For travel and hospitality brands, 2020 was a brutal year. The Covid-19 pandemic devastated airlines and hotels, and leisure and business travelers accustomed to constantly planning or enjoying trips saw their habits disrupted.
No campaign was going to get people traveling before it was safe to do so, but, for booking sites like Hotels.com, it was critical to stay top of mind with consumers, reminding them that, when they were ready to travel again, the brand would be there for them.
But with no one really thinking and talking about travel, creating buzz around travel required tapping into relevant non-travel conversations and tying them back to travel in a newsworthy fashion.
By the fall of 2020, one highly newsworthy topic that spurred intense desires for escapism was politics. With the presidential campaign was setting records for ad spending and toxicity, Hotels.com recognized that, if it could help people escape the onslaught, it could find exactly the sort of platform it sought.
Determined to stay top of mind with travelers at a moment no one was traveling, Hotels.com concocted the ultimate offer for the politics-weary masses: The chance to live under a rock, without wifi, during all of election week.
The company listed a remote, man-made New Mexico cave for all of election week for the bargain price of $25, available on a first-come, first-served basis to one quick-typing booker. (Anyone who tried and failed to book would receive 20% off any stay at a property with "Rock" in its name.)
We shared the news --via a dedicated booking site-- with media and our social channels
"Hotels.com understands," wrote the Washington Post.
That connection was immediately evident on social media, where the idea generated more than 100 million impressions.
Everybody was talking about, as evidenced by media coverage in a breathtakingly diverse array of top tier outlets including the Washington Post, CNET, People, Thrillist, Travel + Leisure, the New York Post and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (see video), along with more than 480 others, including two national morning shows.
The resulting buzz created excitement around a travel brand --and travel itself- at a moment no one was traveling. Which, of course, was precisely the point.