Why Tech Nerds Love Flying Virgin America

Last month, Virgin America teamed up with the online influence measurement company Klout to promote their new routes between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Toronto. The campaign offered free tickets to select influencers–with no strings attached. I spoke with Virgin America’s social media manager Jill Fletcher about managing an airborne viral campaign, how Virgin became the airline of choice for the nerd set, and the customer service challenges presented when everyone on board is connected.

How did the idea of giving influencers free flights for the new Virgin America Toronto leg come about?

We have a network of influencers who are very supportive of our brand. We have a close relationship with Jeff Pulver and Guy Kawasaki and Xeni Jardin who fly constantly and are always tweeting about us.

We saw the influencer program as a way to extend that network. We thought of it as an experiment to see what kind of reach we could get working with people outside of our existing relationships.

In addition to the flights being free, there was no demand for coverage, right?

Exactly. It was a new route and our first international destination so we wanted to spur trial and give people an opportunity to take a flight on Virgin America.


BY Mark Borden

This interview is part of our ongoing series related to The Influence Project.

Last month, Virgin America teamed up with the online influence measurement company Klout to promote their new routes between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Toronto. The campaign offered free tickets to select influencers–with no strings attached. I spoke with Virgin America’s social media manager Jill Fletcher about managing an airborne viral campaign, how Virgin became the airline of choice for the nerd set, and the customer service challenges presented when everyone on board is connected.

How did the idea of giving influencers free flights for the new Virgin America Toronto leg come about?

We have a network of influencers who are very supportive of our brand. We have a close relationship with Jeff Pulver and Guy Kawasaki and Xeni Jardin who fly constantly and are always tweeting about us.

We saw the influencer program as a way to extend that network. We thought of it as an experiment to see what kind of reach we could get working with people outside of our existing relationships.

In addition to the flights being free, there was no demand for coverage, right?

Exactly. It was a new route and our first international destination so we wanted to spur trial and give people an opportunity to take a flight on Virgin America.

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A Call to Arms

But branding – the creation and development of brands – is still, as it is most often practiced, a complete and utter mess. Branding is more occult than voodoo, more expensive than yachting, and more dangerous than lawn darts. Branding is slower than rust, more frustrating than roadwork, and has a return on investment somewhat less measurable than prayer. Big agency-style branding is the product of a time when business moved slowly, budgets were big, and television was an exciting new medium. And do-it-yourself branding can be a grand adventure, like going for a drive in the country with no map and a quarter tank of gas.

But we know there is a better way. Branding can be fast and agile, keeping pace with today’s exhilarating speed of business


Branding is ill-defined, usually vacuous, often expensive and totally unpredictable Seth Godin in Seth’s Blog

Incomprehensible Voodoo – Guy Kawasaki in The Art of the Start

We are brand technologists. We love branding and believe in it. But we are here to say that branding is broken.

Why would we say this? Brands seem bigger than ever. Everywhere we look, we see brands. Brand talk has hit the mainstream. We talk about personal brands, political brands, national brands – everything is a brand and every schoolchild a brand expert. Leer más “A Call to Arms”