Pakistan’s tourism strategy should focus on the consumer

June 27,2019

The success of companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever and Procter & Gamble, lies not with their huge budgets but because of their strong understanding of their consumers. These companies have invested...

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The success of companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever and Procter & Gamble, lies not with their huge budgets but because of their strong understanding of their consumers. These companies have invested heavily in consumer insights and have a dedicated task force purely focused on understanding the dynamics of their consumers and how the changes in economic or technological trends influences these.

For a company or industry to maintain longevity and sustain changes, it needs to have a long-term strategy built on consumer insights and have a dedicated task force assigned specifically for this job. Consumer insights, put simply, is a marketing term for consumer behaviour — understanding not just the ‘what they do’ but digging deep and understanding the ‘why’.

For example, from 2002 onwards, Own Label in the UK FMCG sector was starting to steal brand share from established brands. At the time I was working at Coca-Cola on Fanta and Dr Pepper. Sitting in various focus groups, we learned that the period people were reluctant to substitute their soft drink brands with Own Label was around Christmas — when they would be entertaining friends and family and they didn’t want to have an Own Label bottle sitting on the table next to the turkey. As a result a vast proportion of our marketing budget was spent in this quarter of the year to ensure Coca-Cola was preferred over other brands. Similarly, to promote tourism on a global level, the government of Pakistan needs to invest in either using the services of a consultant or develop an in-house marketing team to understand the global consumer.

At the moment the hot word in Pakistan is that ‘we are looking to target overseas Pakistanis’. I have a real problem with this generic term because that’s what it is: generic. Wrapping all overseas Pakistanis under one umbrella is naïve and misleading. It’s like saying all Pakistanis in Pakistan are the same.

Pakistanis in Australia are very different to those in Canada versus those in the UK. Within the UK, as a marketer, I can tell you that you could create four-to-five different profiles of Pakistanis and probably only two of those profiles are worth engaging with — if the objective is to bring in foreign exchange and create jobs.

However, until you know their value, it’s difficult to quantify and establish how much time, budget and resources you wish to allocate to this audience. It could turn out that greater success could have been achieved by targeting the elite group of Pakistanis in the domestic market and actually the overseas strategy should be focused on targeting non-Pakistanis as this will give a better return on investment.

At our company, knowing our customer base inside out is at the heart of all our communication and targeting, we always put a focus on the quality of our consumers rather than quantity. Quality consumers will not only be loyal to us but I know that one of our core objectives of job creation and bringing in foreign exchange to Pakistan will be achieved through this.

Without having this knowledge, the government could spend thousands with no ROI. The starting point for any project should be about knowing who to target, which can only be done through a segmentation project. This will enable you to understand, the attitude, belief system of various groups. Once you have this knowledge you can you develop a communication and marketing strategy to engage with them.

I end this article by providing some free consultancy: 1) ‘Not all overseas Pakistanis are valuable for tourism to thrive. It’s important to target those who spend when on holidays and engage with local businesses thus bringing in foreign exchange. Targeting those who have families in Pakistan can often be a waste of time because such groups do not do much for local businesses and they were going to visit Pakistan anyways.

2) Pakistanis in UK are very different to those in the US, Canada and Australia and within these countries lie further sub sectors, hence, investing in a segmentation project will enable you to build your strategy of sound knowledge rather than second guessing or based on assumptions.

3) With limited funds, be selective on how you target, focus should be on quality over quantity, and for the purpose of communication have a singular message, which is simple, easy to remember and has longevity.

The writer is the CEO of Xperience Pakistan


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