Social Media Case Studies

How Delta Used a Local Contest to Reach the Hearts of New Yorkers

Social Influencer Case StudyInfluencer marketing has become a little convoluted and confusing if you ask me. So, for the sake of this post and how I like to market, I’m going to dumb the term down a bit and say that the gist of what we want to do as marketers is make a lasting connection with consumers through fans of our brand.

Something that seems to get overlooked is the fact that influencers are everywhere. They are your brand’s best story tellers and can be employees of your brand who have yet to have a voice, the person who grows the produce for your line of grocery items, or the person who is passionate about your product and talks about it on their own accord (think the Nutella girl).

Influencers are not just super tweeters with a lot of followers or bloggers with a ton of traffic. Both online and offline, true influencers actually like your brand and promote it in an authentic way because their passion is genuine.

New York agency, BoomBox Inc looked outside of the box for influencers for their client, Delta Airlines, and activated average New Yorkers and Delta’s employees as influencers.

Read this case study and think about how you too can look outside of the box for people to talk about your brand!

Delta’s Goal

Delta’s goal was simple in theory but challenging to execute: They wanted to reach the hearts and minds of the people of NYC and create a lasting impression that would keep Delta on the brains of New Yorkers as the “go to” airline.

Why a focus on NYC? Well, it happens to be the largest hub in the country so it makes sense to connect with New Yorkers. In an authentic way, that is.

Find the Most Celebrated Part of Your Brand

In order to connect in an authentic way with consumers, a good marketer needs to get real people talking about their brand – not just paid influencers with a huge social reach.

BoomBox looked to the most celebrated parts of Delta and decided to emphasize their flight attendants, or Red Coats as Delta calls them, and set up the Red Coat Challenge.

How Delta Used a Local Contest to Reach the Hearts of New Yorkers

Gamification Isn’t Just for Kids

BoomBox has a knack for using gamification tactics for their clients. The theory behind this type of social media marketing is that it’s a fun way to incorporate people in to a brand’s story.

With consumers craving meaningful interaction and engagement with the brands they like or are interested in, BoomBox has found that this type of connection is more likely to happen when using gamificiation techniques.

In order to connect Delta to New Yorkers and emphasize a human component of their brand, BoomBox agency literally hid Red Coats all over the city.

For 6 weeks, locals participated by trying to locate the Red Coats through geo-coordinates and photo clues that Delta released throughout the day digitally.

Players raced all over New York to be the first to find the Red Coat. They had to share their progress socially which was an added bonus for Delta’s social presence and awareness.

How Delta Used a Local Contest to Reach the Hearts of New Yorkers

Winners were given a free trip on a chartered and catered flight from New York to L.A. which sounds like a blast. Even the prize perpetuated Delta’s friendly image! Brilliant.

You may ask how thematic relevance comes in to play. Well, New Yorkers had fun finding the Red Coats, it was a local event, and it made participants happy. When a consumer is comfortable and familiar with a brand, they are more likely to choose it. Tie it all together and now to New Yorkers, Delta rocks.

They Reached How Far!?

When all was said and done, Delta had reached over 70 million people via Twitter and had over 180,000 direct interactions from this contest. Those engagement numbers combined with the sentiment, which will lead to an ongoing emotional connection with their target group, proves that this campaign was a huge success.

Do you have an example of an awesome influencer marketing strategy to share? Whether it’s one you’ve seen or were part of I would love to hear about it in the comments below. Additionally, if you’d like to be featured in my weekly post contact me at [email protected] and let’s talk about your campaign!

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  1. says

    Thanks for sharing this article about Delta’s red coat competition.

    Reading about an airline loyalty program is always interesting given that this industry is one of the most famous one for these programs.

    But I think that they are stuck, right now. Probably because it worked so well jn the past. To be honest, bonus programs and competitions like the ‘red coat’ from Delta airlines isn’t enough anymore. These programs are meant to increase loyalty but all they aim is just a short term hype during the competition. And as soon as another airline performs something similar, the ‘travellers’ are changing, right?

    But as always, tools are evolving and Gamification is on its way to become the next evolutionary step of past loyalty programs. Unfortunately most companies still don’t know what Gamification really is.

    It is not just another competition (even if it is now digital 😉 ). I already commented and discussed this topic here:

    The ‘awesomeness’ around the fascination of games for the human species comes from the possibility to progress within these game-like environments. We love games because of the challenges we are facing and we are overcoming. But if the challenge is trivial, the game will be entertaining at the most. Only if we are facing a challenge that we experience to be of value (and I’m not talking about money) and that challenges us in a way where we need to become better and smarter to solve it, a game can create an engaging longterm relationship, that keeps us playing by triggering our intrinsic motivation (or at least by providing an intrinsic reward).

    Gamification is not as simple as just creating a competition and providing some extrinsic rewards for the people that are participating. And by the way: That’s not Gamification but a loyalty program, right? These competitions are around for decades so, why is it now something new? Just because we call it Gamification and add some levels? No, I’m sorry.

    What Delta airline unfortunately missed here is to use the attention that they generated with this competition to onboard the new gained customers and to provide an ongoing framework where people can see that they become just better travelers, smarter travel planners, and/or even create value for their friends/community by getting better with everything that is connected with ‘traveling’.

    Within a Gamification strategy competitions, like this red coat scavenger hunt, are some ‘easter-eggs’ that enrich the overall ‘Delta-Traveler-Game’.

    As long as companies just focus on the superficial aesthetics of games (or mainly video games) like points and badges, they won’t be able to move beyond of all these well-known loyalty programs that we all know long ago, that is already a mature market, and that won’t allow them to break away form the existing problem: next time you need more points, more badges, and better prizes to ‘persuade’ people to take part.

    So, Gamification works by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by helping to solve problems step by step, and by taking advantage of humans psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

    Do you really think that it is enough to create a scavenger hunt?

    What do you think? Cheers, Roman

    • Derrick says

      @roman, interesting thoughts. Could you give examples of a structure where these programs goes beyond short time increases and do you think a large enough group of travelers card if ‘their’ airline helps them at becoming a better traveler?

      • says

        Hi Derrick, thanks for your comment.

        Sure. Let’s start with your second question if I think that a large enough group of travelers care if ‘their’ airline helps them at becoming a better traveler?

        Yes, I do. The meaningful factor here is time. Of course people love to be entertained in the here and now. No question about that. But right after this experience we are already looking for the next one. And whoever delivers it will win (for the next second ;-)). So, these entertaining activities are great to get our attention but then, what?

        Now the game changed. If there is a brand that was able to get our attention, we change our perspective. We go beyond the thinking about its value of the here and now and start to look for elements that make it worthwhile to invest more of our valuable time. And this is the time where most company approaches fail 😉 As a guy once said: “They don’t respect the psychology of the people.” Relationship (and so loyalty) is a marathon, not a sprint.

        Let me explain what I mean by that. Gamification is so interesting because we all can remember our great emotions while being involved in a game-like environment. I say game-like-environment because I’m not just talking about video games. I’m talking also about board games, sports, and even hobbies. These are all situations where we experience the same positive involvement and fulfillment while doing it, right? So, what do all of these activities have in common? I can tell you this: It is not points, badges or monetary presents.

        But what they all ‘deliver’ is this feeling of ‘progress’. Think about it: I bet that every game that was able to get you hooked provided a challenge for you that needed you to get better in something. It offered a challenge that was worth it to solve (meaningful, challenging, not too easy, not too difficult). It offered rules that you were able to acknowledge, to understand and to work with. And it offered great (real-time) feedback so, that you were able to see always how you are doing and what to do to become better or what to change not to fail again.

        It is this kind of ‘structure’ that enables us humans to get totally involved within an engaging activity. And this is what our brain is looking for all the time. Play is nature’s learning engine and so it touches our innerst habits.

        We use our own developed Gamification methodology and combine it with other models like e.g. the Hook model to transfer this insights on industries processes. This way you can create a structure where the whole brand-customer-relationship becomes the journey. At the end the whole ‘game’ is about to help the travelers to know how to behave, what to do, and what to learn to become better in it.
        We call the whole experience of the customer (as long as he is a customer of the company) the ‘Path to Mastery’. Every activity, every connection, and so on, between the brand (Delta) and the customer has to support him to progress on his way to become a Master in traveling.
        And to be able to do so, Delta has to create a place for the customer (let’s call it dashboard) where the customer can see what to do next on his way to progress, what kind of information he needs, where he can find it, and what to to with that. To acknowledge that we got smarter by going this ‘Path to Mastery’ is what keeps us engaged. And this is a relationship that can’t be easily attacked by another competitor. If you think about your ‘Path to Mastery’ as the core activity of the whole ‘game’ than actions like e.g. this scavenger hunt are side activities that create some kind of surprise and tackle the human innerst drives like curiosity. Of course these ‘easter eggs’ create additional entertainment for existing customers but also helps to gain the attention of potential clients. But this is not the end. Now you have to onboard them to the overall ‘game’. So, these side-activities are necessary and can also be seen as a stand-alone action with a start and an end but they always have to serve the core-activity.
        This means that if I experience that performing within this side-activity enables me to progress within the core-activity, I’m winning big time.

        And by the way: This experience of personal progress is much more powerful than monetary rewards and some meaningless points and badges. But if these points and badges are used as great feedback elements that visualize my personal progress within the ‘Path to Mastery’ instead simple short term achievements, you are able to trigger our intrinsic motivation that we are also experiencing while playing real games.

        Does this makes sense to you? Of course it is much easier to organize a short time competition and just be happy about this peak in attention. And, as I already mentioned, sometimes it makes sense. But we have to stop to confuse attention-peaks with loyalty. This is what I meant with: “Loyalty is a marathon not a sprint.”

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