KLM taps into Chinese social media with ‘Miffy’ campaign

By Raymond Kollau,

Mascot marketing has been used by the likes of Finnair (Angry Birds), EVA Air (Hello Kitty), and All Nippon Airways (Pokémon) to engage consumers around Asia.

Now KLM, well-known for its innovative social media campaigns, has recently launched a social campaign targetted at the Chinese market in which well-known Dutch children’s rabbit character Miffy (Nijntje in Dutch) is the star.

With the local campaign on Chinese social media platforms, KLM looks to increase its brand awareness in the country, promote its European destinations, as well as increase the number of followers on KLM sites in the various Chinese social media platforms. KLM has made expansion in China the centerpiece of its Asia focus and is the only airline to operate direct flights from Europe to second-tier cities in China such as Chengdu, Hangzhou and Xiamen.

Miffy was chosen to be the ambassador for the campaign as the creation of Dutch artist Dick Bruna is extremely popular in China, especially among young women between the ages of 20 to 30.

Social media
The campaign relies on Chinese social media platforms RenRen, Weibo, Tencent, and Youku to build an interactive story in which a real-life Miffy – together with her ‘uncle pilot’ – travels to several KLM destinations in Europe over the course of sixty days.
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Lufthansa lets frequent flyers become the ‘foursquare mayor’ of a route

By Shubhodeep Pal, SimpliFlying

Lufthansa’s “Blue Legends” Facebook app is one of the first ten “Connected Apps” to be offered as a product of Foursquare‘s new development platform. In a nutshell, Foursquare now allows developers to create apps that offer customized experiences to customers based on their check-ins.

Lufthansa has seized this new opportunity in the Foursquare eco system to create official Lufthansa venues (including over 9,000 flights named in the format “Lufthansa Flight LH 400″) where users can check-in virtually to get special badges, ranks and rewards.

For instance, once connected with Foursquare and Facebook, you can earn badges such as the “Early-Bird-badge” by checking in before 6 in the morning. There are more virtual goodies as you fly more on Lufthansa (and, of course, remember to check-in to their official locations).

One of the undeniably attractive features of the app is that its written in HTML5 which allows it to be accessed from almost every platform – desktop and mobile – with ease, without being confined to a closed app ecosystem (such as iOS or Android).

An increasingly “gamified” and location-aware world
As you move up the ladder, you’ll find that the badges and ranks (similar to mayorships) are increasingly targeted towards frequent flyers. Lufthansa believes that this customized experience by offering special virtual badges in recognition for flying the airline will “open a whole new dimension of social travel experience for frequent flyers who can not only track their countries and airports they’ve visited with the app but can compete with their friends to become the “Expert Pilot” on a route between two cities.” This rank is given to the person who has travelled most between two destinations – independent from the Lufthansa flight he took or airport of the city he travelled to.
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Frontier Airlines lets travellers choose their favourite local beer to be served onboard

Catering to increasingly sophisticated passengers who want to try something new besides the generic soda and alcohol brands available onboard, a growing number of airlines serve local niche beverages inflight, which adds an authentic element to the experience and supports the local economy as well.

Virgin America, Porter, Alaska AIrlines
Especially, small to medium-sized airlines in North America offer local microbrews onboard, as they are more rooted in local communities, while their relatively small scale allows local breweries to guarantee supply.

For example, Virgin America offers local beers from micro breweries such as Gordon Biersch, Black Star and Blue Moon, as well as Californian wines and premium spirits, for sale through its touch screen IFE ordering system. Passengers onboard Alaska Airlines’ subsidiary Horizon Air can choose from a selection of free wines and microbrews from the Pacific Northwest. And emphasizing its Toronto roots, Canadian boutique airline Porter Airlines serves complimentary beer from the local ‘Steam Whistle Brewing Company’, whose brewery is located less than two kilometres from Porter’s base at Toronto’s City Centre Airport.

Frontier Airlines
The latest airline to ‘tap’ into the local beverage trend is Denver, Colorado-based Frontier Airlines. Combining two popular trends – local catering and social media – Frontier has just launched a Facebook campaign in which it asks the public to vote for their favourite local beer to be served onboard Frontier’s flights. In the airline’s words: “What’s on tap? You tell us. We’re having you – our fans and passengers – choose which local Colorado beer to feature onboard each month as part of our rotating tap. This month choose between Dale’s Pale Ale, Upslope Pale Ale, Colorado Native, or Crabtree Oatmeal Stout. Voting ends May 15 and the winning Colorado brew will be featured onboard starting June 1.”
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KLM’s ‘Meet & Seat’ social seating lets passengers pick an interesting seat mate

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KLM today has launched a ‘Meet & Seat’ scheme which encourages passengers to pick seatmates by checking out social media profiles of fellow passengers who link to their profiles during check-in. The idea is that flyers will be able to find out about interesting people who will be on board their KLM flight, for example other passengers attending the same event at the destination. The ‘social seating’ feature has been launched on flights between Amsterdam and San Francisco, Sao Paolo and New York City with plans to extend it to other intercontinental destinations shortly.

Although the idea of the ‘social flight’ in itself is not entirely new – it was coined by digital media guru Jeff Jarvis a few years ago, while airlines such as Malaysia Airlines and Estonian Air have experimented with the concept – KLM’s new ‘Meet & Seat’ tool takes the idea of ‘social seating’ a step further, as until now social media users could only connect with their friends before a flight, while KLM allows anyone to connect with anyone.

KLM says it is trying to give travellers a more “inspirational journey” with the service enabling them to see who is on the flight, perhaps meet for a coffee beforehand, select seats next to each other or share a taxi at the other end. The tool will be opt-in only, to allow the many travellers who view flight time as private time.

How it works
Passengers who have booked a KLM flight from Amsterdam to New York, San Francisco or Sao Paulo (or back), can go to and log in to the ‘Manage my Booking’ section. They then go to the ‘Seating’ tab, click ‘Meet & Seat’ and connect their social profiles with their booking by logging in to their Facebook or LinkedIn account.
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SAS promotes free coffee and tea on short-haul flights with design contest

Scandinavian Airlines is one of the few ‘full-service’ airlines in Europe that let passengers in Economy on European flights pay seperately for their drinks and meals. Brussels Airlines and Iberia are among European airlines with a similar catering service on short-haul flights, while no doubt other European full-service carriers are contemplating this concept for their loss-making short-haul operations.

However, as complimentary coffee and tea in Economy is “one of the most asked for products by customers”, SAS at the end of January 2012 reintroduced the free amenity on all its domestic and European routes.

“Free tea and coffee, but the design is up to you”
To promote the introduction of the ‘upgraded’ service, SAS has just launched a public contest for the design of a new paper mug (current design here) to be used on its flights. In the airline’s words: “Now we serve free coffee and tea to everyone on our flights, both domestic and to the rest of the world. You can make sure that we do it in style. Take part in our competition to design the new coffee cups on SAS flights. If your design is the best one, not only will we serve coffee and tea in YOUR design to more than 70.000 passengers every day, but you will also get 100.000 EuroBonus Extra-points.”

Participants in the contest have to use a template for their design and can submit it at before February 29th 2012. A SAS jury will then select the ten best designs, which will presented on the campaign website and on SAS’ social media channels in the first week of March. After the general public has casted their votes for their favourite design, the winning design will be announced 20 March 2012 and will be featured on the cups for 3 to 6 months.
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Finnair and Helsinki Airport employ ‘Quality Hunters’ to come up with new ideas

In a follow-up to last year’s campaign, Finnair in September 2011 launched a new public search for so-called ‘Quality Hunters’, this year in partnership with Helsinki Airport. Seven Quality Hunters, chosen from hundreds of applicants, travelled around the world for 48 days throughout October and November 2011, collecting ideas and insights on how Finnair and Helsinki Airport could improve the flight and airport experience. An eighth “Bonus Hunter” joined the group in November on the basis of his social media activities.

Seven categories
Each Quality Hunter was given a theme to focus on: food & beverages, entertainment, socialising, travel in business class, services, shopping and “on the move”. Their task was to collect product and service ideas and present them to Finnair and Helsinki Airport at the end of the project in early December. Finnair and Helsinki Airport in turn would commit to the best ideas for implementation. Says Finnair “We don’t need a list of flaws (we’re painfully aware of most of them already!) but we want to know how to fix things and go even beyond that.” […] ”As a part of renewing our entire service identity, we want to go further in charting the black spots of travel and finding creative solutions to resolve them.”

The Quality Hunters blogged and tweeted daily about their observations and ideas, made videos and acted as community managers. Visitors to the Quality Hunters website could set tasks for them, make comments and share their opinions, while passengers at Helsinki Airport could drop by at the Hunter’s Lounge, located between gates 32-38.
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Estonian Air’s social loyalty program rewards fans for online promotion

One of the most compelling aspects of location-based social networks such as Foursquare and Facebook Places are their game dynamic, which rewards users with virtual badges for checking into venues repeatedly, thereby promoting a venue or brand to their friends through Facebook and Twitter. Airlines such as Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, Virgin America and JetBlue have launched campaigns that reward their fans and followers for ‘checking in’ into their virtual venues.

The initiatives by these airlines are early steps in what is called the ‘gamification’ trend, which is described by JWT as “Brands applying game mechanics –incentives and rewards such as leader boards, leveling, stored value, privileges, superpowers, status indicators, etc.– to non-gaming spaces in an attempt to drive certain actions or behaviors.” Gamification can encourage people to perform taks that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, filling out tax forms, or reading web sites, and according to it taps into basic human needs: “Fun and entertaining, games allow players to visualize progress, while satisfying fundamental needs and desires – for reward, status, achievement, self-expression, competition, and altruism.” For more on ‘gamification’, we recommend reading ‘Gamification 101: The Psychology of Motivation’.

Social loyalty
Moving beyond location-based reward schemes such as TopGuest, companies such as Badgeville, CrowdTwist, Gamify and Manumatrix have created ‘white label’ social loyalty platforms that allow members to earn points, unlock badges, and be featured on a leaderboard as they engage in various activities such as watching videos, commenting on articles, reviewing, “Liking” or tweeting products and promotions, posting photo’s on Instagram, and participating in polls. Examples of social loyalty programs include ‘Samsung Nation’ and the upcoming Hilton Social HHonors (site is not yet live).

Estonian Air ‘AirScore’
In late October 2011, Estonian Air, flag-carrier of the tiny but internet-savvy Baltic nation, became the first airline in the world to launch a social loyalty programme on Facebook, rewarding its customers and fans for being strong advocates online. Called AirScore, the scheme allows customers and fans to get rewards for promotional actions such as sharing a review of the airline or tweeting a deal. Read full article »

SAS lets Facebook fans decide its next summer route

The airline industry is busy experimenting with various social media initiatives that aim to use the power of the crowd. Airlines such as Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and British Airways have been tapping into the creativity of the general public to crowdsource products as diverse as designs of loyalty cards, eyemasks, and catering items such as cocktails, snacks and desserts. Meanwhile, Virgin America and Southwest, among others, have recently held ‘crowd clout’ campaigns with group buying site Groupon, offering consumers a deal when enough buyers would commit to the offer.

SAS ‘Sommerflyet’
Scandinavian Airlines’ (SAS) ‘Sommerflyet’ (‘summer plane’) campaign has tapped into ‘the wisdom of crowds’ to determine its next destination. The airline recently announced it would start 21 new leisure destinations for its summer 2012 schedule and reserved one of its aircraft next summer in order to let its more than 110,000 Facebook fans choose a 22nd destination.

Says Christian Kamhaug, Head of Social Media at SAS, “Every summer SAS reduces capacity on its domestic networks in Scandinavia. These are mainly business-driven, high-frequency routes, and as we all have 4 to 5 weeks of vacation here in Scandinavia, business traffic grinds to a halt in June and July. SAS used to park planes and send crews on vacation, but in the last couple of years costs have been cut by 23 percent and now it’s more profitable to operate these planes, even to low-yield  leisure routes.” […] “More than 110 000 people follow Scandinavian Airlines on Facebook and we think it is great to let our most dedicated fans influence our product in this way.”
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Qantas’ epiQure community connects food-loving frequent flyers

Despite the large number of travel-related social networks around, several airlines have launched social networks of their own in the past years. Think BA’s Metrotwin, Virgin Atlantic’s, Air France-KLM’s Bluenity and American Airlines’ Other airlines, such as KLM (Club China, Club Africa, Flying Blue Golf), Lufthansa (Miles & More MemberScout), BA (Face-to-Face, and Etihad (Golf Club, IndiaConnect) have launched business-oriented social networks for members of their frequent flyer programs.

The fortunes of these communities have been mixed, as shown by a lack of conversations between members and outdated feature content. The basic idea f an airline-facilitated online community makes sense though, as the airline business is essentially about connecting people. The latest kid on the block is Qantas, which in June 2011 launched a community build around food and wine.

Qantas epiQure
Aiming to tap into its 7.8 million members-base, Qantas Frequent Flyer, the loyalty program of Qantas, has launched EpiQure as a more in-depth feature of its existing program. Combining the online community with real-life events, the wine and food community gives members access to “on-line forums to gain knowledge from industry experts, wine selected by the Qantas Wine Panel, personalised winery tours in every Australian wine region and invitation to dinners with globally renowned chefs.” Among the Australian chefs to be part of the community is Qantas in-flight consultant and celebrity chef, Neil Perry, who designed the airline’s international in-flight menu.
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Free printed guide books and random surprises from KLM this summer

Dutch national airline KLM is developing a reputation when it comes to digital media campaigns that combine the online, virtual environment with the offline, real world. Examples include a Delft Blue Tiles livery based on Facebook profile pictures, passengers who are randomly surprised with a personal gift, a commercial flight exclusively sold via Twitter, and free customized luggage tags. In the past weeks, the airline has launched several more “OFF=ON” initiatives.

Hard-copy customized city guides
KLM currently lets the public create and customize their own travel guide, to be printed and delivered to their home address for free. Visitors to the KLM Cityguide website can select the sites, activities and hot spots they would like to visit at their destination via a number of questions. The final result is then turned into a pocket-sized guide that consists of 3 chapters (and 12 activities in total) and a map. The printed city guides can be ordered by residents of 10 European countries, as well as the United States and Canada. Delivery is within 4 weeks. For other countries, the personalized city guide can be downloaded as PDF file. KLM’s free hard-copy guides were so popular that heavy traffic caused the website to go offline on the first day of the campaign.

KLM Surprise, summer edition
In a follow up to the very successful ‘Surprise’ campaign, which took place at the end of 2010, KLM has just launched the KLM Surprise ‘Summer Edition’. Combining social media with real-world interactions, the KLM ‘Surprise team’, consisting of staff from the airline’s E-commerce, Ground Services and Inflight Services departments, from mid-July to mid-August randomly surprises passengers with ‘little acts of kindness’ based on information found on the passenger’s social network profile(s) or in recent tweets. Since most people have profiles on social networks such as Facebook and Linkedin these days (in fact, more Americans now have Facebook accounts than have passports) it is relatively easy to find some interesting facts about a person in order to come up with a creative surprise.
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British Airways turns to the British public to co-create menu, movie and livery

Following earlier crowdsourcing initiatives by airlines like Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Emirates, which have been turned into actual products such as elements of in-flight menus and amenity kits, British Airways has launched a co-creation campaign in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games under the strapline ’We Can Help Your Talent Fly’.

BA Great Britons
As part of its ‘Great Britons’ programme, launched in 2009, BA is inviting aspiring chefs, scriptwriters and artists to submit their ideas for an onboard menu, in-flight movie and aircraft livery. The winner of each category will then receive one-to-one mentoring from culinary expert Heston Blumenthal, actor Richard E Grant and artist Tracey Emin to develop their idea further.

The winner of the food category will produce a bold British menu, in cooperation with Michelin-star restaurant owner and chef Heston Blumenthal, which will be served on board BA flights around the Games. The winner in the film category will receive mentoring from actor, scriptwriter and director Richard E Grant, to write a short film. The final production will be broadcast on board BA flights in the run up to the Games, and showcased at the pre-show to the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. In the art category, Turner Prize nominated artist and Royal Academician Tracey Emin will mentor the winner to produce an iconic piece of artwork for the livery of 12 BA aircraft.
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Lufthansa gives its virtual fans real discounts on A380 flights

In early May 2011, Lufthansa’s 7th A380 entered into daily service on the Frankfurt – San Francisco route. To promote its A380 destinations in the USA – New York, San Francisco and Miami (from 10 June 2011 on) – Lufthansa has launched a Facebook campaign in which it offers its virtual fans a real, tangible, reward.

Facebook members can book a virtual flight on a Lufthansa A380 flight from the USA to Frankfurt, and the more ‘likes’ their flight gets, the bigger the discount voucher. 

How it works: Participants must ‘like’ Lufthansa on Facebook, submit a ‘virtual flight’ by selecting an origin and destination from Lufthansa’s timetable, get their Facebook friends to ‘like’ their virtual flight within a 24 hour time period that begins upon the submission of the virtual flight. Participants who create a virtual flight but receive less then 10 ‘likes’ on Facebook automatically receive a USD25 discount voucher, with the amount rising to USD50 with 10 to 29 ‘likes’, USD75 with 30 to 59 ‘likes’, while those who get 60 friends to like their A380 flight, receive a USD100 discount voucher. A maximum of 15,000 discount vouchers will be awarded in each denomination and a purchase is required to use the discount voucher. 
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KLM offers its Facebook fans the chance to be featured on a ‘Delft Blue’ Boeing 777

KLM has just launched a new social media campaign that invites Facebook users to convert their Facebook profile picture into a Delft Blue tile with an inspiring message. Four thousand of the most inspiring ‘Dutch Delft Blue tiles’ will then be placed on the body of a KLM Boeing 777-200. In KLM’s words: “KLM is proud of its Dutch heritage, in which Delftware played a huge role. Now KLM invites you to create your own Delft Blue tile, add an inspirational saying and you might end up on the body of a KLM Boeing 777-200.”

Delft Blue tiles are part of the Dutch tradition. The porcelain tiles were decorated with typically Dutch scenes, such as windmills or fishing boats. These Dutch scenes were commonly supported by some words of wisdom or an inspirational proverb. For nearly 60 years, KLM has also handed out small Delft Blue ceramic replicas of historical Dutch houses filled with Dutch ‘genever’ to passengers in Business Class.

The emphasis of KLM’s ‘Tile & Inspire’ campaign is on Facebook, but anyone can also create a personal Delft Blue tile via and Hyves, the largest social network in the Netherlands. The campaign will run until the end of May 2011 and the tiles with the most creative messages will be selected by a jury of native speakers in English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish. The final 4,000 Delft Blue tiles will be randomly drawn out of the selected tiles and be featured on a KLM B777-200 aircraft from June 16 on. See this video for more on the campaign.

Update 10 May: KLM reports that in the first two weeks of the campaign nearly 50,000 people have created a personal Delft blue tile. Read full article »

Malaysia Airlines lets members book, check-in and select their seat via Facebook

Malaysia Airlines in partnership with technology provider SITA have launched a new Facebook application, called MHbuddy, that allows users to search, book and pay for flights with the airline directly through Facebook. Malaysian is not the first to introduce such functionality (see “Delta first airline to sell tickets on Facebook”), but the airline has gone several steps further by integrating the booking process with the user’s Facebook profile, allowing members of the popular social network (over 800 million active users worldwide) for example to identify friends who might be on the same flight.

Says Amin Khan, Executive VP Commercial Strategy at Malaysia Airlines, “Our passengers are spending more and more time using social networks. […] With MHbuddy we are pleased to provide our fans an easy way to book a ticket without having to leave Facebook. In doing so, we have also opened another distribution channel for ticket sales.”

The Social Flight
During the search and booking phase, Facebook users can open an additional box to see if any of their Facebook friends are on the same flight or expected to be in the same destination during the selected period. Users can then send a message to notify friends of their trip plans.

For the outbound flight, passengers can also check-in from within the Facebook module, and obtain an email booking reference and boarding pass or, on domestic routes, an SMS mobile boarding card. And here it gets really inventive: At this stage users are also shown any seats which have been selected by friends who are travelling on the same flight, so they can choose to pick nearby seat. With this feature Malaysia Airlines and SITA take a first step towards Internet guru Jeff Jarvis’ concept of ‘The Social Flight’, an idea which is also behind social network Satisfly.
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KLM surprises Foursquare users with little acts of kindness

Combining social media with real-world interactions, KLM has launched a very innovative campaign in which it randomly surprises its passengers at the airport. In what the airline calls “an experiment on how happiness spreads,” KLM has installed a ‘Surprise team’ for four weeks at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport which aims to delight passengers that have checked in at KLM venues on location-based social network Foursquare with little acts of kindness.’

How it works: As soon as someone checks in at one of KLM’s Foursquare locations at Schiphol Airport or other airports in KLM’s network, the ‘KLM Surprise’ team goes online to find more background information about the person (a.k.a. ‘counter-googling’). Since many people (especially those that already use Foursquare) have profiles on social networks such as Facebook and Linkedin or twitter frequently, it is relatively easy to find some interesting facts about a person in order to come up with a creative surprise. The KLM team then goes all out to try to contact the person before his or her flight leaves.

Little act of kindness
Some examples of the ‘free love’ KLM is spreading: On Monday October 25th, the airline started the campaign with giving Tobias Hootsen, on its way to Dubai, a homesick package as he would be abroad for a long time. Another traveller, Willem van Hommel tweeted he would miss an important soccer game of his team, PSV Eindhoven, because he was flying to New York. The KLM team surprised him with a Lonely Planet of the city with all soccer bars marked in blue to make sure he wouldn’t miss the game. KLM passenger Dennis Claesen, meanwhile, was on his way to a conference in Boston when KLM surprised him with a handy notebook in which he could write down ideas. There was a personal message in it for a bit of inspiration. For more examples, follow KLM Surprise on Twitter or see the campaign’s Facebook page.
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