A really big deal in travel

The travel deal clearing-house, Travelzoo, was struggling to rise above cult status within the trade and among consumers. Thinkso helped identify the problem and introduced new initiatives — such as targeted brand advertising, its very own industry awards competition, and subscriber-focused marketing — to help build its image, establish its voice, and define its brand.


Despite having millions of subscribers to its Top 20 travel deals list, Travelzoo’s brand awareness, especially among mainstream travelers, was low. The company’s no-frills visual identity was positioned squarely within Internet 1.0 and its branding was devoid of personality or a distinct point of view.

However, there was still quite a bit to build on. Travelzoo’s model was unique. Its “deal experts,” working with thousands of partners within travel and entertainment, reviewed and determined the best travel packages and offers, including the most enticing options in the Top 20 or other Travelzoo-endorsed promotional channels.


Thinkso proactively reached out to Travelzoo’s CEO and marketing director. Together we worked to figure out how to best tell the company’s story and define its brand.
At the core of our solution for Travelzoo was a multi-purpose campaign that posed the question “What’s the deal with Travelzoo?” Relevant to both advertising prospects as well as the common traveler, the campaign concept gave the company an opportunity to highlight its unique model and articulate its value proposition.

The concept was used as the backbone for trade ads and other materials, using hard facts and stats to back up their sales pitch. Next, we created a New York City-focused consumer brand campaign that featured the concept on bus wraps, taxi tops, subway ads, and even guerilla “cafe takeovers” that included signage, coffee sleeves, balloons, t-shirts, and of course, free coffee for everyone.

Concurrent with the campaign, Thinkso designed and helped launch the Travelzoo Awards, also known as the “Tzoos.” The annual industry awards show rotated among popular destination cities and honored the year’s best travel deals. We created a distinct identity for the event along with a wide range of collateral, including the award itself — a polished, dimensional letter Z, engraved with the winner’s name and information. Another signature component of the show was a destination poster created each year to honor the host city.

Thinkso worked on other specialty advertising and marketing initiatives as well. We designed large-scale, interactive projected ads that engaged audiences in airports and public spaces during special occasions. We created a branded environment for Travelzoo’s Test Booking Center. Finally, we developed graphic guidelines for the retooled logotype and other graphic assets we created so that other marketing partners would have access to a consistent set of tools.


“What’s the deal?” was Travelzoo’s first-ever integrated campaign, providing — at long last — a concrete point of view and a platform for messaging to a complex demographic. Two years into the campaign, Travelzoo had gained 3,000,000 new subscribers — a direct result of Thinkso’s marketing and design efforts. Finally, The Travelzoo Awards have been held every year since 2007, and have grown in popularity, attendance, and prestige within the industry.

“My partnership with Thinkso was one of real collaboration. We approached all of our marketing initiatives from a strategic, business-minded angle, but left plenty of room for fun, highly-creative design and editorial.” Miranda Joyce, Senior Marketing Director, Travelzoo (2005 – 2010)

Advertising messages were grouped around Travelzoo’s principal offerings (shows, flights, cruises, car rentals, etc.), all of which were written to answer the question “What’s the deal with Travelzoo?”

Thinkso designed banner ads that displayed a portion of the Top 20® deals as a way to entice would-be subscribers.

Trade advertising and marketing collateral used the campaign theme to frame Travelzoo’s sales pitch. Impressive facts and stats were used to substantiate its claims.

Thinkso named the awards show after the company’s stock ticker symbol, TZOO. The custom-designed Z-shaped trophy and destination posters were pillars of the event identity, which was designed as a premium extension of the Travelzoo brand.

For the Las Vegas event, Thinkso used an engraved poker chip, presented in a clamshell coin box, as the invitation.

We designed large-scale interactive ads that engaged audiences traveling through Las Vegas McCarran International Airport and Grand Central Station in New York City. The oversized projections displayed real-time travel deals and passers-by interacted with the ads using their shadows.