Marketing minimalism: taking marketing back to the basics

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Does the phrase “spark joy” ring a bell? Organising consultant and tidying expert extraordinaire Marie Kondo promotes a method of decluttering that has swept the globe, inspiring millions to embrace minimalism.

The KonMari method encourages the neat-freak organiser and hoarder to give a long, hard look at everything they have and only keep the items that are truly useful or spark joy.

So, just like we organise our homes so that they’re functioning at their most efficient, why wouldn’t we organise our marketing with the same effect?

Inspired by the case for minimalism, Big Ambitions director Natalia Rosa recently shared at WTM Africa 2019 why taking marketing back to the basics is so beneficial, no matter the size of your travel business.

Here are her top tips on how to declutter your marketing, for optimum results, in 3 easy steps.

But first, how has marketing changed in the last decades?

In the 80s, what did marketing look like? Mainly billboards and advertising in magazines and newspapers. Fast forward to 2019, and we have mobile phones, social media, apps, online booking tools, the sharing economy such as Airbnb and Uber, not to mention the selfie. Did you know there are 387,724,720 posts tagged #selfie on Instagram? Yes, really!

In the travel and tourism industry particularly, we do a lot of ticking boxes. Posting 3 Facebook posts every week. Tick. Sending out a weekly newsletter. Tick.

We often do this without any understanding of why. Why? Because your competitor does it, is not a good enough reason.

So to understand why you need to forget yourself and your business, you need to look at the traveller – your customer.

What do people want when they go on holiday?

People want to have fun; to have a meaningful experience; to experience real joy or something out of the ordinary. We want to have achieved something; to reconnect with friends and family. And being South African, of course, we want good value.

Think of a car parking lot. Before we drive out of the parking lot, we should know where we’re going, right?

But so many of us are driving around the city, with absolutely no idea of where we’re going. So many of us are doing exactly the same thing with our marketing. We’re driving around, ticking those boxes but have no idea where we’re going with it or why we’re doing it.

So, park the car first. And ask these three questions:

  1. What?
  2. Who?
  3. Why?

Question 1: What?

This is the easiest question to answer. Often we focus on the how – the marketing tactics. What we should be asking, before doing anything else at all, is – what?

What is your company? What are you selling? What are you marketing?

Natalia used Pangolin Photographic Safaris and Tours as an example, a company she recently supported as a traveller. Their ‘what’ is simply to offer photographic safaris.

Question 2: Who?

Ask yourself, who’s it for? Marketing is about empathy. Switch shoes with your customer to understand why they’re coming to you to solve their ‘pain’.

Who is your customer? Who is your company there for? Why should they care about your business?

Pangolin Safari’s ‘who’ could be a seasoned photographer, but also an amateur. Their ‘who’ could also be nature-lovers or those who want to get close to wildlife. They market to travellers interested in photography, but also those looking for an amazing safari experience who want to learn a new skill. Someone who wants to achieve something, to reconnect with nature. What Pangolin Safaris does really well is that their target audience is niche, but not so niche that they run out of people to market to. But it’s important to remember that you cannot be everything to everyone.

Question 3: Why?

You need to turn your ‘what’ into ‘why.’

If we look at the Pangolin Photographic Safaris example, their ‘why’ is to turn anyone with a camera into a photographer. No matter the level of your photography expertise, after joining a Pangolin photographic safari, you’ll be able to take an amazing wildlife photo.

They’ve also cleverly harnessed social media to get their customer to tell their story for them. By including their company hashtags and guides’ profiles on a takeaway memory card, guests are encouraged to share their photos online (as they’re very likely to do to show off their new skills and share their amazing holiday).

Your story is always more powerful when your customers are communicating your ‘why’ for you.

Once you have your ‘what’, ‘who’ and ‘why’ established, you can ensure you’re communicating your ‘why’ to your target audience in the right language. Consistency is key. It takes 5 seconds to break a brand if a story is not conveyed consistently.


Marketing is about solving problems. Not selling. Ask the 3 questions of ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘why’ to get your car out of that car park and on the right road. Once you have these questions answered, you can ascertain where to find your target audience and then, only then, consider the ‘how’.

How will you share your story with your customer and solve their problem? That’s how you get measurable, tangible (a booking, enquiry, newsletter subscription) results from your marketing.

When something tangible happens as a result of your marketing – that’s success. And the key to ensuring your marketing is at its most successful – taking it back to the basics to ensure you spark joy for your customer.