ARJAN DIJK
CMO

CMO of Booking.com Playing in the 12%, The World is Waiting For You

Did you know that if you’re thinking about your entire life, most people can only actually remember 12% of their memories? According to Arjan Dijk, CMO of Booking.com, that is because only 12% of your brain is consciously available, leaving 88% subconsciously available and triggered by moments.

So, what do people actually remember? It differs for everyone, but travel and unique experiences typically dominate the 12%. And what better industry to be in than travel when it comes to being able to connect emotionally with consumers?

Sure, the pandemic literally halting international travel has presented challenges, but Arjan reminded us all, with his covid-pivoting campaigns, “The World is Waiting” for you. The Eiffel Tower will be there, when you’re feeling safe enough to fly to France.  In the meantime, anyone can explore what’s all around them.

As part of a more recent campaign, Arjan and team wanted to challenge Americans to embrace their differences by offering discounted rates to 10 eclectic U.S. destinations that represent our country’s diversity. And when it comes to diversity, Arjan is well aware of challenges around not just diversity, but also inclusion and equity to ensure everyone feels like they can be their true selves, both in their personal life and their professional life.

As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and often the most senior executive at his companies of that community, as he was at Google for 11 years before Booking.com, he takes his role very seriously to help create safe and inviting environments for his teams, while setting an example for others to follow.

Arjan explained, “If you're a woman and there are no female role models for you to look up to. how does that feel? Is that okay? Is that good? Is that what you ideally would want? No, the same for me being a gay man. It’s great to see role models in that space. And I see that as a responsibility I have and it's something I love doing.”

When it comes to fostering safe spaces, Arjan noted that there is often confusion around what it truly means. “I think it's fine to have a different opinion, but it's all about being respected, being heard, feeling that you can say what you think without repercussions.”

Arjan also stressed the importance of not taking yourself too seriously either. “When you talk about stereotypes, I never like to be called a stereotype. … When you look at me, I am, in many ways, a stereotype. I love campy music, I love Celine Dion. I'm the middle-aged, stereotypical gay guy. But I don't want to be called one, you know what I mean? It's actually very interesting, and I think that's kind of like having a laugh at yourself… Let's not take ourselves too seriously, but let's take our work very seriously.”

And speaking about taking work seriously, you don’t want to miss Arjan’s fascinating point of view on why he strives to be lazy. Tune in to hear how he balances left and right brain to accelerate the fly wheel so he and his team can take long lunches.

Tips for Success

Be Flexible

When you look at the current existence: international travel, it’s absolutely challenged. And so the main thing for me when the crisis hit was very obvious—let’s first look at our team, our employees, are they safe? Let’s look at our partners, what can we do with them? And then let’s make sure that our customers are treated really, really well and really. We have to look at that holistically and be very flexible. And I think also flex our marketing incredibly quickly to make sure that we are relevant and not tone deaf.

Measure everything

If you look now at what you can measure, it's completely revolutionized, because with a lot of media and digital media you now can really look at specific segments, adjust your approach a little bit and really look at your effectiveness in very new way. Don’t only focus on performance marketing or brand marketing, by the way, I'm stopping those terms within our company, because every marketing [effort] needs to perform. Of course, different objectives to different activities, but it doesn't mean there should not be a return on investment.

Find the right balance

10, 15 years ago, we were all talking about big data. Now it's AI. but at the same time, you also need to bring the emotion, the feeling, the ‘yeah, I trust the brand’. It's not only about left-brain engagement, but also about right-brained engagement. And I think that's the great job I have at booking.com is that I manage that beginning to end from the first time people book with us to the customer engagement and all the programs we run to have people return to us.

Understand your role

The role of marketing is to accelerate momentum. And when there is no momentum, there is no point in doing marketing and you really have to adapt and become flexible. Clearly traveling internationally is very, very challenged, but in many parts of the world, it's okay to travel domestically and that's what we're focused on. And I think for any CMO, it's incredibly important that you think through the customer experience and say, is this is okay? It might not necessarily always be your direct responsibility, but then work with your product colleagues to say, how can we make this element of our product a little bit better?

Strive to be Lazy

I'm a lazy marketer. I want to do as little as possible. Yeah, and I want to spend as little as possible. And with that, I mean when you sell a good product, you often don't have to push it that hard. When a product is really amazing. You're like, ‘you know what, this is really good’. And you don't then need to really drag it up a hill. That's really key, that you have always a product first approach, that you really look at your products and that you say, ‘how is our product differentiated from other players and what could we do to make our product better?’ And then you add some good marketing on top of it.