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30/11/2008 by

KLM’s Community & Social Network Strategy

Competitive parity is the method of determining an advertising budget, designed to maintain the current Share of Voice. Since KLM is actively launching new communities, it looks like more campaign based advertising budget is churned into long term brand programming. See KLM’s and Air France’s latest launch of social traveling network Bluenity.

Well, where should I start? I applaud KLM for their approach and attempts to innovate and learn. We bloggers quite easy tend to criticize all we see, but we forget too often give compliments to the ones who try to differentiate themselves. So I will try to be realistic and objective.

KLM has successfully tapped into social media marketing before with the 2006 campaign Fly For Fortune. Amongst other agencies, my agency SocialMedia8 was involved.

In the next campaign Stop the Hassle we were also involved and tried to make the campaign spread virally. But something that is not viral at heart (strategy and concept) can’t be made viral. We would have rather liked KLM to gather ideas from users to actually improve Hassles. Like Starbucks is refreshing it’s brand with MyStarbucksIdea.

But KLM has launched more social communities successfully, so my compliments for their strategic passion and drive to keep innovating. Really, something that more brands should do.

KLM’s communities Club China, Club Africa and Flying Blue Golf offer certain target groups extra benefits.

Air France KLM already founded a Facebook page in May 2004. Also at Dutch social network Hyves KLM has gained close to 110.000 friends.

Also Air France KLM meets their shareholders in Second Life. I understand Air France KLM’s need to push their innovative image. But the moment KLM announced it’s Second Life presence is poor timing.

To get free PR, buzz and an innovative brand image with Second Life, KLM should have done it years ago, when Second Life was compelling, trendy, new and hot. Second Life had only a very tiny reach at the start (about 2 MLN users), but was at that moment perceived as “hot”.

So if KLM had moved into Second Life as one of the first brands, it would not have reached a massive target audience, but it could have gotten lot’s of free PR and a more innovative brand image.

Tapping into Second Life at this moment, is not a strategically very smart move from KLM. And that’s an understatement. The moment KLM tapped into Second Life, it’s by far not innovative anymore. So KLM can’t reach it’s innovative brand image goals nor get the maximum free PR boost.

KLM can’t reach a massive audience with Second Life either at the moment, so besides not getting free PR and an extra innovative image, KLM will not reach it’s marketing or sales goals either within Second Life.

Basically, from a strategic point of view, KLM has tapped into Second Life at the moment Second Life is declared to be the “innovation graveyard”. And all strategic planners know that brands should definitely stay away from the innovation graveyard: the place where you can’t achieve any of the PR, Branding, Marketing, Communications or Sales goals.

So the innovation graveyard is like the holey and ancient Indian graveyard, where only ghosts belong. The borders of the innovation graveyard should never be crossed: so you’d better stay out!!

Okay, back to Air France KLM’s Bluenity. Why am I afraid this could potentially become a big failure in the history of branded social networks?

First of all, you are trying to reach a complicated audience such as the traveling community, and of course you are trying to copy sites like Dopplr, however if you want to do it right try and stick to some of the best practices when launching a networking community like this

To try and connect people traveling to same destinations or, in a terribly spooky way, the ones boarding on a same flight, why closing this only to KLM or Air France flyers? You are probably loosing 90% of new potential users who may even be interested in your brand.

Also, why would I want to meet these random people boarding on the same plane as me? I am not sure there’s been any thought behind this at all…

Building a branded cost-effective platform like a social network is one of the many good strategies to reach both a non-existing and a loyal customer and start creating a conversation with them. Around Bluenity there is no trace of this…

BA Metrotwin
has got it right because of so many different elements. Users don’t have to be BA frequent flyers, to take advantage of any services offered by the site, and doing so BA is increasing the chance for people loving the site to retain a higher affinity to the brand.

Secondly, British Airways was smart enough to tap into one of the most frequent route BA has, London-New York, and creating a website users will find extremely useful when looking for hot-spots – even if I don’t fly BA or don’t fly at all!

Why should I be on Bluenity? What are the benefits for me to join such community?

Metrotwin is a great space for sharing information, gaining advice and connect with like minded individuals… even during you trip! Bluenity looks to me like a tedious space where I could start being stalked by random people just because we share a same flight, probably twice a year-zero content, no brand affinity and a dull approach!

Then some other strategic directions to KLM. I’m a frequent flyer at KLM. I like them for their innovative brand approach, but campaigns like Stop the Hassle do not change my opinion about the KLM planes, products and services, so not about the KLM brand either.

Because the KLM brand need’s better planes, better products and better services. I would rather like to see KLM open up to people that spend 50.000 to 100.000 miles per year in their planes, so they can really improve hassles that are really relevant to me as a frequent traveler.

If KLM would open up like Starbucks, I would fly KLM more frequently. At least, if they implemented some ideas of my fellow travelers and myself.

And that is what British Airways OpenSkies did very smart: being open to improve their core product (planes!!) with the input of their community.

Share us your thoughts and ideas.

Sources: Creative Expresso, Influential Marketing Blog and ViralBlog


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