
Yeah, specifically to the visitor economy travel and tourism, we talked a little bit about the sustainable slash responsible travel. So you’re seeing quite a bit of that. There’s also wellness travel. And so you know, you’ve got a lot of people that don’t want to break up their routine, but they, you know, feel coming out of a pandemic, you know, there’s the work-life balance.
There’s this concept of, I’m going to go on a trip just for a spa or wellness, or maybe a really fun culinary experience, but where they can actually maintain their routines, I think that’s the critical, most important piece is that typically, you go on vacation, and you break up your routines. And so we’re seeing, you know, just in our marketing and stuff, that people are wanting to maintain their routines, but be in a different location and having kind of a richer, deeper kind of experience.

The other thing, post pandemic was that travel was sexy, and people visited those tier one cities, and everyone’s gotten their Instagram content, in those cities already, but you’re now seeing this sort of off the beaten path experience. So what is a second tier or third tier city, you know, obviously, in the US, we do have a lot of space and, and you can drive, wish that was better transportation that we drive, and you can get within a couple hours into a place that, you know, you almost feel like no one’s ever been before. And so you’re seeing this happen as well, it’s sort of like I need to retreat, I need to get away and do escape. So we’re starting to see quite a bit of that, I think coming out in the pandemic, specifically, there was a lot of people that willing to do that domestic travel and camp, right and being more open wide open spaces and hike and, and so that’s definitely on the rise again, I think there’s a combination of, you know, a pandemic, feeling like you’re locked into a city needing to feel open. And then again, the the sort of love language that Instagram provides, right, if you show a picture of you next to a waterfall, and nobody else is there, it’s likely going to get a lot more hits than if you’re just walking down the street in tier one city. And so I think the combination of those two forces acting on themselves, is definitely creating that more off the beaten path, type experience. So I can easily see that coming over, you know, as people are more confident to travel as travel prices, or maybe their budgets come down a little bit, because we also saw a lot of people do this sort of revenge of travel, you know, coming out of a pandemic, like, at all costs, I’m gonna have this trip, because I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to have one again. And people naturally saved a lot of money during the pandemic, because they didn’t travel a lot they eat at home or less restaurants in Scotland. So now we’re starting to see a little bit more of those, you know, those those budgets, so spending budgets come down event and so. So for that, I think we’re going to see, again, those tier two, tier three cities receive some more visitors.

Kelly Ballard 32:57
I’m just thinking, as you’re saying that I’ve heard a lot about, you know, I was talking to Kathryn from Visit West recently on the podcast, and she was telling me about wellness as a key for them – wellness travellers, sustainable, you know, travellers who, because of the sustainability at the heart of what they do, so that’s really good. I’ve never heard it said, as you said, in terms of wellness, and I think about myself, yeah, I’ve got a two week holiday coming up, and I am absolutely, you know, I’m like, how am I gonna maintain what I’ve been doing? Yes, because I don’t like that feeling when I go away. And I totally get it, I can see that. And I’ve never really seen that kind of described like that before. I was wondering, though, on the flip side of that, in terms of the luxury market, and how that affects like, because it’s almost like there’s two sides to travellers. There’s a lot of luxury travel brands and experiences out there. But there’s a lot of what’s the trend is for this simpler living kind of more natural experiences. What happens, and how does that affect the luxury market? Have you got any experience of that?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 34:02
Yeah, we do. And to your point, I think in general, if you think about all travel experiences are rising, we’re just so you know, if you thought before, okay, use a number 100 trips, and maybe 80% of them were x and 20% were this, you’re starting to see a much more diverse mix of trips that are happening within that same 100 set. And so even for myself, I love to hike, I love to camp, So you’ll see that I’ll go to tier two – tier three cities, but then at the same time, literally just yesterday, a text from a friend – They’re kind of bougie you know, they do well. They said, Hey, we’re going to do a luxury trip to Machu Picchu. It’s five days, you know, it’s great wines … let’s be clear, it’s not cheap. You know, it’s a very expensive, almost 4000 quid per person to like, wow, that’s a lot. You know, I could do a lot with that. You can see four different five different two to three tier cities. So I think it’s a matter of travel has increased over the last few years. Andthe diversity of those travel trips has also increased. So I don’t think it’s taken away from the sort of pie of travel, if anything, the pie grew. And in each of these categories grew as you’re actually going to see a lot more curated trips.

Kate Sikora 35:25
We are working with a luxury travel company at the moment, and they actually have seen this year, the biggest amount of growth in people interested in booking luxury tours with them. And I think what’s key and what we’ve worked alongside them on is really building in those trust factors with the audience around making even luxury, travel sustainable, and being ethical and those types of things. Just because it’s still going to people that want that experience, but they are going to be much more about choosing somebody based on those trust factors – building them into your advertising into your marketing into your email strategies, when you’re nurturing them through that decision making experience that they’re going through. So I think if you combine that with luxury, I think we’re still seeing huge growth in that area.

Kelly Ballard 36:15
So, Jarrod, what are the key things in digital marketing generally, that are affecting or going to affect how we market ourselves in 2024 -25?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 36:25
The most obvious is AI and machine learning we’ve been through the last year, I mean, everyone that I know, is using the Caht GPT’s or Claudes I mean, the list goes on and on and on. So I think it’s a matter of, you know, really adopting that into all of our sort of daily work habits and personal habits and such. Kate mentioned, the generative, the Search Generative Experience, so that’s really like almost every bit of our conversation with our clients, because, you know, we’re heavy performance marketing, and with a lot of SEO, because the more you can show up organically, the more that those budgets that they were, you know, using to stand on those keywords or whatnot, we can shift those now into being more strategic or, you know, spread those across other service lines. So that’s definitely on the rise.

There are tools in things that have already been around, if so, you know, a lot of the tools like Google or meta, have already integrated AI or have AI, or machine learning for quite a while. And so what we’re seeing is this, you know, more on the rise of responsive and full dynamic ad creative, which effectively allows you to load up all the different types of imagery. So imagine, we’re talking about this sustainable audience that we attracted to Lake Tahoe, let’s, you know, show, you know, people paddleboarding, people doing yoga, hiking, biking, you know, just relaxing by the fire. And so all of a sudden, you’ve got this, you know, matrix of imagery. And then you have a matrix of call to actions, and you have a matrix of all the different messaging that gets overlaid on those. And then through, you know, machine learning, basically, it’s building these combinations of ads, placing them in front of this audience that we’re targeting, and then seeing which ones perform the best, and then automatically switching to those types of ads. So that’s just, it’s already it’s been around for a while, but it’s becoming more and more, sort of the norm to view that. So some of that will likely come this way, you know, if it’s not already really, you know, as saturated in the process of tools and servicing our clients.
AR and VR, that technology still exists here, you’re seeing all the different, you know, product enhancements, we have CES, in Las Vegas, a lot of the stuff that they’re showcasing is investments in that category. So you’re going to start seeing a lot more wearables, I know, Ray Ban has some great wearables. You know, and so you’re just gonna start seeing a lot more of that.

You know, it’s a bit of a bruise to the American ego, but we’re expert consumers. And so what you’re going to find, with a population of 360 plus million, you know, all of us are, you know, well off enough to have few TVs in our houses, unfortunately, that we’re spending in this fashion, but we’re naturally going to further this product enhancement, technology enhancement, because of just our consumption patterns and stuff. So it’ll be an interesting subject AR and VR coming into the market.

The last thing I would say is, for which, you know, obviously, it’s prevalent here during, at least for the Travel and Tourism side of the world. A lot of the pre planning, trip planning is all coming through a lot of the social platforms. So it’s the Instagrams, the Facebook’s, you know, the TikToks and stuff. And so now, we’re able to see with TikTok commerce. So what we call shoppable content. So now you’re staying in platform so this is what TikTok loves, they don’t want you to leave, you know, like because even though the data shows that You’re gonna come back, it’s like once you’re addicted, then she’ll go into Tik Tok. Yeah, maybe you only click it 100 times a day instead of 103 that they want. But again, at the end of the day, they want to keep you on your platform, the more you’re on your platform the more, you’re consuming their content. So now this idea of shoppable content, where you can actually book a trip, or you can book a tour operator, or something like that. So we’re seeing a lot of matches for pre planning happening in those. But we’re also seeing now the actual commerce is taking place on those. So you’ll start to see a lot more of that come this way as well.

Kelly Ballard 40:29
Yeah, I can see that completely speaking to anybody who’s aged 20 and below. Yeah, they’re kind of they don’t Google. They look, they go to TikTok to search don’t they?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 40:41
Well, I would say that with the Search Generative Experience, I think we’re starting to see that one of the reasons why people go to TikTok is they can quickly get information. And so they use it as a search engine.
I saw a great example, it was a coffee spill on your jeans. And it showed doing a search in Google, about a year ago. Doing a search on Google, it showed ads and then you have to scroll down to the first organic listing to click on it and wait for the website to load. And then you had to read, you know, it wasn’t a video necessarily it was on a website. So all of a sudden, that process to get to have one single answered ‘how to take out a coffee stain’ was about a minute and a half versus you go to TikTok and you ask it and within, you know, microseconds, you’ve got six different videos, and that all are consumable in five seconds, right? So if you’re younger, and you’re like, well, not only is it more contextual, because I get to see a video of showing what the product is, they’re showing how the stain gets removed from dirty jeans to clean jeans. And so you know that trust value goes up and then they get that information really quickly. So what are they going to do the next time that they have something? So are they gonna go to Tik Tok?

Kelly Ballard 41:47
It’s true. And also, I think, going back to what you’re saying about the trust factor, until now we’ve been using things like Google reviews and TripAdvisor, but actually those authentic people, young people want, They go there, because that’s what the local people, the young people say, isn’t it? And that’s why they choose TikTok.

Kate Sikora 42:12
Well,it’s, it’s interesting, because I had a conversation my nephew’s about this the other day, because he told me, you know, like, what are you how are you using TikTok? I’m always asking them questions about this, because I’m just curious to find out how you know, that generation are doing it. And they were like, ‘Well, whenever we’re looking for a restaurant or food, we go straight there’. TikTok got it, right, because they basically mirrored the experience of Google to a certain degree in terms of forming additional ways that other people are searching for things. So when you start to search, you’ll see it comes up with a suggestion below it – ‘people ask’ type of boxes. They said, I get to go and now search for a restaurant and within a half a mile of where I am, and I can see the food. And I’ll just choose based on what I’ve seen, and they’ll greet videos of the food that is available in those restaurants. I can just make a decision and then all the contents down and to your point Jarrod, it’s quick, it’s really easy to know that five different restaurants are really close by and then off they go. So it is a very, very different experience. But a faster and more efficient one. And that’s ultimately what they’re looking for.

Jarrod Lopiccolo 43:24
But just to add, what we’re really talking about is this idea of personalised content for a user-generated content. And to your point, those trust signals we still want. Instead of seeing a Five Star Review, which we all know some can be gamed or in the past sometimes even paid and so all of a sudden starts to lose its credibility.
Again, as video content is the number one consumed media, it’s not, you know, curated video, it’s just video from humans that are regular people putting something out there. So right away, you immediately transfer your trust to them, because you’re like, well, they’re normal, they’re normal humans.
I think right now, some influencers that are the sort of major influencers, I think we all know that, they’re being somehow sponsored or given free trips or free experiences.
So you have to realise their incentive in some way or another, you know, and so those ones that are maybe the Nano Mac, you know, the little micro micro, the tiniest of influencers, you know, maybe those are starting to get a little bit more trust, because it’s closer to you, you can relate with them a bit more. That’s definitely on the rise, like short form content, you know, live streaming, and again, all that user generated content.

Kelly Ballard 44:45
So as marketers, to me this is about content planning, effective creative content planning around short form video. Anything else to add to that from a TikTok perspective? If that’s who your potential market is. Do you do much of that in the US? Is that a kind of big part of what you do?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 45:06
Its interesting, you know, definitely TikTok is on the rise over there. But I could just even on this trip that I’ve been on here, more people are talking about TikTok that are in the sort of older generations of millennials to Xers to boomers and stuff, whereas in the in the States, you’re definitely seeing the Gen Z, and some of the millennials on Tik Tok. So I don’t know if there’s a trust factor that’s existing there or we’re just tired, you know, like, because we do consume so much are usually the one of the first countries to adopt to these things. And so, yeah, so I have a TikTok account that I’m squatting on effectively. And I have not launched my first post because I’m worried as soon as I do, I’ve got another platform that got to consume into but yeah, I guess I expect it to rise I mean, as you know, that Facebook starts to lose some of their following and becomes a little bit more heavy with ads, and, you know, just a lot of noise, I think you’re going to start to see a lot more rise into platforms like TikTok, where it’s, again, really heavy user generated content. And it’s quick, and it’s also video based, a lot of it’s all video.

Kate Sikora 46:12
Yeah, so I’d say bringing it back to travel and tourism, particularly with our UK clients we’re seeing a huge rise in requests for TikTok strategies, particularly from cutting back to the fact that it’s a search engine, like Google and, and it’s bringing in those user intent, keyword intense data and understanding into that platform, and then providing content that supports the user journey within there. Because going back to what I said about the restaurants it’s so visual in that platform, and if you’re able to, visually, you can give so much more information and so much faster via visual than you are through the written word, unfortunately. I mean, I love both. But, you know, there is particularly in travel and tourism, I would say you should be thinking about the TikToc strategy if you aren’t already executing on that, because it’s a critical part of a user journey, particularly for people in the UK and in Europe.

Kelly Ballard 47:09
And they currently don’t have those algorithms. They you get a lot more views, you get a lot more engagement on TikTok at the moment, don’t you? Well, currently in comparison to the meta platforms, and I’ve seen it back, you know, as even as far back as 2022, when I was working with the Zoo. We ran some kind of we had this guerilla marketing experience where, forgive the pun, but it was a guy dressed as gorilla around Bristol. And he looked real. It was the closure campaign of Bristol Zoo, and we got him to jump out of one of the Bristol zoo keeper vans, that was all branded, and you pulled up at the SS Great Britain. And the idea was he goes around to visit some of the key destinations around the city to say goodbye. So before moving on, as they close the zoo. On TikTok, one of the videos got about 20 million views within a day or two. Whereas when you transfer that over to Instagram or Facebook and it was less than a quarter. You know, and it’s kind of it’s interesting, isn’t it?

But okay. So thank you for your knowledge on the market. We could talk about this for hours and hours and hours. And you’re going to be coming on and doing some really short kind of marketing bite sized pieces where we talk about SEO and PPC and various different other things over the next couple of months, but I just want to know what you do when you’re not working. I need I mean, I follow you and it’s I’m intrigued, but please tell everyone else because its very interesting.

Kate Sikora 48:45
Well, I have small human Kelly that I run around who is a fournager. I don’t think that’s the thing they say threenager but she’s four. When I’m not running around after her I travel, I loved to travel.
How many trips can we cram into this year? And what destinations have we not been to that we want to go to in the UK and abroad? So definitely a lot of that. I love to cook. So baking bread is one of my favourite things. In fact, Jarrod bought me over some starter yeast from his dad’s shop in Reno, Carson City, that started actually originated in Italy. And so I spend my weekends baking bread and trying to come up with different concoctions of different herbs and all that kind of stuff.

Kelly Ballard 49:49
How about you Jarrod?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 49:51
Yeah, so to a fault. I have already lived like three lives in this one. And so you know, my family is like what the heck Jarrod, you do too much. And luckily my small humans are now going into bigger humans. One of them’s already hit uni and another one is going to go to uni soon, but for me travel is huge.

Obviously with us focusing and travel and tourism, you have to have a passion for it. And I just love creating, you know, meaningful connections with other people. And so travel really affords that lifestyle affords for those opportunities.

I also love cooking and coming from an Italian family we love to cook and so I’m doing a lot of cooking and a lot of eating! And when I come over here I love to experience all the different restaurants and everything else but yeah, big outdoor person as well being in the US I live in what’s called the Sierre Nevada, so right at the mountains edge and so we’re always hiking or camping, big photographer love doing landscape photography, and now a lot more of what I would call ethno photography. So it’s effectively travelling to these places, and people photos of cultures that you haven’t even maybe grew up with, you know, and so really enjoy doing that.

This this last year, I just hiked to Everest base camp, which was a big feat and had to train for that. And then this upcoming year in 2024, we’re gonna go to Dolomites in Italy to Patagonia and then also Machu Picchu. But that again, that’s I mean, surely that’s more a bougie trip.

Kelly Ballard 51:19
That that just in one year? Oh, yeah. Oh my gosh, it’s like my lifetime bucket list. Right there.

Jarrod Lopiccolo 51:27
I’ve also got a photographers trip to the Death Valley. So like I said, I’m living three lives in this one and I can drive people crazy that are close in my proximity of family.

Kelly Ballard 51:38
You know, that brings tears to my eyes because I’m so jealous. I’m like, I want to do that.

Jarrod Lopiccolo 51:43
I’m living the life that I that I want to be living. So that’s it’s working out well

Kelly Ballard 51:48
Amazing, amazing. So Jarrod what have been your favourite places in the West to visit?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 51:59
Yeah, so Kate mentioned the Cotswolds. I just love that. As an American his is like the quintessential English you know, cottage villages and stuff and it just feels like you walk onto a movie set literally I know some of them have been used for movie sets and so I love that also.
Kate, invited us to her family home in St. Ives Cornwall, so I went there and I just of course love the seaside I always I love the energy that you get when the ocean meets the land and you just kind of feel rejuvenated and so again being outdoor that that really gravitates towards the Cotswolds is just my new favourite I’ve last few years I wouldn’t fly over here see the office I usually get one weekend before when we can after and so go there and totally enjoy it.

Kelly Ballard 52:47
How about you Kate?

Kate Sikora 52:49
Oh gosh well because living here we are having adventures every weekend. And I don’t even know how to answer that in one place. Oh so many gorgeous places. But um I would say you know Jarrod mentioned St Ives Carbis Bay, Hale, I grew up there I’ve been going since the age of six years old. So it’s my second time to a certain degree so definitely love love down there but you know going down just on the coast just outside of Bristol is gorgeous.
My husband’s a power paramotor so flies all along that coastline and me and Aubrey my daughter chase him along there and all of us going over to Wales and you know and the Wye Valley and Tintern Abbey, there’s just so much to absorb. We’re National Trust members, so we’re always off to the National Trust parks as well. When I was heavily pregnant we were at the tree place..gosh help me out Kelly..

Kelly Ballard 53:52
Westonbirt Arboretum …ha ha

Kate Sikora 53:57
It was when the the Japanese maples, the autumn colour, really gorgeous autumn because my daughter was born in November and I just remember wandering around out there when I was very pregnant and just the gorgeous reds are just to die for. Yeah lots of places around here are very close to my heart.

Kelly Ballard 54:16
So my last question to you both – your favourite places to eat in the West.

Kate Sikora 54:24
Top of mind is Roots, Bristol because it is where we went on Monday night. So Roots is very high on my wish list right now of places to go back to because we had such a lovely meal there the other day. And then we have Snobbies, Bristol also another one of my favourites. My husband, I threw his 40th birthday there and they were just absolutely fabulous and really looked after us and then outside Bristol, I would say the Portminister Beach Cafe down in St Ives, Cornwall. It’s gorgeous. It’s on the beach. The view is beautiful. You just have a glass of rose and enjoy the sunshine. Fantastic.

Kelly Ballard 55:11
And how about you, Jarrod?

Jarrod Lopiccolo 55:12
Yeah. So I would say I really enjoyed the River Station in Bristol. You know, I’ve been there a few times. But always I’d like to have Pho or Pu however you want to pronounce it. I think it’s Claire Street in St. Nicholas square. In fact, we’re probably going to go there tonight.

Kelly Ballard 55:33
Oh, fantastic. Well, thank you so much for your time today. And I just want to close this by saying, Thank you so much for being a sponsor of the podcast, because I really appreciate your help and support in keeping the podcast going. And it’s great to have such amazing knowledge, expertise and specialists alongside the podcast supporting me

Jarrod Lopiccolo 55:55
No, and we love it. In fact, one of our big things that we enjoy is like minded partners that have similar ethos and are on the same mission and vision of making this world a better place. And we know you do just that. So not only happy to be here as guests and looking forward to some more guests, you know, opportunities, but happy to sponsor the great mission and work you’re doing.

Kelly Ballard 56:16
Thank you Jarrod

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