June 09, 2017
Jackie Lamping, VP of marketing at Sojern, has always questioned the methodology behind marketing and now bring her sense of curiosity to the tourism industry.
Lamping entered the marketing world with a keen interest in the psychology of people and why they buy the way they buy, but she started her career in the early days of the digital revolution; when the days of theorizing about consumer behavior and responses evaporated in place of hard and fast data and facts.
We asked Lamping to describe her early career as a marketer, how she watched the digital advertising space evolve during her tenure at AdRoll, and why she feels travel is the most interesting industry for digital marketing right now.
Perry Simpson: Tell us a bit about your beginnings as a marketer. Why’d you enter the space?
Jackie Lamping: It all started back in college when I was studying behavioral neuroscience and the brain. I was really fascinated about the difference between nature vs. nurture in human behavior, and how much was driven by environmental factors and experiences. This was also the first time I was really living on my own and figuring out what defined me as an adult. I became really interested in answering questions like: Why do I have such a deep connection to the scent of the detergent my mom used to wash my clothes growing up? Why do I have such a strong preference for the taste of Coke over Pepsi when I have other preferences that change all the time?
Then I joined the ranks of working America just as the digital revolution was exploding, and I was excited about the opportunity in digital be able to measure, directly and rather immediately, the impact that your marketing and advertising messages were having on consumers.
What was it like coming into the industry on the cusp of the digital revolution? How did it change your process?
Digital was like a playground. You could build dozens of variations of ads and test all of the theories you’d ever been taught about marketing: different colors, different calls to action, different types of photographic styling, where you put the button, font choices. You name it, we tested it. And it was amazing to watch these theories proved or disproved — or to realize the answers were much more nuanced.
What was AdRoll like? How did digital marketing evolve during your tenure there?
During my tenure at AdRoll, retargeting evolved rapidly from being unknown and misunderstood to an integral part of the marketing mix. At AdRoll I built the marketing team from the ground up, expanding from eight to 40 team members and watched the ROI of the global growth marketing program grow by 450%. My focus was on contributing directly to revenue generation by building a solid lead gen engine based on content marketing, and I took all the insights I acquired in my B2C career and applied them in the B2B world.
But I was involved in the programmatic advertising industry even before joining AdRoll. In fact, I remember those growing pains very well. When I was at Apollo group, around 2008, we started by allocating a small percentage of the budget (I’m talking low single digits) to programmatic, just to test it out. Over the course of the next two years, that percentage grew to 25% and then kept growing and, eventually I found myself hiring for a position that we called “Digital Media Portfolio Manager,” and, truthfully, when you manage an annual digital budget of $ 150 million, every buy you make has enormous consequences for the company’s bottom line.
So I constantly tried and tested different exchanges, comparing performance and fine-tuning the digital portfolio, and allocating more and more to programmatic as more inventory became programmatically enabled and the performance improved. And look at us now: This year, programmatic advertising spend overall, according to eMarketer, will represent 73% of all display ad spending in the US. It’s been quite a ride.
What lead you to Sojern?
After my experience at the heart of building the retargeting industry, the next big frontier in programmatic was prospecting.
The million-dollar question was: How can you get the amazing results of retargeting but achieve the scale of prospecting and reach in-market customers who haven’t recently visited your website, done a search on Google, or otherwise engaged with your brand?
What attracted me to Sojern was they were years ahead of the rest of the industry in cracking the code with prospecting. They’d been doing data partnerships across the travel space since 2007. They learned that there were regular patterns of behavior with travel planning: You would search dozens if not hundreds of times across various sites and apps comparison shopping before buying your flight — creating a treasure trove of data to analyze. Then, your hotel booking would come a bit later, and after that, you might reserve a car and book in-destination activities.
The opportunities for generating in-market prospecting audiences were absolutely massive, and the results were already clear — Sojern had amassed thousands of clients globally and were ready to pour on the gas. After meeting the incredible leadership team, I absolutely had to be a part of it!
You claim that travel marketing is the most interesting industry for marketers right now. Why is that?
Since joining the company, I’ve been struck by how much more complex and data-driven travel marketing is than any other industry.
The CMOs we work with are managing product suites whose pricing and availability changes in real-time based on supply and demand. Imagine an e-commerce marketer is running a campaign to promote t-shirts that change price multiple times a day in response to demand, and the t-shirts have firm expiration dates after which they spontaneously combust. You would need not only a massive data center tracking all of your inventory and optimizing how to sell as many shirts as possible before they expire, but you’d also need to connect this massive data center with real-time feeds into your ad campaigns so that you were promoting the correct prices and constantly updating your inventory counts.
The technical aspects of managing programmatic campaigns are exponentially more complex in travel than they are in e-commerce, or any other vertical. As a result, you have to be one step ahead in making sense of ‘big data’ for your business.
The other thing that keeps us all on our toes is how quickly the travel industry is evolving. Consumer demand for travel is accelerating worldwide, and new apps and planning tools emerge daily. At the same time, you have the sharing economy trend with companies like Uber and Airbnb bringing new inventory to market, while the traditional businesses of hotel chains and airlines are consolidating to drive more efficiency in operating and marketing costs. Everyone has the same goal — to deliver great experiences and understand their customers better than anyone else in the world. What we’re all learning today in travel will define the new best practices in big data and marketing for every industry for decades to come.