Tagged: Social Media

Is Taco Bell the Savviest Social Media Brand?

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.

Taco Bell - Social Networks

Taco Bell – Social Networks

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.

Taco bell - only in the app

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.

Taco Bell App - iOS Rank History

Taco Bell App – iOS Rank History

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.

Taco Bell App - iOS Hourly Rank History

Taco Bell App – iOS Hourly Rank History

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.

Taco Bell - Totally not there twitter

Taco Bell’s alternative twitter account

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.

Taco Bell vs Old Spice - Tweet Wars

Taco Bell vs. Old Spice – Tweet Wars

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.

Taco Bell Invitation

Taco Bell Invitation

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.

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Arun Rajagopal

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

“I’m crazy about planes. And mad about trains”. That’s how Arun Rajagopal explains himself as simple as possible. I have been in touch with Arun on twitter for as long as I remember and have had some fascinating conversations with him both online and offline.

Arun has been a top-notch marketer for over 8 years now and for the past 16 months or so he has been at Emirates, carving and executing their social media strategy and loving his dream job, where the worlds of marketing and aviation meet.

Inviting Arun to be a part of the GlobeTrotter series was one of the easiest decisions I have made, partly because he is a passionate globetrotter for real and partly because I selfishly wanted to understand his mindset about travelling. Arun has been on the pages of this blog in the past, we had a great conversation for this series and I hope you all enjoy reading it as well:

777 fanboy to the dough

777 fanboy to the dough

  • What is your greatest motivation to travel? I vividly remember reading one of your tweets few weeks back where you couldn’t hop on a BOM flight but you still flew, albeit on some other flight. That is astounding enthusiasm. Tell me your motivation for that?

Arun – I love the sheer joy that comes with getting on a plane. I belong to the school of thought that the journey is as important as the destination, sometimes more important than the destination. In this particular instance, I was supposed to fly to Mumbai, but I couldn’t get on my flight. As I walked out of the airport, I realised that it was not me to not get on a plane when I had made my mind to do so. As luck would have it, I just remembered that there was a flight to Ahmedabad, which was leaving 10 minutes later. I walked back, got myself on that plane and eventually reached Mumbai. When I want to get on a plane, I always manage to get on it because I really, really want to. It’s also a mix of karma, luck and persistence.

  • Do you enjoy the aviation/flying part of your travels or the sightseeing in cities? Of all the hundreds of flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you would like to share?

Arun – I love the flying part more. I have two very memorable experiences topping the list. One is the Emirates inaugural flight to Seattle in March 2012. I’m a huge Boeing 777 fan (Vishal’s note: See the cake in the picture above) and it was a dream come true

for me to be on that first flight (a 77W) to the home of Boeing. I bit the bullet one day before the trip, deciding that the high-fares wouldn’t stand in my way. The dream turned even better when I got to see A6-EGO, the 1000th 777 with its paint coat fresh on a Boeing factory tour, right before its delivery ceremony.

A6-EGO

Emirates A6-EGO, Photo credit: Mark Harky

The other one has to be celebrating my 30th on an A380 upper deck, which was another big dream come true. On the B-day, all Emirates A380 flights were full, but I scored a seat to Hong Kong, and then did a turn-around to Dubai via Bangkok. My flight touched down at Suvarnabhumi exactly when the clock struck midnight and I got my first birthday call. The crew even had a special birthday surprise for me. I was away for 30 hours, most of them spent on a plane. I’ll take that day with me to the grave.

  • Which is your favourite airport and airline? And why? (Barring DXB and Emirates)

Arun – My favourite airport has to be Muscat International. I grew up in Muscat and I flew out of MCT for a good part of my life. It’s a not a huge airport, but I’ve some very special memories.

My favourite airline is a very tough question, because I love most airlines out there and some even more such as Emirates. Any airline that makes flying more personal and special always gets my vote.

  • Nicely played there Arun, Tell us about your favourite city, and any memorable experience you had there?

Arun – So many cities, many visited and many more yet to visit. Again hard to pick one, so I will go with New York, Seattle, London and Bangkok. As to a memorable experience, seeing snow for the first time in my life in Seattle was super special. I only had to wait 29 years for it to happen.

  • High five, I haven’t seen a snowfall ever myself. When you travel, is there a particular website, guidebook etc. you consult before making plans? What’s your research like?

Arun – I’m not a Lonely Planet guidebook toting kind of person. Where I stay is massively important for me – so I do my hotel research via TripAdvisor, Hotels.com or Booking.com. I talk to people who have been there before and once I’m at the destination, I try to get local insights. But the most magical moments are spontaneous and happen when you are not expecting them. In many of the cities I travel to, I try to connect with friends or acquaintances I have there, which adds a whole new personal experience to my journey.

Aerial view of Incheon International, at Seoul. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Aerial view of Incheon International, at Seoul                     Photo credit: Wikipedia

  • Talking bit more about the journey part, Is there any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)

Arun – Airports play a huge role in enriching your travel experience. I wish more airports had showers. Also, airports are often the first point of contact between a tourist and a foreign country – so smiling; friendly immigration officials would always be welcome. Muscat and Jakarta get my votes there. San Antonio has some amazing rocking chairs where you can lounge on and watch planes. One of my favourite airport experiences has been pausing for a minute to watch a musician perform at Atlanta, in the midst of milling crowds. Give me anything in an airport that makes the travel experience more relaxing and welcoming. I hear Seoul Incheon is amazing and I look forward to a trip soon, only to check out the airport.

  • Spoke like a true #AvGeek there. You have a successful career, what advice would you give to all those who might not be financially sound but still harbour dreams of traveling the world?

Arun – I firmly believe that one can make things happen when you are passionate about something and you give 100% to pursuing your dreams. I was not financially sound when I decided to become a globetrotter. As long as you put your goals ahead of you and work towards them, you can make it even to space.

  • We know you’re a social media expert, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Arun – Social media has not only enabled travel brands to connect better with their customers, but has also fuelled a massive appetite for travel and made the world a smaller place. There is a very active aviation community on Twitter, sharing common passions, interests, knowledge and information.

  • And finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your three favourite twitter user accounts to follow?

Arun – Very hard to pick 3, but I’m going to run with

@JonOstrower, @Simpliflying and @RunwayGirl. They, amongst so many others, have made me love aviation more.

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Devesh Agarwal (Bangalore Aviation)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

When I asked Devesh what led him to start Bangalore Aviation, his answer was simply because his friends and family increasingly started coming to him for all aviation related advice and discussions, he noticed the absence of an India specific aviation blog, thus the idea of Bangalore Aviation was germinated. When your a global frequent flier with over 4 million miles against your name, all that is naturally supposed to happen.

Devesh posing Inside Boeing 787 Dreamliner Cockpit

Devesh posing inside Boeing 787 Dreamliner Cockpit

My personal view, knowing him for few years now, is that and more. I think it’s a cocktail of what he describes as well as what he doesn’t. You see Devesh loves to share his wealth of knowledge, and those who know him would describe him as a larger than life, social and jovial man who loves his food and flights. Through a blog he found just the right outlet to vent out. Other parts of the puzzle just fit in their places perfectly.

Bangalore Aviation is described by him as “By aviation enthusiasts, for aviation enthusiasts”, started on March 14, 2008, with the intent of being a “no-spin” zone of Indian aviation media.

Like many leading bloggers, managing Bangalore Aviation is not Devesh’s day job.  He is a technology product management expert and has been awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010.

Devesh also has been recognized as one of the must follow aviation pros on twitter in Mashable for good measure.

Enjoy this conversation:

  • Devesh, what has been your personal motivation to travel and to fly?  

Devesh – From childhood I have loved planes, the magic of flight, the physics of flying. I also have a pair of glider pilot wings, and I just love to fly. I still remember my first flight as an eight year old boarding Air India Boeing 747 Emperor Ashoka. It is fascinating that we can travel to countries on the other side of the earth in less than 24 hours, a feat that was fraught with danger less than 60 years ago. It is a pity that air travel over the years has become less glamorous and there are many airlines in the world today, which treat passengers as “self-loading cargo”, but thankfully there are also those that do not.

  • So your not a fan of Ryan Air, I’m actually yet to meet someone who is. I believe you would be the sorts to enjoy your plane ride. Any memorable experience?

    Air hostesses for Singapore Airlines. January ...

    Singapore Girls: Also known as Devesh’s perpetual saviours (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devesh –  I was on the inaugural Los Angeles-Singapore non-stop A340-500 Singapore Airline flight. The inbound flight from Singapore was four hours early due to favourable winds, which meant the winds would be against us while going back. The pilots decided to take an equatorial route, which was longer than the polar route but had less opposing winds and were nearer to major airports should we need to land to re-fuel.

During another of my SIA flights between Frankfurt and JFK. About 25% of the business class seats stopped working, two passengers fell ill midway, and one in fact died from a heart attack. All this while the crew was being audited and inspected by an in-flight quality control auditor. Hats off to that crew for their performance. They were on their feet for the full eight hours and running back and forth the entire length of the B744 and not skipping a beat on their very high service levels while still attending to the passenger emergencies and seat failures.

These are just two of my long list of experiences, by Indian newspaper standards I have had more “miraculous escapes” than the proverbial cat.

  • All that makes my next question redundant, I was going to ask your favourite airline…

Devesh – Yes, it’s Singapore Airlines. The service level is simply unmatched. On a Singapore to JFK flight, my nine year old son spilt a full glass of coke on himself. My wife had forgotten to pack a change of clothes for him. The crew brought a Givenchy pajama suit they give to first class passengers, and altered the pajamas by hand stitching to fit the young boy!!!!! I have never heard of such an experience on any other airline. To top this off, my wife and children were flying, without me, and on an award business class ticket. So no FFP or revenue influences.

English: Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 (9V...

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 (9V-SPP) in Star Alliance livery at Singapore Changi Airport. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • That actually sounds quite incredible, which would be your preferred airport?

Devesh – It’s Singapore Changi of course, due to their hyper-efficient immigration, baggage delivery, and customs. Even with checked baggage, you are out of the airport within 15 minutes.

  • All right Singapore fan boy (just kidding!!), tell me about your all time favourite aircraft.

Devesh – Without a doubt, Concorde. I was very sad to see her being retired. For the first time in history we went backward in technology as there is even till today no replacement aircraft for her, and none appears to be for the next 20 years.

(Vishal’s note: Read my flashback story on the Concorde, as well as Devesh’s great piece on it.)

  • Let’s get slightly more specific now; which airline according to you has the best economy, premium economy, business and first class products?

Devesh – Best Economy – Singapore Airlines

Best Premium Economy – Cathay Pacific

Best Business Class – 1-2-1 configured Singapore Airlines beats most first class. Also the Upper Class of Virgin Atlantic and their fantastic Club House, and those ladies in red.

Best First Class – The old Pan Am Boeing 747s with the upper deck lounge. Currently, I think Emirates A380 takes the crown. Their seats are narrow compared to other airlines, but any airline that has a shower spa on board and serves Hennessy Paradis cognac (about $850 a 750ml bottle) has to take the “Over the top” crown.

  • Lets come back to airports for a second, is there any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)

Devesh – Restaurants serving real food, not the fast food fried or ready made nonsense. I think with growing travel, appreciation for good food, and airline’s cutting back, a fine dining restaurant at airports will do well.

  • You have a successful career and run a successful website, what advise would you give to those who want to travel the world without breaking their bank balance?

Devesh – The travel itself is not expensive. Depending on where you travel the boarding and lodging is. For most I would recommend using a tour package from one of the reputable companies.

  • Is there a go-to website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Devesh – Apart from BangaloreAviation.com? :), I go through Lonely Planet, Frommers, but my first choice is my business colleagues and friends in the destination country/city.

  • That was a clever plug Devesh 🙂, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Devesh – Social media has brought more world cultures to the attention of more people, and hence the desire to travel to what, ten years ago, would have been an unknown place for someone. Same goes with meeting people. Personally I have met some great people, initially online, but then also in person. You are one person where our virtual friendship has transformed in to a real one. Other friends include Shashank Nigam (Simpliflying), and others.

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 must follow twitter user accounts?

Devesh – @mashable for all things social media and gadgets

@avweekrupa, @apexmary, @simpliflying – people with great insight and thoughtful tweets

@breakingnews – global developments

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brian Kelly (The Points Guy)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Brian Kelly is a perfect case of perfection passion and popularity converting a Wall Street road warrior to a Miles and Points guy, more so as “The Points Guy”.Brian Kelly - The Points Guy

Before catching up with him, it was fascinating to read how a 13 year old Brian figured out to use his father’s points to take the whole family for a vacation to Grand Cayman. Equally fascinating was his transformation from a Wall Street HR Manager with a cushy job, to a Full time blogger after frequent hounding up by his family and friends first and later by the readers of his then part-time blog to help them out with their points. Boy, has that turned out well or what?

Brian’s website, ThePointsGuy turned full time in mid 2011 and now gets more than 4,00,000 unique visitors every month. Besides his own, Brian has also contributed to The New York Times, Conde’ Nast Traveler, The Los Angeles Times and The Independent. He is often invited for major travel conferences and consults regularly with top airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Excerpts from our chat:

  • Brian, what attracts you to travelling?

Brian – The main thing I love about travel is meeting new people, exploring new cities and trying different foods – all while accruing miles doing so.

  • Do you fancy airplanes or does the destination hold greater excitement for you?

Brian – For me travel is the destination, if I could teleport I absolutely would. That being said, because I’m able to fly a lot of great Business and First Class products I don’t dread getting on the plane but if I could avoid it I would. I’ve met a lot of good friends on planes including one of my best friends and business manager, and sat next to countless celebrities but the most interesting people I find are fellow frequent flyers.

  • I suspect catching up with Madonna would rank right up there for you. Which airline you fancy most for flying?

    Cathay Pacific First Class

    Cathay Pacific First Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brian – My favourite airline is Cathay Pacific because of their First class product, which has to be the most comfortable product I’ve ever flown. Emirates first is on my to do list and I hope to experience that within the next year or so.

  • And your preferred airport would be?

Brian – Most US airports are overcrowded and uninspired but I really like the new Sky Deck at JFK that is my favourite lounge to visit in US. Internationally I love the Concord lounge at Heathrow T5 because it’s perfect for plane watching.

  • If you could improve one area at airports what would it be? (Besides wifi)

Brian – More sky lounges for plane watchers! I would also love to see more pet relief areas within the terminal since most are outside in parking garages, which doesn’t help when connecting.

  • Which is your favourite aircraft to fly on? 

Brian – I’m old school – I love the Boeing 747, I’m an upper deck kind of guy and I like the enclosed quaint feel it has.

Flying Lufthansa First Class last summer with the lie flat bed and spacious seat was definitely a highlight for me. I still haven’t tried out the 747-8 but its on my to do list.

  • From a wall street  road warrior to a professional frequent flyer (if I may say so), what tips would you give to people at large who want to travel without spending too much?

Brian – Right off the bat you should sign up for point earning credit cards and charge every expense possible on them so you can maximise the points you earn. You should also get credit cards that have bonus categories for the things you spend the most on whether it be dining, travel, groceries, etc. I recommend signing up for the the Chase Sapphire Preferred which gives 2x points on travel and dining and there is a current sign up bonus of 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

  • All though most of your credit card tips are not applicable for the Indian market,  I still keep reading them for kicks and I remember your British Airways card tip, where 50000 miles was an upfront bonus and then you can cut up the card few months later. That was a pretty awesome offer.

            That reminds me; tell me your recommended economy, premium economy, business and first class products in the world?

Brian – Economy – I don’t know I’m 6’7 and don’t fly economy often enough to judge but I’ve heard that Emirates is pretty good

English: EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin

EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Premium Economy – I’ve only flown KLM Economy Comfort and really enjoyed it. Nice touch was that it was free for Delta Platinum/Diamond Medallions

Business Class – I would have to go with EVA airways because its comfortable and they serve Dom Perignon champagne

First Class – Emirates takes the cake for my First class choice. Besides the roomy seat that extends to a comfortable bed that I can actually fit in, you can take a shower on their A380.

  • Do you have a favorite city to travel?

Brian – Madrid is the place I visit the most since my best friend lives there. I love the energy, culture, food, and nightlife there – I can never get enough. I also studied abroad there in college, which is when my love for the city began.

  • Do you consult any website, guidebook etc. before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Brian – Whenever I’m taking a trip to an obscure destination I like to ask my readers for recommendations because they are well traveled and I trust their opinions. I also check FlyerTalk to see if there are any relevant threads.

  • You have a huge social media presence, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel, and specifically award travel?

Brian – Social media/Twitter has greatly increased airline’s customer service and allowed them to be more proactive and responsive to customer complaints. In the past, customers had to submit complaints and wait weeks for a response. Now you can tweet airlines while in the airport and get issues resolved as they are happening.

(Vishal’s note:  Read this quick piece on Delta’s fantastic social media customer service effort).

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 favourite twitter user accounts?

Brian – @skift – for travel industry news

@theflightdeal – for cheap flights

@NYCaviation – for breaking aviation news

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Arndt (Everything-Everywhere)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Almost six and half years back, In the early spring of 2007, Gary Arndt decided to let go of everything that he owned and set off on a journey which would inspire not just him, but hundreds of thousands across the world to Travel.

He sold off his house, his furniture, and appliances…. Almost everything he owns and decides to pursue his passion. And thus Everything Everywhere, one of the longest running personal travel blog is born.

In between his undying love for Travel, Pro Wrestling (His headshot actually reminded me of Stone Cold Steve Austin in a way) and Writing for the blog, Gary also finds time to co-host a fantastic travel podcast with Chris Christensen every week called This Week in Travel, speak at conferences around the world and shoot thousands of brilliant photographs every month.

Gary wears his patented "traveller facemask"

Gary wears his patented “Traveller Face mask”, you don’t wanna know more!

Gary also writes/shoots regularly for leading publications like The Atlantic, The Huffington Post and The Four Hour Work Week. He has won the Lowell Thomas Award and his blog was named one of the 25 best blogs on the Internet by Time Magazine in 2010.

And here’s the most stunning part: Gary has Globetrotted over 140 countries and 7 continents in the last 6 years, besides covering over 250 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

With an ever increasing massive following on twitter (1,22,889 followers, as of pressing publish) and his unmatched Globetrotting skills, needless to say I was more than excited for my chat with Gary.

  • What is it about traveling that made you left everything behind? What is your greatest motivation to travel?

Gary – I enjoy the freedom that travel offers and I enjoy learning about new things everywhere I go.

  • Do you enjoy the flying portion of your trips?  Would you count yourself as an enthusiast?

Gary – Honestly, I don’t. I prefer almost every other mode of transportation to flying. The process isn’t pleasant, but it is something you just have to do if you travel internationally. Memorable flights are usually not good flights, so I’m thankful to say I haven’t really had any memorable experiences.

  • No special memories from your flight time. What about airlines, do you have any favored airline?

Gary – My favorite airline is Singapore Airlines because they have such great customer service.

  • Would that make SIA’s hub at Changi your desired airport as well?

Gary – Yes, Indeed. They have lots of great things to do if you are on a layover and the facility is well designed.

  • I know you have hesitated before about naming your most favourite destination, and compared it to a mother choosing between her children, but I’m going to give it one more shot.

Gary  * SILENCE *

  • All right, with that insightful answer, can you share your most unforgettable travel experience?

    English: A swimmer in Jellyfish Lake, Palau.

    A swimmer in Jellyfish Lake, Palau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gary – My most unforgettable experience is either swimming with Jellyfish in Palau or being on shore with 100,000 penguins in South Georgia Island.

  • As a habitual traveler, if I may use that word, where would you like to see Airports improve?

Gary – I would like to see accessible and ample power outlets. Too many airports either hide them or make them inaccessible.

  • True. While researching for our interaction I stumbled on to one of your other interviews, where you mentioned Monster Cable Travel Power Strip as one of the most important parts of your tech gear. I also read that you’re a part owner of Packers, which would make you quite well off. What advice would you give to all those who might not be as financially sound, an average guy, but who still wants to travel the world?

Gary – That confuses a lot of people. The Green Bay Packers are the smallest community in North America to have a professional sports team and they are the only North American sports team, which is owned by the community. There is no billionaire owner. I own 1 share of stock that I purchased for $200 🙂

Travel is cheaper than people think it is. It all depends on where you go and how you do it. If you travel to Switzerland or Norway, you will spend a lot of money. If you go to SE Asia or Central American, you can spend very little. Likewise, if you avoid the big chain hotels and stay at hostels and guesthouses you can save a lot of money as well.  

  • So much for my extensive research. Ha! Let me try to put you in the pickle again: Which website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Gary – I never use guidebooks and I don’t do that much research. I travel so much I usually just land and figure things out. If it is a place I’ve never been before I might get 1 or 2 nights booked in advance, but that is about it. Everything I get from asking people on the ground, Google searches and from my readers.

  • That should encourage a lot of people out there to just travel. And in the end, in the spirit of “GlobeTrotters on Twitter” tell me your 3 must follow twitter users

Gary –  @PVPonline

@JohnnyJet

@Petapixel

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brett Snyder (The Cranky Flier)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

The first bookmark in my aviation essential reading folder is CrankyFlier.com, and I’m certain to be one of the many enthusiasts who open the site every day to read new content (although on an average, a new article pops up on the site every second day).

Brett Snyder, the President and (as he likes to call himself) the Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Flier is the ‘been there, done that’ man of the aviation industry. Fascination with airplanes started at a very young age and by the age of 12, he had become a travel agent. His fascination with the industry only grew with job stints at USAir, America West, United and PriceGrabber.com.Brett Snyder - Cranky Flier on Air NZ

He’s been a full time blogger for few years now, along with his own air travel assistance service, known as Cranky Concierge, for which he has been named as a “Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler for multiple times now.

Brett has also won multiple awards for “The Cranky Flier”, and also writes for CNTraveler.com and Intuit Small Business Blog.

Before we begin our chat, bit of trivia about the name: Brett was given the name “Cranky Pants” by his friend and that stuck as CrankyFlier, as the name seemed neutral to Brett himself.

 

  • What makes you travel Brett?

Brett – Sadly most of my travel lately is about the process itself and not about being in a location.  That’s too bad, because the real motivation for travel should be what’s on the other end of the flight.  It’s almost always worth it, even though it is exhausting.

  • Do you enjoy the aviation/flying part more of your travels or the sightseeing in cities? Of all the flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you would like to share?

Brett – I enjoy both, but I don’t have a lot of sightseeing opportunities on my trips lately.  Regarding flights, I have had so many great experiences.  But I think if there’s one that stands out, it’s the time I had the pleasure of flying Concorde from London to New York.  That was just surreal. (Vishal’s note:  Must read related trip report of Concorde here).

  • I know that Boeing 747 is your favourite aircraft, what about your preferred airport and why? 

Brett – I don’t have a single airport or airline that I like best.  It’s different depending upon the situation.  For example, I love my hometown airport, Long Beach, but that’s because you can get through it very easily and the facility is excellent.  But it’s not where I’d want to spend a long connection.

  • And your Favorite airline will be?

Brett – For airlines, I might choose one airline to go in business class to Europe whereas a short hop to San Francisco might be something else.  I really don’t have a top choice.

  • What about your preferred city for a break?

Brett – I’d have to say London.  For whatever reason, I just love going there.  One of my favourite experiences there involved a visit to some friends on a surprisingly warm and sunny spring day.  We started up on Baker Street and wandered the streets until we ended up down in South Kensington for dinner.  We just wandered aimlessly for hours and took advantage of the city’s lack of an open container law.  I find that the best experiences are when I know someone locally.  It just changes the way you see a city.

  • Leaving aside Wi-Fi, which is being implemented by majority of airports, what other changes you want to see at the airports?

Brett – I would love to see more day rooms.  Fortunately, we’re seeing that happen more and more.

  • You run a successful website/business. What would you tell as advise to the average Joe, missing deep pockets but still harboring the will to travel the world?

Brett – There are great ways to travel the world without spending a ton of money.  In particular, if you can qualify for a credit card, you can earn a lot of miles and turn that into free travel around the world.  Or you can look for a job that requires a lot of travel.  Travel within regions can be very inexpensive, and you can always say in hostels to save money.  So the key is just funding the long haul travel.

  • Do you have a go-to guide before you travel?

Brett – I don’t have a go-to guide.  I use friends as much as possible, but for internet research I usually just start with Google and work my way around from there.

  • What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Brett – I think social media has helped bring experiences to people in real time.  It used to be you could watch a slideshow of someone’s trip after they returned.  Now you can live through it with them including photos, videos and more.  It can all be shared as it happens, so it makes it more real for people at home.

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 favorite twitter user accounts?

Brett – three favourites?  Hmm, maybe @FakeUnitedJeff@NYCAviation,

and since you didn’t say it had to be travel-related, @Dbacks.  (Yep, I’m a big baseball fan.)

 

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Chris Christensen (The Amateur Traveler)

 GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Being a longtime listener and viewer of the Amateur Traveler podcasts I jumped at the first opportunity of speaking with Chris Christensen about travel and his perspectives of things that enable and supplement our travel experiences.

Chris Christensen - Amateur Traveler

Coffee – works best with Podcasting

Chris of course is the host of the Amateur Traveler, an extremely popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. The Amateur Traveler audio show started in 2005 and has averaged 1 million downloads over the last 3 years. Chris also is one of the 3 hosts of the award winning This Week in Travel podcast. Clearly the only thing “amateur” about it all is the name of the show itself.

Chris is a regular speaker at various industry events as well, and was recently involved in couple of sessions at TBEX 2013. TBEX is where world’s most prominent travel bloggers, writers and new media content creators gather to talk all things travel.

Apart from travel, I share with Chris another huge interest, that of podcasts. I like to describe myself as a podcast junkie and by his own admission Chris subscribes to over 70 podcasts himself. The idea of “The Amateur Travel” was germinated through his obsession with podcasts.

Excerpts from our chat:

  • I read that your love affair with traveling started way back in your childhood through your parents. Those road trips as a kid taught you a lot. That fascination has clearly trickled down quite well. I was curious to know if you’re a full time traveler now?

Chris – Actually I have a day job, I only worked as a full-time blogger for 8 months in 2010. While I did quit my day job last week, I plan to support myself with software development, not blogging.

  • With all the high quality work you produce regularly, it’s hard to believe this is not your full-time job. What do you think about flying? Any recent and notable flight experience?

Chris – I love flying. You get to soar through the air like a bird. I don’t see how anyone can tire of that. I had a chance to fly on one of the first Boeing Dreamliner 787s out of San Jose to Tokyo recently as a guest of ANA. Great plane to a great destination. (Read his report here)

  • Airports are an integral part of flying. Which one do you prefer?

Chris – I like San Francisco, which is my usual airport. Modern, spacious and my gateway to the world.

  • And which city has impressed you most while traveling? Any outstanding experience you would like to recall?

Chris – I loved Istanbul, Tanzania and Egypt. Egypt and Istanbul for the history, and Tanzania for both the wildlife and its people.

Overlook on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Overlook on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I had to pick my very favorite day traveling it would probably be visiting the Ngorongoro Crater on a safari in Tanzania. Being three feet away from a lioness (fortunately with a good strong car window in between us) when she growled was outstanding all right.

  • How would you like to improve the current crop of airports? What one addition (except Wi-Fi) can be most helpful for travelers in your view?

Chris – Lots and lots more places to plug in a laptop.

  • Traveling is not your full time day job but you still manage to balance your passion with profession pretty well. What advise can you give other aspiring travelers reading this?

Chris – Don’t quit your day job might be an odd advise to come from me, so let’s say at least don’t over estimate how much money you can make as a blogger until you are making money as a blogger. It can take a while to build up an audience and most full time bloggers are either a second income or live someplace cheap.

  • Wise words. Tell us your deep dark secrets of pre-travel research.

Chris – We look up hotels on TripAdvisor. I like visual guidebooks like the Eyewitness Guides and often where I go these days is influenced by episode of Amateur Traveler where someone has come on the show and told me of some amazing place.

  • And finally Chris, give us your 3 must follow twitter accounts.

Chris – My passion for travel predates social media by decades but I do like keeping in touch with social media. Some of my favorite twitter accounts to follow are:

@legalnomads

@ottsworld and

@airlinegossip

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

If you’re a frequent flyer, fond of tracking your air miles and points and generally follow the aviation community closely, you know Gary and you know him well.

And if by some twist of fate you don’t, let me make it easier for you.

Gary Leff is the co-founder of Milepoint.com, a popular online community for frequent flyers. Gary also manages Freddie awards and blogs frequently at View From the Wing. In fact, Gary’s blog was the first to exclusively focus on frequent travel and loyalty programs and he’s been leading the way for over 11 years now.

Not just that, Gary has also served as a moderator of Flyertalk.com from 2003 till the beginning of 2011 and was the senior founding moderator of Flyertalk’s member-elected TalkBoard. He’s been cited and profiled in New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and Washington post among others.

And in his “real day job”, He is the chief numbers guy for university research centers. Phew!!

Reading about him prior to our chat I chanced upon this. Read this and you will know why he is so revered within the aviation/frequent flyer community.

“Gary Leff is so proficient at the frequent-travel game that in 2008 he redeemed enough miles to fly first class with his wife from Washington, D.C., to Spain for dinner at the famous three-Michelin-starred El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona. After the meal, they turned around and flew home.”   (Via Executive Travel)

13000 kilometers for a Dinner, eh?

13000 kilometers for a Dinner, eh?

Yes, he flew across the pond. For a dinner. Excerpts from our chat:

  • What makes you travel? And why you love getting on planes?

Gary – It would take a really narrow focus or a lot of hubris to believe that wherever one is at a given time is the single greatest place in the world to be.  There’s so much out there in terms of diversity of experiences, creativity and achievement, food and spectacle.  We’re on the earth for such a short time, and experiencing as much as possible seems just so fundamentally…. human.

And I’ve had the great fortune to connect with people, I get on planes to reduce the distance and maintain that connectedness.  And to try new things, broaden my horizons.   My life is so much richer, so much more fulfilled because of travel.  An early morning flight or a groping at security can’t begin to detract from that.

  • No problems with early morning flights or groping certainly means you enjoy flying, if I hadn’t figured that one out yet. What has been the most unforgettable flying experience for you?

Gary – The destination will always be more interesting than flying, though flight itself is a tremendous achievement of humankind over nature and it’s certainly possible to enjoy getting there alongside being there.

I suppose my most memorable flight experience was circling New York airspace before I was a teenager, when the landing gear just wouldn’t go down. Until it did.  Truly, though, in all of my flights few have really been that memorable which is to say that nearly all have been marvels of human achievement.

  • Safe to say all that circling over New York airports is not always so pleasant. Which is your favorite airport and which airline is most impressive in terms of their first class/business class product?

Gary – There’s no question that the Singapore airport impresses me most.  The amenities there are unrivaled.  I like the Seoul airport, and though far from a favorite I think Bangkok is undervalued.  I can’t think of any major airports in Europe that I like (though the first class terminal in Frankfurt is my favorite *terminal*). Dallas is a really good experience overall, and Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera almost redeems O’Hare.

My favorite international airline is Cathay Pacific.  I love their first class product, it’s solid all around and I sleep better in their seat than anyone else’s.  Their long haul business class seat is fantastic as well.  My favorite domestic airline is American — overall good service, excellent treatment as a top tier elite, wireless internet across the mainline fleet, pretty good food, and a great new business class seat.  Award redemption for international first class is unrivaled.

  • Talking about award redemption, which is your favorite city to travel to?

Gary – My favorite city has to be Singapore, because it’s at once far away and accessible, and probably better for food at both the high and low end than anywhere else.  Little matches sitting out at the beach in the evening at the East Coast Lagoon Village hawker center, open air, enjoying great food and a walk along the water.

  • What about airports? Wi-Fi is becoming all too common. As a frequent traveler which other amenity you would like to see them incorporate within their premises?

Gary – Starbucks or similar (or higher!) quality coffee airside.  There’s no excuse not to have decent coffee available near the gate in a world where the TSA continues to prosecute the War on Water.

  • Do you consult any specific website before and while your traveling?

Gary – Milepoint.com – frequent flyer community, a friendly group of experienced travelers that are happy to share their advice and experiences.

  • What counsel would you give to the average Joe? She/he wants to travel but is scared about incurring heavy expenses while doing so.

Gary – Though it’s possible to travel frugally, and to cover much of the cost of travel with points, it isn’t free.  There’s nothing wrong with – and indeed tremendous virtue in — traveling on a tight budget.  But if you’re in significant debt, well I’d strongly suggest paying off credit cards before making discretionary travel spend decisions.  Don’t finance your travel on a credit card.  That’s not only good advice; it’s also a way to travel much more in the future. Your travel experiences will pay dividends, but don’t incur interest to have them.

  • That’s very well explained Gary. In the end, as this series is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter“, please tell us your 3 must follow twitter accounts?

Gary –  @GlobeTrotScott for the latest airline news

@onemileatatime for witty commentary about the travel experience

@boardingarea updates from all the best travel blogs in one place

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Shashank Nigam

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

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 in Cockpit

Cockpit access tips, Shashank?

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?

Shashank – To look at – A340-600 – I think it’s the best looking aircraft out there. Beautiful silhouette. To fly, A380 – it’s the quietest and most comfortable aircraft I’ve flown.

  • 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.

@airlinetrends/@capa_aviation keep me updated with the latest industry analysis.

And fellow avgeeks like @arun4, @airlinereporter and yourself (@vishal1mehra) are great company online!

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

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

So I have wanted to do this for a while now.

My absolute love for Twitter, Travel and Aviation is well known and it was only a matter of time before I decided to bring it all together in one place.

The idea for “GlobeTrotters on Twitter” sparked to me where most of the ideas in the world are born, while sitting on the throne.

To put it simply, the plan is to connect with top travel experts and aviation geeks who are active on twitter and briefly talk about things, which excite them and all of us.

I have always been curious about some aspects of the business while flying and traveling, and I’m sure there are plenty of others like me thinking the same. I could not find a single place on the web, which would talk about those things, with all the people I would want to ask, leading me to starting this blog series.

The best news of them all? Every single superstar I got in touch with has been more than kind for this humble initiative. 70% of them have already sent in their response to my queries.  And the rest will roll in hopefully by the end of this week.

Simply Amazing.

I will start rolling out the first part of this series in a couple of days, and then a new post every 3-4 days, depending on my schedule.

To say I’m excited to do this would be an understatement. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have enjoyed putting this together over the past few weeks.

Hit me up if you have any feedback or queries. Till then, Happy geeking out! 🙂