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.

Journeys of Inspiration
With the ‘KLM Surprise’ initiative, the airline says it wants to add another dimension to its ‘Journeys of Inspiration’ campaign, by literally surprising and inspiring passengers during their journey. Furthermore, the airline uses ‘KLM Surprise’ as a pilot to experiment with new ways of online marketing and to learn how its audience responds to it. For example, the airline monitors how people respond to a surprise (re: ‘how happiness spreads’), for example whether they tweet about it or mention it on Facebook. KLM also follows what kind of conversation in the social mediasphere this creates in turn. The KLM Surprise campaign will run until the end of November when it will be evaluated, but the airline says it may continue to show up unexpectedly in the future.

Update 8 December 2010: The KLM Surprise campaign has ended. See this great video of the KLM Surprise team in action and the results of the campaign.

Air New Zealand Fairy
A related ‘random act of kindness‘ initiative is the ‘Air New Zealand Fairy,’ a virtual fairy who once a day publicly grants a wish from an Air New Zealand customer. Customers of the airline can make wishes to the ‘Fairy’ via Twitter (being nice and creative helps) and hope that she will honour their request. Most wishes granted are related to the airline’s loyalty program, for example requests for a couple of hundred frequent flier points to make it to a next tier, but free lounge passes or seat upgrades are also given away. In a separate initiative, Air New Zealand also gives free admission to its lounge to foursquare users who are the ‘mayor’ of select airports and terminals served by the airline.

Related articles:
Air New Zealand’s ‘Airpoints Fairy’ honours a wish a day
Airlines, airports and hotels experiment with location-based social networks
Lufthansa rewards Foursquare users for virtual check-ins at Munich’s Oktoberfest


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