Friday, April 26, 2013

#EEC13 @VirginAmerica (A Work-Related Post)

Note: I attended the Email Evolution conference in early February but have been so swamped since my return that I've had trouble getting back to my notes and turning them into useful information to share with my organization and the world.  It seems like I've gotten things a little more under control at work so hopefully these will start to trickle out with a little more regularity.

Virgin America
Luanne Calvert, VP Marketing, Virgin America (LinkedIn)
(no powerpoint available)

Q: How do you become a millionaire?
A: Start out as a billionaire and start an airline.

Virgin America was able to start with a blank slate and they worked to take what people like on the ground (design, aesthetics, comfort, entertainment) and brought it to life in the sky.

Now... how to bring the experience from the sky back to the ground to those who haven't experienced Virgin America?

Virgin America has strong identity and branding. They KNOW who they are and they stay on brand. By being so confident on who they are, they've become an aspirational brand - you believe yourself to be cooler for having had the experience of flying with them. So it becomes very easy for them to then to turn around and ask you to share with others because it feels like bragging.

What They've Learned from their Email Campaigns

10. Extend the Brand - share the essence of Virgin America with people via email

9. Tell a Story - it can't always be another fare sale, they aren't competing on cost (they want to stay comparable but they want to compete on experience)

8. Leverage Earned Media - if someone's giving you some good publicity, sometimes it's nice to show off when someone else is bragging on you

7. "Lifestyle Messaging" - this reinforces your aspiration and confirms your choice to identify with Virgin America

6. Leverage Partnerships - the airline industry's reach provides incentives for partners to offer deals in exchange for promotional consideration (the partner gets reach, the airline probably a fee, the customers a great deal, the partner and the airline the positive word of mouth)

5. Mobilize - get someone to act on something they had considered or browsed

4. Create a sense of urgency - trigger an impulse purchase

3. Create pent-up demand - Virgin America had a very successful campaign after they stopped sending to a group for a few weeks. (That group had previously received an email each week.)

2. It's a Mystery - sometimes they can't tell why an email did so well

1. "ROI on email is bananas"

Measuring as an Engagement Proxy

  • Digital Engagement (what are people doing online that can be traced back to email as motivator?)
  • Brand Tracking and Awareness
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Website Traffic (sending email boosts traffic, even if they don't open/click)
They have created an aspirational brand and they reinforce that at every turn.

"You are cool because you fly with us and you should show others how cool you are because they'll want to be cool like you." 
(my interpretation)

They do paid search testing but they probably don't do enough email testing according to Luanne.

Question and Answer

Word-of-mouth/social tracking? No.

Event-based triggers (before the flight, after the flight)? Could do more.

Mentioned a desire to put more effort on reaching business travelers than they have previously based on there being less price-sensitivity but also more reluctance to switch from an existing airline where they've amassed points. How will you go about that? For the most part, business travelers book 2-weeks out while leisure travelers book 6-weeks out. Can use that kind of purchasing pattern as a clue and then look into the data more from there.

My Take-Aways and Ideas

Know Who You Are.
Be ready and able to communicate it clearly and consistently.

You Don't Have to Go to Extremes.
Some of their emails actually look boring/typical/templated - take away branding cues and they could be anyone. Not bad, but not the same level of "cool" as you'd expect. They, like all of us, have room to grow there - but also suggests if you stay on message, your offer is relevant and resonates with the subscriber that "good enough" is going to do really well for you.

Find Your Brand Advocates.
These may be people who are excited about your brand and engage often but rarely or never convert. Treat them with content designed for sharing. It might be worth more (branding and money) to have them share with 10 people, 3 of whom transact than if they just transacted themselves and never shared.

Use Events and Triggers.
Meet subscribers at just the right moment. Look around - could you do more event-based triggers (even if you started manual) Before the event (as a reminder or to set expectations or seek social sharing), after the event follow-up, etc. Right now we do some pre-event to recruit or inform, but what of those who then respond and commit to participating?

What is Your Data Telling You?
Is there more we can learn from our data (interactions and purchase behavior) to learn more about our customers beyond the basic business rule definitions/classifications? Can you find patterns that might suggest someone who's ready to be more engaged (and therefore should be rewarded/treated differently) or someone who's at risk of cancelation or taking their business elsewhere?
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