Top 11 marketing and social media innovations by airlines in 2011

What a year it has been for the airline industry when it comes to marketing. With healthier profits this year, we’ve seen many airlines push the envelop when it comes to marketing and social media innovation. So to sum up the year, we’re sharing the top 11 marketing innovations by airlines in 2011.

While going through these, you’ll also realize that most of those that made the list aren’t one-off campaigns, but mature strategies made up of tactics that drive very specific business goals. So gone are the days of fluffy, one-off social-media campaigns with questionable ROI. Hope these inspire you for 2012!

  1. Estonian Air social loyalty program: AirScore, the airline’s groundbreaking, yet simple, loyalty program rewards travelers for online advocacy. You earn virtual points on Facebook for sharing a trip report or booking through the airline’s Facebook app. And these can be redeemed for simple privileges like fast-security lane access. In 10 days, the program generated over a million impressions on Facebook, more than the number of passengers carried by the airline in a year! It’s now won three global awards in three months. Read more… (airlinetrends.com)
  2. SpiceJet Bombardier Q400 launch: Imagine launching new destinations between secondary and tertiary cities in a market that is scared of flying turbo props. SpiceJet did just that with Bombardier’s Q400 this year and educated the customers about the superior product and new destinations., primarily through social media. The result? 88% load factors for the five newly launched destinations in  just three weeks. Read more…
  3. Finnair launch Helsinki-Singapore with Angry Birds: Route launch marketing is critical to fill up the plane (see our Top 10 case studies). And Finnair this year tapped on the most famous Finnish brand (no longer Nokia) – Angry Birds – to drive awareness of the new route. They filled up the plane full of Angry Birds fans who were not just passionate about the game, but really good at it too – who played throughout the 15 hour flight! And while at that, got the world to know about the new route. Read more…
  4. KLM Miami route launch and customer service: KLM changed the dates of their new route to Miami after a Twitter challenge with Dutch radio host to fill up the plane. They have also set the standard for customer service through Twitter and Facebook, where all requests are addressed within 60 mins. No wonder they won the best airline in social media award this year! Read more…
  5. Delta Assist: Delta Airlines goes a step ahead of even KLM, by promising to answer tweets within 10 mins, and resolving the situation within 24 hours! Now that 88% of all tweets from travelers to airlines are about customer service issues, this is certainly needed. Read more…
  6. Air New Zealand’s safety videos and Rico: Think about an airline with a personality, and it’s Air New Zealand that pops into your mind today. Their quirky safety videos are complemented by their edgy and furry mascot, Rico – who had almost of a cult following. You wither loved him or hated him! Interestingly, he was recently “killed” by the airline through a murder mystery. Read more…
  7. Virgin America GiltCity giveaway: 2011 was the year  of group-buying deals. But Virgin America launched the mother of all giveaways where not only could you charter a full plane but also get to name the plane for $60,000 (about $410 per person for a round trip). The deal generated a ton of buzz for Virgin America, and was grabbed by a group of Stanford Alums. Read more… (Gadling.com)
  8. Airline booking on Facebook uses the social graph: A year ago Delta Airlines introduced their Facebook booking engine. Then this year, Malaysia Airlines started allowing booking through Facebook and allowed you to sit next to your Facebook friend too (or avoid one!). Recently, Alaska Airlines started allowing you to make a booking by clicking on your Facebook friend’s profile photo! Certainly lots happening in the travel distribution space. Read more…
  9. SAS Scandinavian crowd sourcing a new route: SAS became the first airline to get its social media followers to decide one of the new routes for Summer 2012 through online suggestions and voting. Turkish city of Alanya became the clear winner by the end of the contest. All decided by fans alone! Read more about crowd sourcing initiatives…
  10. Indigo Airlines’ uber-chic brand campaign: India’s Indigo Airline started flying international in 2011 and launched a brand campaign through YouTube, featuring a Chicago-musical styled advertisement that generated a tremendous amount of interest, given how different it was from the typical airline marketing efforts in India. Read more about their campaign…
  11. AirAsia’s leading marketing through social: AirAsia was one of the finalists for our best airline in social media award this year, and for good reason too. They’ve pushed the envelop for driving key business goals through social media – they’re handling customer service through AskAirAsia, launching new routes through Chinese social networks and driving revenue through BIG sales on Facebook! The result? They’re the first airline outside the US to get a million fans. Read more about the AirAsia story…

So, there you have it! The 11 best marketing initiatives by airlines in 2011. Do you feel we have the complete list? If you have a favorite we missed out, please feel free to add it in the comments section or Tweet us @SimpliFlying.

Meanwhile, we’re working on the 12 key airline marketing innovations to look out for in 2012, which will be out in the first week of Jan. Do check back then, or subscribe to SimpliFlying, if you already haven’t done so!

Full Disclosure: SimpliFlying worked with Estonian Air and SpiceJet/Bombardier to bring the above-mentioned projects to reality.

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco.Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others.Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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