On my commute back from office last night, I noticed few odd and alarming tweets. Allow me to quickly present my case:
Bridget Carey, from CNET was tweeting in ALL CAPS!!
And Nilay Patel had this
Taco Bell story? Some die-hards were flipping out!
Like any self-respecting digital marketer, I figured I had to be on top of this recent development. So I went to Taco Bell’s twitter. Then to their Instagram feed. Then to their Facebook page. And finally to their Google+ page as well. This is a collection of what I saw.
As it turned out, Taco Bell launched a new mobile app but rather than going on a social media frenzy, and buying up all possible hashtags, the digitally savvy brand did the exact opposite. It blacked out and went silent across all of their social presence channels. Even the website, which had products and corporate/brand information, wasn’t spared either to promote the new app. Content on the company’s Facebook was deleted and all images blacked out. On Instagram, Taco Bell released a series of black and white text-based images with the hashtag #onlyintheapp. For a brand that has over 10 million fans on Facebook, this move can clearly be described as ballsy, one which most marketers will lose weeks of sleep over.
The silence was urging fans to download the app directly. Normally, a brand would go all out on its social and web channels to promote a new launch. For something like an app, the focus clearly would have been more on mobile marketing, and a typical brand would have done one, two or all the three below:
1) Running a CPD campaign to promote downloads on mobile ad networks. Off late, this has been a very popular form of promotion on Facebook and Twitter native apps as well
2) Buying display and text inventory across major networks, trying to push app functionality
3) Bid for related keywords on search engines and then hope for CPC traffic
Taco Bell, to the best of my knowledge, has done nothing of the above. This is obviously not to indicate that the above-mentioned methods are not effective. Thousands of apps employ those strategies every day, and do it with great success.
Taco Bell has done things differently while creating enormous amount of buzz and earned impressions. The App Annie chart below looks at the Taco Bell “Live Mas” app’s rank history over the past month, for Apple iOS. Notice the spike in the end. The chart shows that for the Food & Drink category, the app moved from its usual spot from around 60 to become number one for that category, in the US. Amazingly, It also became 24th most popular app in the US on the launch day. Next day, it climbed up to rank #22.
The hour-by-hour report is even more incredible. It starts with the app ranked 1,379 overall in the US as of 2am PT, October 28. By 1pm — it had shot to become the 24th most popular app. The app is not yet listed on the iTunes most popular free apps chart as it is updated on a weekly basis.
Besides the number of downloads, the post-download behaviour/interaction is vital. Everybody in the business knows that its easy to make users download apps, its far more tougher to make them use it everyday, every week, once every month or heck, even once after the first trial.
It won’t be the brilliant promotion strategy that would make users come back, but the app itself, and the UX it offers. Taco Bell covered that with the option of ordering mobile app only products on the app. They are also offering mobile payment, which is apparently the first for the industry. Moreover, in stores, there will be a separate pick-up line for app orders.
Taco Bell is known for its progressive and clever social media strategy, including being an early mover on Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Tumblr, Pinterest, Hyperlapse among others. While it initially seemed like Taco Bell had completely wiped out its Twitter history, the account is actually hiding at @totallynothere during the blackout — with all followers (1.4 million) and tweets (39.9K) in place.
It is also interesting to note how quickly Twitter acted to make the “new” Taco Bell account verified. Usually, when a verified account is renamed (which is exactly what Taco Bell’s agency Digitas did), it loses the verified status. Clearly twitter and Digitas were planning and working on this stunt together. For now, the experiment seems to be continuing though it may not be long before Taco Bell resets and retakes its old avatar. I, for one, miss the witty one-liners. See below for an epic example.
It is heartening to see Taco Bell embrace technology like no one else, and at the same time, add emotions in the mix. Even the press invites sent for the announcement looked like something you wouldn’t expect from a fast food retailer.
And that’s the trick. Taco Bell wanted to make sure that their message broke through, without breaking their budgets. As a pioneer marketer, Taco Bell prefers to do things that have never been done before, which fits perfectly with their brand as well as the demographic they cater to.
Social media has been tightly entrenched in Taco Bell’s broad marketing play as well, with key personnel from PR, operations, product, and marketing playing a part in influencing the brand’s social movement. And for those, who believe social media leads to zero ROI, one look at Taco Bell would absolve that myth. AdAge recently wrote about the role of social media in year-on-year sales growth outpacing its competitors.
I have written in the past about clever social media and real time marketing employed by brands but this easily surpasses all Dark dunks and funny tweet fights. What do you think?
This article has also appeared on The Wall Blog.
If your wondering what all this is about, then you should probably go here before proceeding further.
For the first profile of my most ambitious blog series yet, I wanted to have someone who straddles the aviation, travel as well as digital marketing aspects together and really sets the benchmark for this initiative. Luckily enough for me I did not have to look around hard as Shashank kindly agreed to be featured as a “GlobeTrotter on Twitter”.
Shashank Nigam of course is much more than just that. He is the Founder/CEO of SimpliFlying, one of the world’s leading aviation marketing consultancies, which advises over 25 airlines. airports and even aircraft manufacturers on profitable customer engagement strategies. On top of that, SimpliFlying.com is one of the Top 2 blogs on aviation, and their Twitter handle (@simpliflying ) is also one of the Top 5 most influential on airlines.
Excerpts from my geek-out with him
- Air Travel used to be a breeze back in the day but not anymore. What is your greatest motivation to travel?
Shashank – I love watching planes, being on planes, just being near them. And I realise that I, like many others, have jet-fuel running through my veins. I get excited each time I need to search for a new flight, go through the booking process, in anticipation of the flight itself. The joy of flying is greater than any hassles. And through all this, I’ve now been to 51 countries!
- 51 countries is impressive indeed. But tell me do you enjoy the flying part of your travel more or the city sightseeing? Of all the thousands of flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you recount?
Shashank – I cherish the flying part of travel as much as sightseeing, and meeting people from different cultures. There are a few in-flight memories that have left an impact. My first flight – it was on an Aeroflot Illyushin in 1994, from Delhi to Singapore. Everyone was drinking, playing cards and I smelled like an ashtray when I stepped out. But my first flight, nevertheless. My first ultra-long haul flight was on Thai Airways, from Bangkok to New York, non-stop, over 17 hours! The first time I flew Business Class – it was on Cathay Pacific, from New York to Singapore, via Hong Kong. Loved the experience and service. The first time I flew the 787 Dreamliner, on a private invite-only flight at the Singapore Airshow was unforgettable. And as recently as last week, when I flew from Dar-e-salam to Zanzibar on a 17-seater, and the Captain was kind enough to let me sit in the cockpit, next to him for the full flight!
- Which is your favourite airport and which is your favourite airline? and tell us why?
Shashank – Favourite airport has to be Singapore Changi Airport – there’s so much to do, and if you want to get out, you go from plane to taxi in 10 mins.
Favorite airline differs depending on the class. My favourite First Class experiences has been on Emirates – the Suites are very private and luxurious and you get treated like a king. Their lounges in Dubai are superb too. The best Business Class experience has been on Turkish Airlines, long haul – where you get your own butler in-flight, and their lounge in Istanbul is possibly the best Star Alliance lounge in the world. The best Economy Class is on Singapore Airlines – true value for the premium you pay. Among LCCs, I love Virgin America, jetBlue and Volaris, for treating us like real people and offering a differentiated service!
- Alright, that makes me ask you your favourite aircraft?
- Couldn’t agree more with you there. In fact A340 is my favourite aircraft as well. Pity its not as popular among airlines now. Which city you’re particularly fond of?
Shashank – Istanbul is my favourite city – the perfect mix of culture and modernity. Though, from an #avgeek perspective, I love London and Los Angeles, with the huge variety of aircraft flying low, throughout the day, prior to landing.
- Leaving aside wifi, what would you like to see airports world over to adopt?
Shashank – “Quiet zones” will be welcome, where travellers with longer lay overs can just relax.
- Which website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?
Shashank – I always check seatguru.com to select the best seat before I check-in, Tripadvisor is a must for the hotels and Hipmunk for flight bookings. Most of my research on a city is last minute – a tweet or Facebook message to friends before I take off ensures I have 2-3 solid recommendations of things to do in a city.
- You run a successful consultancy and of course have jet-fuel running through your veins 😉 but what would you to tell the average guy who wants to travel but is afraid of the expenses associated with it?
Shashank – With the advent of LCCs, anyone can fly. So look out for those cheap deals and book a ticket. You might score one that’s cheaper than the train or the bus too. It’s never too late to fly!
- and finally, what role do you think twitter has played in encouraging people to travel? Also, as this is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”, your 3 favourite twitter user accounts?
Shashank – I love to meet my Twitter friends at airports while I’m in transit, or in the city that I’m visiting. Social media, especially Facebook and Pinterest are great for seeking inspiration on where to go next too!
My top 3 favourite Twitter users –
@ApexMary – she is the girlgeek of travel, who knows everything there is to know inside the cabin.
Thanks Shashank, That’s little more than 3 but because you mentioned one certain Vishal Mehra, we would let that pass.
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter – an Introduction (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Johnny Jet (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time) (vishal1mehra.com)
I would talk about Twitter on another post, but this one is all about my passion, my passion for Airplanes, Traveling & Social Media, & my recent experience of all of that converging into one wholesome package.
I was traveling on Business to US in June/July 2012 & @KLM happened to be my 31st airline (did the math). KLM was not my primary choice, in fact I wanted to fly its Sky Team partner, Air France for the routing, but boy was I glad at the end of it all!
I had read a lot about the “truly” social seating features that KLM had introduced, for the first time ever in the world of commercial aviation through its initiative known as “Meet and Seat” & when I realized that my flights would have those features while checking in, the social media guy in me took the front seat (not literally, premium economy requires you to pay more).
After filling in all relevant details, I was surprised to find only 2 gentlemen using the service (DEL-AMS route), one through Facebook & the other through Linked In. & unfortunately for me, none of the hot chicks on the flight decided to bother themselves with it (like this un-official video below would have you believe). Shockingly enough I was the only user of the service on AMS-IAD, & while returning from JFK to DEL via AMS, I encountered no users of Meet & Seat.
Although, its an exciting development, the concept of Social Seating has been discussed for a while now (Look at this coverage of Meet & Seat launch by @SimpliFlying), & other specialized players in the space like Satisfly have more detailed features, allowing better matching & flexibility to travelers.
Being a Marketer, my left brain & my right brain, both tell me its the marketing stupid. If i recall correctly, there was no special promotion on KLM’s homepage for the feature (unlike airBaltic promoting its satisfly features) & there is still none. Even the check-in page had little mention, I first sighted a RHS dynamic banner while filling in my API (Advance Passenger Information), some might say that’s appropriate given meet & seat is an optional additional feature, I would highly disagree.
When you have an exclusive service, which is available on just 1 other airline, out of possibly 1000s of other airlines in the world, WHY WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT?
KLM, arguably has one of the world’s best social media response teams, spread across regions, on Facebook & Twitter, interacting & delighting travellers every minute, KLM’s Marketing team was behind this fantastic Surprise campaign, they have a gamut of helpful & entertaining mobile apps, but I find it astounding that when it comes to Meet & Seat, there is very little noise generated by them. In this era of increased social connectivity & interaction, Meet & Seat could have easily become the talking point among travelers, some of them might have even paid a premium to be on KLM because of it.
The only logical explanation that I could think for under promoting is that the service is in beta, & KLM is in the process of adding more features & capabilities. To that, I would just say 3 words, Look at Google.
My experience on KLM was fantastic & the cabin crew was most friendly & helpful in all four legs of the trip, I would fly with them again for those Big MD-11 windows (although the IFE was crappy), for the wonderful hub at Schiphol, for the amazing roof at Schiphol, making you see aircraft fly in & out, & for its wonderful & courteous staff, alas Meet & Seat if promoted well, could have been another solid reason.
PS: This post was coined “The Social Dutchman” by me after realizing KLM is more than just a “Flying Dutchman” & I hope they live up to this recognition.
This Post is also featured on AeroBlogger, as a slightly altered Guest Post.
- KLM Must See Map – Social Media meets Print Media (cultofcreativity.com)
- Can brands perform random acts of kindness? (econsultancy.com)
- Airline lets passengers choose seat partners based on social media profiles (dimaagkakeeda.wordpress.com)
- Social Seating in Iberia flights (ivarsmore.wordpress.com)