The Changemakers: Q&A with Barbara Moreno, Head of Marketing, NDC [X], Amadeus

The Changemakers: Q&A with Barbara Moreno, Head of Marketing, NDC [X], Amadeus

As one of the world’s leading providers of technology solutions for the travel industry, Amadeus has had an interesting year to say the least.

In the first of our new series of Changemaker interviews, Shaped By Business Director Dave Corlett caught up with Barbara Moreno, Head of Marketing for the company’s NDC [X] program, to find out how the company’s customer-centric focus helped them and their customers to weather the storm hand in hand.

DC: How have the events of the past year changed the way you market to your clients, in terms of campaigns and messaging?

BM: We operate right at the centre of the travel industry, so the pandemic came as a shock. To begin with, in April and May last year, we went silent on communication while we worked out what was happening, and out of respect for the challenging impact of lockdown on all our airline clients. But then once we realised Covid was here to stay for a while, we started to think “OK how can we reassure our clients, and keep moving things forward?”

A more collaborative approach to marketing has been key. During lockdown, we launched a big corporate communications campaign called Rethink Travel. This was all about starting conversations with our key customers across different segments, and asking: “How do you see the travel industry evolving in this scenario? And how can we support you in your changing aims?”

This campaign was very much about working hand-to-hand with our customers, and it’s played out extremely well. Our clients have perceived it very positively because it’s been a collaborative effort, with collective feedback they can incorporate into their strategies for a changing industry.

As an IT partner, we’ve worked alongside our customers to push forward the development of digital projects, e.g. chatbots, that may have been in the pipeline before – but Covid gave them a new urgency. It’s a case of: these companies really need support, and we have to find a way to give it to them; and, in terms of communication, share what we are doing in this process. So Covid has pushed us to have that agility as a core value, and work together with our clients in a synergistic way.

We’ve used videos, blogs and webinars to demonstrate how we are fully aware of the complexity of the situation right now: and letting our clients know how technological innovation may help them overcome some of the existing challenges we’re facing right now e.g. by using touchless check-ins.

BM: This pandemic has forced us not just to be creative in our marketing efforts, but also to be more empathetic than before. We need to be really understanding about what our customers in the travel industry are going through, and also to engage them in more of a team spirit.

Even before the pandemic, I firmly believed that pushing our own story, as a brand, was not the way forward in terms of a marketing strategy. It’s more about understanding what the customers need, and conveying the message that we can help them to make that work. But Covid has enhanced this approach: everything in our communications now is about brainstorming alongside our customers and saying, “we are all together in this situation. How can we make your life easier?” So marketing is really to do with reminding people of that supportive, and collaborative, mindset. At the end of the day, it’s about demonstrating that we are here to help our customers. 

We’ve had to be very conscious of the changes that have happened in the market, and the fact that many airline sellers are really struggling because people are not flying. In this situation, we’ve had to push aside pre-planned communications and come up with new, reactive marketing ideas that are more suited to what our customers are going through. 

Instead we chose to push stories that are almost purely focused on our customers: working with them to decide how to move forward, and providing them technology to make it happen. We wanted to work on some educational messages. Again it’s not so much about selling: instead we want to educate our audience to ensure they understand the value of our technology in these challenging times, and also to support them if this is a strategy they want to use.

DC: Have you noticed any shifts in the dynamic of your client relationships, as a result of what you’ve been through together?

DC: How important do you think risk-taking is for tech marketers: is there a need to be more bold and brave in communication approaches?

BM: I think taking risks in marketing campaigns right now is about the balance. As a marketing director, you have to think: “What can I get through taking this risk? Will I be offending my customers because they’re really going through a challenging time?” I’m in favour of taking some risk during these times – people are in the mood for change and try new things. But I guess it’s good to try and be authentic with your risk.

Every crisis opens a door of opportunity so it’s really good to be alert to that fact. But you also need to be true to who you are.

BM: We have experimented with new marketing channels and tools as a result of lockdown, including experimenting more with webinars and the use of polling etc. in virtual events to make them more dynamic. We’ve also started to do some podcasts, too, and they were very well received. So we are really trying new take solutions in order to reach different audiences.

I sometimes wonder whether we rely too much on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter anyway; I’m not sure our target audience is using those channels.

For instance, direct mailing, which sends clients through to a demo format, may be a simpler way for clients to receive information – even though we’re conscious that if not done with the right planning it may end up being intrusive. So as well as trying new formats, I’m very much in favour of going back to direct mailings and direct communication so it’s more of a one-to-one, personal feel. It’s important to have that interpersonal relationship. For me, it’s crucial to have that detailed conversation with customers before you sell in any contracts.

These days, we have to be present with social media marketing. And for the time being, it’s good to be digitised with webinars and podcasts. But moving forward, I think it’s very important for us to be able to return to face-to-face showcases, workshops and events.

DC: How important do you think it is to experiment with new formats right now?

DC: What role does design play in fostering a strong sense of connection with clients, in your opinion?

BM: I tend to be quite sensitive about brand design: logos, images, presentation slides; the look and feel of your company; you have to be very careful and intentional with all of this. In B2B, there’s a lot of emotional connection with the customer. Especially when we sell so much complex technology, you need to bring that sense of emotional engagement with your audience. For long contracts, you need someone you can trust to make it work. And strong, homogeneous design that frames our brand and our values is an important part of this process.

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