Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Can Social Media Help Me With Icelandair?

At West Point, your classmates are everything. I put out a call for help on my class emaillist, and one in particular is going whole hog trying to help me. It helps that he's writing a book about internet marketing!
Often times these customer service opportunities will become viral marketing for or against a company regardless of the company’s activity in social media, and today is just one of those times. You see, Icelandair chose to tell a customer that he was not important, and I think it will end up costing them business. Of course, if this story goes viral, they will end up spending a lot of money just trying to “undo” the negativity from all of the commotion that is created.

It is important to note that Icelandair did nothing legally wrong, and they did not violate any contract terms either. However, there are times in business when you can make a judgement call that will cost the company a small amount of money but gain a large return in word of mouth marketing. Unfortunately, our short story is about the the exact opposite occurring...

Think about the long reach of viral marketing and the internet. This is a Florida business marketing blog about a airline in Iceland treating a California customer poorly, and it will be tweeted to 100+ countries and over 200,000 twitter followers (and hopefully a lot more) everywhere. This is word of mouth marketing that works against IcelandAir, and all because they did not think about how this could help their company...

Remember, this is not an article about the big bad wolf, IcelandAir did nothing contractually wrong. They just missed a great opportunity to get some very cheap viral marketing from social media accounts all over the world. Not to mention the attention that it will receive in the blogging community.
I've updated my original post on the topic with the information and link above.

And thank you, Joe.


Steve USMA '85 said...

Tell Joe his blog could have had even more impact if he had chose to mention the hotel in Iceland which actually DID give you your money back. Plugging the hotel while slamming Iceland Air would have had emphasized his point all the more.

Anonymous said...

It's not clear that it would be a good idea for IA to have refunded your money. And your friend doesn't seem to have really weighed the balance very well.

If IA refunds your cash, they get a bit of free press. But there's no particular guarantee that they get any social media benefit. The pros for you are immense, but the pros for IA aren't so great. Pretty much everyone promises a great opportunity for viral marketing, but what's your marketing? If you were writing about a positive experience flying, it'd be targeting their preferred customer. If you're writing about a good experience when you DON'T use IA, it may not the marketing they want.

And finally, you should consider the benefits that they could get if they keep your money and simply spend the cash on their own marketing. Depending on the value of the ticket, that could be considerable.

That's enough of the benefits. But if IA refunds your cash, then not only do they forego the cash but there's also a secondary cost: the NEXT time that someone else wants to have IA break their contract, IA is in a bind. "But you did it for that teacher!" isn't what they want to hear.

For most big companies, the desire to avoid perceived unfairness is huge. What is the next person to get denied is a person of color, older, etc? The flak from the comparison could vastly exceed the benefit from you.