Stories that inspire: where we get the travel bug

shutterstock_99218126As we discovered in our last post, for Active Explorers, travel is a need right up there with food, clothing and shelter. Everyone wants to take vacations to get away, whether from the stress of work or the dreary weather of home, but what inspires Active Explorers to travel? What’s that moment of motivation – when the light bulb goes on in their heads and they start making their plans? More importantly, is there an insight here for marketers?

In our recent travel study, conducted with a 258-member Active Explorer User Group, there were a few key findings concerning the travel consumer’s purchasing journey. The first was inspiration. Active Explorer travelers are motivated to travel based on specific inspirations, influencers from books to music, and more. Here’s a glimpse of the sparks that ignite an Active Explorer’s interest. These aren’t just apt observations, they’re actionable ways to communicate with potential travelers and Active Explorers.

For Active Explorers, travel is often inspired by movies, books and music.

Of the participants surveyed, 61% agree or strongly agree that movies, books and music influence their desire to travel. For Active Explorers, travel is often geared toward exploring new places and cultures, or recharging and getting away from the day-to-day grind. But even so, movies, books and music are significant sources of inspiration. Here are some verbatims from respondents:

  • “Reading books sparks my imagination for travel. Movies and TV shows also play a role. I like to be interested in the places I choose to go to.”
  • “Pictures and offers, new things I haven’t seen. . .and things I’ve seen in movies”
  • “Seeing locations in movies or reading about them in books. Also, seeing where friends travel.”

It’s a simple truth that we’ve all likely experienced: movies often show viewers a vivid picture of amazing destinations and unforgettable sights. So it’s no surprise that films are often mentioned as sources of inspiration for travel among our respondents. One user group member credited the James Bond movies specifically. James Bond: travel agent.

But Active Explorers are being inspired to travel on the small screen, too. Consider the Netflix original series Bloodline, which has increased tourism traffic and interest in the Florida Keys, especially at the Moorings Resort in Islamorada. Or the tourism industry that continues to thrive in the wake of off-the-air series like Sex in the City or Downton Abbey. The essence of a place, beautifully crafted by television, not only stokes the imagination, it’s the catalyst that impels travelers to seek first-hand experience. So join in, capture the essence of these places, and make it your business to get people there.

Active Explorers are inspired to travel by, well, traveling. The more they travel, the more they want to find more corners of the world to explore. In fact, 64% of Active Explorer user group respondents agree or strongly agree that they begin planning their next trip right after taking a trip.

One Active Explorer respondent expressed it this way: “Going on vacation makes me want to go somewhere new the next time.” It’s not simply that Active Explorers are avid travelers, they’re in insatiable pursuit of the new, from destinations and cultures to sights and tastes.

All of this means that marketers can no longer rely on simple benefit messages to create an emotional connection between their product and their best customers. The most successful brands are creating experiences – through storytelling, music and video – that engage and inspire their customers to see their brand as a call to adventure.

Look at the way Jeep uses storytelling and music to convince their customers to find their own inspiration. Watch how Corona tells their customers to “find your beach,” using nothing but sea, sun and the ambient sound of waves.  They’re creating personal entertainment experiences that evoke our yearn to travel and associate themselves with wanderlust.

Stories. Images. Music. These are your tools. Now, inspire your customers to move.

Your travel brand and the Active Explorer User Group

Looking to get a better understanding of how communicating with Active Explorers can help achieve your revenue goals this year? The complete user group findings are available to select marketers at no cost, so give us a call. Let’s get started.

For additional information, please contact us at or call (206) 285-1940.


Gotta Get Away: Capitalize on an Emerging Travel Need

shutterstock_247816624Before we begin, let’s go over the essential human needs: Food. Shelter. Security. Travel.

Wait. Travel?

That’s right. Over the last several years, travel has gone from being a luxury to a basic human need. At least that’s what was revealed in an April 2016 travel study conducted by Williams Helde. Think of it: a well-educated, fitness loving, healthy-minded and affluent segment with a penchant for discovery and novelty considers travel an authentic need.

For Active Explorers, travel is not optional. Here’s why we know it to be true.

Active Explorers are traveling more than ever. We expected that most had taken two trips in the past year. We were surprised to learn that 49% of Active Explorers took 3-4 trips in the past 12 months. Another 29% had taken 5 or more trips in the past year. That’s a dramatic increase from years past.

They’ve caught the YOLO bug. They consistently expressed their need to see new places and cultures.  “My own need to explore and see new places,” said one respondent, “eating new kinds of food, comes from the knowledge that I might not get the opportunity to do this when I get a desk job and I am stuck paying bills until the day that I die.”

They rank travel among their highest priorities. Consistently, this psychographic prioritizes new experiences over the tried and true. As one person remarked, “I like sampling new foods, visiting new places, relaxing… I want to step out of my life on vacation and try new things.”

So what can all this mean for your brand? Knowing this, travel brands have an opportunity to tap into deeper emotional territory with their messaging, forging a stronger bond that can increase sales.

Travel isn’t a destination. It’s a state of mind. Even as they get off the plane, Active Explorers are constantly in search of the next great adventure. If your brand can help enable that dream, whether that means helping save, plan, pack, or inspire, you have a place on the travel spectrum.

Travel is the celebration of what’s possible. Many Active Explorers use a vacation to try out new versions of themselves: kayaker, salsa dancer, wine enthusiast. It’s not so much about where they go as it is who they can become. If your brand can help maintain Active Explorers live the lives they’ve imagined, through fitness, food, fashion, durable goods, and more, you’ve got a leg up on your competition.

Travel is the art of the new. What part does your brand play in bringing something new to these consumers? Recognizing the explorer aspect of Active Explorers means you may have an opportunity to emphasize “new” in your marketing communications and your brand’s role in the consumer travel experience.

Watch this space. Over time, we’re going to reveal study insights across the travel experience. As we share what we’ve learned, we will include potential implications and thought-starters that can increase sales.

In the meantime, if you have questions about how our study might apply to your brand’s business challenges, give us a call at (206) 285-1940 or email us at

Start from the beginning – Check out the first blog post in our travel series: Insights from your best customers.

Insights from Your Best Customers

Introducing the Active Explorer User Group

shutterstock_402007237As marketers, we spend the bulk of our time finding and communicating with our most loyal, affluent and engaged customers. But what do our consumers really think? Now, you can ask them directly. 

Within the Active Explorer segment, consumers are engaging with brands at a whole new level. Pioneered by Williams Helde Marketing Communications, the Active Explorer User Group is a consumer panel that marketers can use to explore, understand and monetize one of the most valuable and profitable consumer mindsets.

Marc Williams, our President here at Williams Helde, tells the story behind our Active Explorer findings best:

“We discovered a segment of people searching for and aspiring to active, healthy lifestyles was growing like gangbusters. The closer we looked, the more interesting this segment became: they were powerfully brand-loyal, willing to spend more to yield better experiences, and more likely to influence friends. In short, these were the people marketers spend big money to talk to.

So, what’s the Active Explorer User Group all about? The sampling consists of U.S. households earning more than $75,000 annually, with some college education, who buy organic and fresh foods when possible and who work out at least a few times per week. Behaviorally, they are outdoor enthusiasts with pursuits ranging from swimming to hiking, and everything in between.

In April 2016, we turned our Active Explorer research and travel industry observations into a reality. Williams Helde conducted an online survey with our Active Explorer User Group to understand more deeply their motivations for travel, how they plan and book their trips, as well as preferred activities and styles of travel. It’s just one in a series of research studies planned with this consumer panel.

The Active Explorer User Group and YOUR brand

The discoveries we unearthed were exciting, so we’re making the user group available at no charge to select marketers who want to explore, understand and monetize their brand’s relationship with the Active Explorer.

If you’re thinking that Active Explorers aren’t relevant to your brand, we urge you to take a second look. Brands don’t have to be active healthy lifestyle companies. There’s a reason why McDonald’s is retooling menus to include healthy options, why Costco is the number one seller of organic goods in the world and why Gap continues to launch extensive active wear collections. Each of them is making a big push into this demographic – and reaping the rewards.

If you’d like to learn more about how the Active Explorer User Group can be used to grow your brand, please contact us at or (206) 285-1940.

Download our Active Explorer guide to learn more about this critical consumer segment.


How the Mobius Cycle cleans things up

Below is yet another example of how the path to purchase is no longer a sequential or linear journey. The purchase funnel is dead, long live the Mobius Cycle™

Lucy is aware that her dishwasher is old.  She suspects its performance is declining; glasses seem a little spotty, a little filmy, and she hasn’t changed detergents.  It could be that her husband and daughter are loading the machine poorly or, more precisely, that they are overloading it, as they often do.  But, given the appliance’s age, Lucy doubts that’s the whole story.  She’s worried about her dishwasher now though, if pinned down, she couldn’t tell you exactly when the worry started.  In Mobius terms, she hasn’t reached the conception stage and is nowhere near consideration.  Various influencers have given her impressions of some brands.  Of course, in the case of the brand she owns, she’s in the experience phase.  Brand/product is out there, for the various makers, as it always is.

Lucy begins to pay more attention to dishwasher advertising, on television and in magazines.  She takes more notice of brands and models she sees in her friends’ homes.  She asks one friend, specifically, how she likes the model he owns.  In the store for something else, Lucy decides to walk through the appliance section ‘just to take a look’.  She is accumulating influencers.

Then, one breezy Sunday morning, the night after a dinner party, Lucy’s dishwasher breaks down.  It stops functioning.  It looses water all over the kitchen floor.  This is a conception moment, for certain, but in terms of instigating the purchase of a new dishwasher, it’s not a done deal, not yet.  Lucy’s called a repair service, just to get an estimate.  Maybe it’s a cheap, simple repair and she won’t have to replace.  She spends Sunday in consideration, accelerating her research into new brands.  She emails a couple of friends, seeking their recommendations (the friends are in experience phase).  She goes online to read reviews, finds a staggering variety of sites on which she can do this.  She’s taking into account design, availability, all sorts of factors.  Influencers are coming at her, almost faster than she can process them, changing her perceptions of some brands, hardening her perceptions of others.

Monday, the estimate comes in, high but not too high.  Lucy’s still not sure whether to repair or replace.  She asks for, and receives, a recommendation from the repairman as to what brand she should choose, if she replaces.  His recommendation sends her back online, searching, as does the recommendation of a colleague with whom she’s shared her dilemma.

To re-cap, it’s Monday afternoon and the brand/product is out there, influencers from all the various brands are piling, Lucy is in full-blown consideration, despite conception still not being 100% resolved.  Lucy figures she has two days, three at the most, before everyone tires of washing the dishes by hand and/or eating out.

Sometime late on Tuesday, various influencers, including the products of others’ experience, gathered by Lucy in her consideration, finally kick her into full conception.  She decides to replace and, perhaps with the aid of a purchase accelerators and direct response drivers, makes a purchase.

Is this the end of this considered purchase cycle?  No.  Mobius never ends.

Lucy, having made her purchase, has entered into an all-new experience phase.  Influencers like post-sale service and other communications from the manufacturer, will shape that phase (as, of course, will the actual functioning of the product itself).  She will, when asked, comment on her new dishwasher to friends and colleagues.  She may write a review or post something on social media, contributing influencers to other consumers who, having had their conception moment will take those influencers into consideration.  Eventually, this next tier of consumers will make their purchases, enter into their experience phases, and contribute influencers to still another round of consumers who will take those influencers into consideration and . . .

See?  Mobius never ends.  The considered purchase cycle never sleeps.  And neither can marketers, not in this modern, multi-media environment.

Brand/Product.  Influencers.  Conception.  Consideration.  Purchase.  Experience.  It’s a lot to manage, enough to seem overwhelming at times.  At Williams Helde, we break it down into these six segments.  And we break these six segments down into still finer components; understandable, fine tune-able components.  All of these components, all of these segments—managed, measured, and fine-tuned—form one comprehensive, holistic marketing strategy, built for you, to lift your brand/product above the competition.


Consumer behavior, no matter what we wish, is seldom tidy, logical, or linear and the considered purchase cycle, now more than ever, has no clear beginning nor even a clear end.

Consumer behavior, no matter what we wish, is seldom tidy, logical, or linear and the considered purchase cycle, now more than ever, has no clear beginning nor even a clear end.

For years, marketers have used the funnel model to explain considered purchase behavior and the flow of product information. This model worked fairly well during the days of mass advertising and media-centric agencies. It has its strong points as an explanation: it’s tidy, logical, and linear. The cycle it describes has a clear, defined beginning and a clear, defined end. It also has its weak points as an explanation: it’s tidy, logical, and linear. The cycle it describes has a clear, defined beginning and a clear, defined end. Consumer behavior, no matter what we wish, is seldom tidy, logical, or linear and the considered purchase cycle, now more than ever, has no clear beginning nor even a clear end.

The funnel also requires mass advertising to top-load a huge number of leads, most of which go nowhere. It assumes mass media in a multi-media world.

Here at Williams Helde Marketing Communications , we loved the funnel. We used the funnel. The funnel, like eight-track tapes, rotary dial land line telephones, and those old cameras that required flash powder and a photographer hunched under a black wool blanket, was great in its day. It was state-of-the-art. We have fond memories of it. So it pains us to say it, but its time has passed.

The funnel is dead. Long live the Mobius Cycle

The Mobius: An Ear-y Tale of the path to purchase

In our last blog post, we looked at a case study, an actual instance of the Mobius Cycle at work, the real-life path to purchase for a pair of real-life consumers.  We’ll do that again today but, in today’s example, we’ll be looking at a case where the purchase is not optional (no matter how badly Mike and Nicole wanted that RV, they didn’t truly need it, though a successful marketer might make them feel that way) and the cycle, while it still falls under the heading of considered purchase, has a good bit more (ahem) urgency to it. Read more

The Open Road: A true story of a path to purchase

We have been spending a lot of time recently looking at how and why people buy. We have been digging deep and dissecting what goes into the consideration and subsequent purchase. You may have seen our prior postings on the Mobius Cycle™ . It’s a non-sequential purchase cycle. This non-linear consumer journey, as I’m often telling people, is not something we dreamed up here at Williams Helde; it’s something that’s out there, happening, right now, with your consumers. We’ve just coined the terminology to define and explain it, so that we can help you devise a strategy to thrive in this, the new reality.

To illustrate just how complex and difficult marketing has become and how accurately Mobius Cycle™ describes the lifecycle of a considered purchase in the current environment, allow us to present you with a case study, a true story: (we changed the names to protect the innocent) Read more

A New Look at How People Buy: Introducing the Mobius Cycle.

People are smarter than ever before. As customers, they don’t fall into a nice, easy segmentation anymore, and the purchase path is no longer linear. And with an endless amount of resources, information and influences, they’re being stimulated in more ways. Nowadays, people can interact with a brand at any point within the purchase lifecycle. Not to mention, there has been a major convergence of paid, owned and earned media to add to the decision process. In fact, mass media is no longer the driving factor in awareness and brand perception. And even “new” media is no longer considered “new” ­– it’s all just media these days. For advertisers, this means that those influences we tried to control for so many years need to be rethought as marketers.

Introducing our latest creation: The Mobius Cycle.

Read more

Favorite business books


Over the course of my professional career, I have read what ultimately amounts to a tiny fraction of the ever growing number of business books out there. That being said, I’ve read more than a few. Many of these books seem to repeat the same things over and over. Many spend a lot of ink (or electrons) articulating the importance of a topic without really offering any practical advice on how to do it. And then there are those books that you read and realize that it will change the way you operate.

I can’t put these in any particular order because different days call for different skills, but I want to share what my three favorite business books are; none are about business.  Read more

Proof that the iPhone is still winning

If you’ve read any technology articles lately, they may be leading you down a path that might suggest that Apple is a thing of the past. Now I’m not going to point out that Apple’s iPhone market share continues to grow while Android’s…well, declines. Or that Apple’s “old” iPhone 4S outsells Samsung’s top of the line Galaxy III (for the record, I’m a huge Samsung fan). Or the fact that Firefox’s new OS, Blackberry, Microsoft, etc., all of these phones are taking market share from the Android market but barely denting the iPhone market. Or even that Samsung makes fun of people for waiting in line for Apple’s product launches despite the fact that it would give anything for people to line up for its products, but repeatedly, no one does.
Read more