Virgin America’s recent foray into social media-mapping-marketing scored a home run.
Partnering with Loopt, a location-based mobile check-in app, Virgin offered two-for-one plane tickets from California to Los Cabos or Cancun. The only criteria for eligibility was for a customer to check-in via Loopt at an airport (LAX or SFO) or one of several taco trucks in San Francisco and LA during a four-hour window.
That's right -- a taco truck. In fact, an astounding 1,300 people checked-in just at one taco truck, in San Francisco, while 80% bought Virgin America tickets. The results indicate that checking in, socially, could be a smart precursor to checking in, physically, at an airport.
Loopt, it should be noted, is only available for downloading as an iPhone app at this point, so all those customers were a prerequisite for the tickets or the tacos.
“The Loopt reward activation, as part of Virgin America’s nationwide Mexico launch system wide fare sale that day and the significant online buzz circulating about the promotion, helped make it the fifth highest sales day in VX (Virgin America) history," notes TechCrunch.
Loopt’s 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST window generated "urgency buzz," apparently.
"By 11 a.m., we had hundreds of people already in line. We had a bride-to-be who was going to honeymoon in Cancun who came down to check in. We had whole groups of college-aged folks spilling out of minivans saying, 'We all heard about this and we're going to get our tickets for Spring Break ,'" said Alice Lankester, VP of marketing for Virgin America.
Both brands, Virgin America and Loopt, leveraged their social media presence: Virgin America's Facebook "likers" (65,800) and Twitter followers (114,400), as well as Loopt’s Facebook “likers” (4,900) and Twitter fan base (4,400 followers) were notified via posts and tweets – and the blogosphere lit up.
"I was down there at the San Francisco truck myself, and we had a nice long line around the block. Everyone was checking in using Loopt Star…Fifty-three percent of our customers bring a laptop with them on flights and all of our flights have WiFi," said Jill Fletcher, social media manager for Virgin.
Average midweek roundtrip flights from San Francisco to Cancun on the airline's website are around $465 price tag for coach; San Francisco to Los Cabos costs $366.
To put this in context, Gap’s recent Groupon campaign raised the bar on social media discount campaigns, generating $11 million in sales in one day. Virgin also used a loss-leader initiative on Twitter via Loopt to launch its Toronto service in April.
Burger King, Starbucks, Paul Frank, and Universal Music Group have all used Loopt for geo-social campaigns, but according to Lankester, Virgin America's promotion takes the taco. "I feel like this has been definitely our most successful campaign," she comments. "I think it speaks to the fact that people become motivated when there's really something of value there. Some check-in rewards can be so-so. They are not as generous as this. [These participants] were motivated to move from point A to point B to get the reward."
Loopt CEO Sam Altman said to TechCrunch, “You should also mention that we are on fire.” By statement he means that, with more than four million users, Loopt is steadily gaining on smaller (but more media ubiquitous) Foursquare.
The proceeds raised from the two-for-one tacos sold at the local trucks, by the way, will be given to a California-based Chihuahua rescue organization. So a win-win situation all around, and one more example of Virgin’s brilliance in redefining the power of being a loss leader.