Many brands are doing surprising work today but Virgin Atlantic is one that consistently captures the attention of not only the airline industry but the media landscape at large. Last week, they did this yet again with the launch of their new safety video. As designers of one of the first interesting safety videos several years ago, it’s not surprising that Virgin looked to re-invent the staple of airline travel yet again- but what they did this time was specific to the social business marketplace and reflects many of the key components of highly effective social branding.
What makes this video so extraordinary is not just the way in which it takes something very staid within the airline industry (to the point of being deadly boring) and infuses it with real life, but rather how the art of community architecture is built into its very design. So, let’s break down the components of their new safety video campaign to reveal how it builds the brand’s reputation, its customer loyalty and ultimately its sales.
Never one to rest on its laurels, Virgin has yet again looked at something other airlines may overlook and seen an unprecedented opportunity to drive media exposure and customer engagement. This time they launched a competition that invites people to compete to appear in the next Virgin safety video. By doing so, they invite their customer community to co-create their content and infuse the brand with a sense of fun and exploration that makes Virgin and the travel experience all the more exciting.
Step Two: Maintain community engagement
The launch of this new video has created its own media storm and the competition itself will layer on all the dynamics we see behind the success of top television programs such as American Idol, The Voice and America’s Got Talent. For the next safety video, there will be a series of artists who compete, a series of judges who determine who wins, and an online audience who will have a say in which contestants ultimately appear in the next version. What’s more, is that Virgin will be making four videos a year, so rather than framing this as a one-off opportunity to create some media buzz, Virgin has structured this in a way that it will maintain community engagement over the long-term, creating a series of conversations that will compound awareness and engagement around the brand.
Step Three: Amplification of customer engagement
The premise of the entire video is that by allowing contestants to compete, customers to chose the winners, and judges to add credibility, the Virgin community will do a far better job of creating a compelling safety video together than the company would if it just went out and made one on its own. What Virgin has started here is the creation of a series of content that shares ownership of the brand and its story with its customer community. It’s also an extension of the personality of Richard Branson, long known as a maverick within the industry and business in general.
When a customer thinks about which airline to fly, they already have a compelling passenger experience to persuade them to choose Virgin. Layer upon that the sense of fun and inclusiveness reflected in the safety video, and its ability to not take itself too seriously, and it makes it harder and harder for others to compete not just with the in-flight experience of Virgin, but rather its brand personality.
Central to the success of any brand in today’s social business marketplace is to recognize opportunity where others see none, to engage consumers in fresh and compelling ways, and to create content that turns customers into brand ambassadors so that your entire community builds your business with you. Virgin has given us a wonderful example of how to do this well and I suspect it will be but the first of innately shareable content pieces Virgin and its customers will create together.
We hope you enjoyed last week’s Free Training Tuesday video all about the key technology trends that are reshaping brand engagement as we know it.
In today’s video, Customer Activism, you’ll see that companies are now in a dynamic dialogue around accountability with their customers and how quickly an angered community can inflict devastating damage to your reputation, stock price, and sales, as both Netflix and Chick-fil-A discovered. You’ll learn:
-How social and mobile technology are fueling a new era of citizen and consumer activism
-10 steps for leveraging customer activism and protecting your social license to operate
-The 8 C’s of community building you need to create an army of brand ambassadors
Watch today’s free training video and share it with your team. Here is a quick overview of the 10 steps to leverage customer activism and protect your brand:
1. Clearly define what your brand stands for (including core values).
2. Communicate that message to your employees and stakeholders.
3. Create services and products consistent with your brand’s purpose.
4. Use marketing to sell your brand’s vision of the future.
5. Ensure employees and customer service reflect this mission.
6. Apologize when you make a mistake.
7. Constantly monitor and incorporate customer feedback.
8. Inspire customers to become brand ambassadors.
9. Engage customers to co-create products, services, and marketing.
10. Periodically restate your brand’s purpose.
As a brand leader, you must now must rise to the task of both risk mitigation and reputation enhancement, and authentically position your brand on the right side of social needs so that individuals and your customer community want to see you succeed.
Want more on-demand branding training? Check out our 8-Module Social Branding Blueprint and create your customized marketing roadmap for 2014.
It seems that brands that are great at building large, engaged digital followings are also expert at growing local customer communities. Here are three ways your company can connect with your supporters offline and build your reputation as a key leader in your community:
The We First office is a few blocks away from the TOMS flagship store in Venice. We love popping in because it’s not just a shoe store- It’s a coffee house, community center, and shoe store all in one. Many locals come to work or have meetings outside in the sunny courtyard and the store has a whole calendar of events, from movie screenings to arts and crafts nights, all in the name of helping like-minded people connect.
Airbnb recently launched a “five-day hospitality experience” called Hello LA. Five celebrity-curated prefab “pop-up listings” were installed in interesting L.A. spots including an outdoor shopping center, a cemetery, and an urban garden in Venice. With parties, concerts, celebrity appearances, and design workshops, Airbnb’s VP of Marketing called it a “love letter to a larger-than-life city, made of eclectic, creative people across a diverse cultural and geographical landscape.”
Host meetups for your customer champions.
When peer-to-peer ridesharing company, Lyft, got a cease and desist from the Los Angeles Board of Taxicab Commissioners, they hosted a Lyft Community Meeting for their customers, drivers, and supporters. It was a full night with food, drinks, and music, but most importantly it was a forum for people to share and document their personal Lyft stories and meet other “sharing economy” proponents and activists.
Though technology now helps us connect with others on a global scale, the reality is that both face-to-face and virtual communication are essential components to any company’s customer engagement strategy.
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