Booking.com looks to stand out with Smiley brand as consumers return to travel

The header image shows an illustration of two women riding in a car.

Booking.com is celebrating its “Summer of ‘Yeah'” campaign, teaming with The Smiley Company — the 50-year-old manufacturer of the iconic smiley symbol — to kick off a series of “Smiley Stays” across the U.S.

“After two years of travel restrictions, Americans are definitely getting back out there this summer,” said Arjan Dijk, Booking.com’s svp and CMO.

The company’s “Smiley Stays” activation will target travelers looking for vacation rental properties for the summer months, with “Smiley Stays” referring to luxurious locations travelers can book across the country. The limited-edition “Smiley Stays,” which feature Smiley decor and amenities, will be available for two-night stays Aug. 12 to 14 for $50.

Additionally, Booking.com has revived its Booking.yeah ads, which feature award-winning actor and musician Idris Elba. The brand worked with Los Angeles-based creative consultancy Horses & Mules to develop the Booking.yeah ad spots.

“The travel and hospitality industry was hit really hard by the global pandemic and a global partnership with a global and cross-cultural talent like Idris Elba strategically brings the brand into the cultural and experience conversation while meeting their end benefit of travel made easy through Booking.com,” said Jeffrey Bowman, CEO and founder of tech and services company Reframe.

A Booking.com survey found that 76% of people who travel do so to boost their mood. The company’s summer ad campaign reflects Booking.com’s range of accommodations, which include over 28 million listings that feature 6.5 million homes, apartments and unique places to stay. One campaign spot, titled “Perfect Stay: Windsurf,” exemplifies Booking.com’s array of accommodations.

“Given it has been such a heavy, stressful environment over the past few years, we wanted the ads to have a lighthearted, feel-good tone that brought a smile to people’s faces again with the excitement of travel,” Dijk said.

Booking.com also aims to provide a broad audience of travel lovers, accommodation partners and industry professionals with the convenience of booking directly with the company to ease the process for all parties involved. And giving travelers more options to choose from is key in the post-Covid world.

“We want travelers to know they have plenty of experiences and properties to choose from — and that’s exactly what the ‘Summer of “Yeah”‘ is all about,” Dijk said.

It is unclear how much of Booking.com’s advertising budget is allocated to the campaign, as Dijk would not share overall budget specifics. According to Pathmatics, the company has spent a little over $35 million so far in 2022 for marketing efforts. Dijk noted that Booking.com has a strategic media mix to ensure paid efforts per channel, which encompass YouTube, Instagram and the company’s recently launched TikTok page, are effective and maximized.

Booking.com is not the only travel agency brand that has collaborated with celebrities for their marketing efforts amid the return of travel. Days Inn recently ran an outdoor advertisement campaign to stand out for people returning to travel post-Covid.

“Booking.com is wise to remind consumers with this campaign that, higher-than-ever ticket prices aside, travel can be the ultimate feel-good remedy for otherwise stressful times, that finding the ‘perfect’ spot can give us all a sense of control over our conditions in a period where we are often at a loss,” said Margo Kahnrose, CMO at omnichannel marketing platform Skai.

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