Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Virgin America In-Flight Marketing Fail

In June, I flew Virgin America to New York. What was apparently billed as a "special" flight, ended up being a marketing ploy to get passengers to buy into Virgin's new credit card. Except for the cute and admittedly tasty Virgin logo cupcakes we were treated to at the gate, the whole thing was a big letdown and, in my view, a marketing fail for Virgin. Passengers were given a $10 off promotional card upon boarding, but on reading the fine print, you of course had to open an account to benefit from it. The so-called inflight goodies included a dumb trivia game, where guessing right to questions about--guess what--Virgin's new credit card--got you a bag of potato chips, and I think a discounted flight, but the winnings weren't clear. Really? Passengers were systematically photographed while reviewing the credit card promotional video on their individual screens (a bit Big Brother if you ask me), and in other poses, with frantic looking marketing staff running up and down the aisles, as if their jobs were on the line if nobody signed up. And by the way, no photo permissions obtained. Did boarding the flight mean consenting to promotional photos...where did it say that?

Virgin, here's a few things you could have done differently:

  • Cool swag like caps and t-shirts would have made the difference here. I happily would have posed for a photo with said cap and t-shirt, worn them out in the real world, tweeted and facebooked as well, both during the flight since I was online, and afterward. This would have doubled and even tripled their marketing efforts -- even if only a handful of passengers had been encouraged to do this. (Note: when I asked one of the Virgin reps about swag, he merely shrugged and said,"we don't have this." Really?
  • Free snack plates for everyone. The Virgin protein meal is a pretty tasty offering, that I frequently order in flight. It's only $8. If Virgin had treated all the passengers to this or similar, along with a little promo on the credit card tucked into the plate, it would have gotten my attention more. And if I could have gotten a discounted meal by tweating about the credit card, I'd have done that too.
  • How about an inflight photo booth concept? Take photos of all the passengers (who consented) having a good time on the flight, then email it to them later with a link to the credit card offer, with a Virgin logo snd backdrop framing the image. Great branding, right?
  • In-flight Bingo, with winners getting a preloaded Virgin gift card, with no strings attached.

Generally speaking, I prefer Virgin America to the other airlines and fly it when I can, and even complemented them on their marketing here 2 years ago. What I like is the variety of online entertainment, safety record, and OK, the purple interior lighting that's a welcome break from harsh fluorescents and makes me feel for at least a moment or two, like I'm not inside a plane. But let's face it--an airline that can put together a rockin' safety video like this one, should get its marketing act together on the credit card.

On my next flight, I'm ordering the protein meal and maybe a premium movie, but sorry, Virgin, I won't be paying with your credit card.


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