Virgin Atlantic has always enjoyed its status as a fun-loving leisure airline. But to continue growing in a category full of competitors like American Airlines and United, who have both bigger fleets and bigger media-budgets, Virgin Atlantic was going to have to focus on selling high margin seats in Premium Economy and Upper Class cabins. This meant convincing a famously inconvincible audience to switch from other carriers. Business travelers rarely book their own tickets. They tend to be very loyal to the carriers with whom they have amassed the most miles. Even more challenging was the fact that our focus market was the Tristate area, and culturally, New Yorkers are typically a tough crowd to impress. We were not going to bludgeon them with a huge media buy, or bedazzle them with new product innovations like private showers. Instead, Virgin Atlantic would have to separate itself from the pack in a different way: by appealing to a mind-set vs. relying on a set of shiny new features.
Accepted wisdom was that our business traveler audience is a jaded bunch. But our national survey of international business travelers revealed that there are people out there who are not wearied by business travel but rather revel in the opportunities and exhilaration it brings. We conducted a national survey of business flyers and more than half of respondents agreed “I always get a little bit excited to fly, even if it’s for work”. [Source: Online business traveler national survey, Nov, 2014]. These sophisticated modern travelers are fulfilled by their fast paced jobs, and full lives, and see travel not as a distraction from that, but a welcome addition. They see each trip as a chance to get out of the daily routine, do some thinking, meet new people, see or learn something new. Furthermore we discovered that this audience doesn’t see business travel as just getting to from point a to point b, but actually is considers it to be an emotional journey - full of anticipation and intensity on the way there, and relaxation and reward on the way home. So while our competitors were focusing on the functional elements of getting from point a to point b, we saw an opportunity for Virgin Atlantic to embrace the emotional truth that Business is an Adventure.
The Business is an Adventure campaign was born from our insight into the emotions associated with business travel. As we moved to execution we were inspired by the words of Virgin’s founder, Richard Branson: “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. With so many fascinating people to meet, exciting adventures to embark upon and rewarding challenges to undertake, there’s no time to lose.” Channeling this entrepreneurial spirit, we created a multimedia campaign that celebrated a unique approach to life and business and eschewed every convention of business travel communication. We were not apologetic about how tiring and boring business travel is. We did not make promises about how frictionless and forgettable our flights would be. We did not boast about breadth of destinations or depth of schedules. Instead we let fly a philosophy and a rallying cry, that “Business is an Adventure. Make it Epic”. We treated all of our mediums as elements in a belief system. Even hard-working digital display had a swagger and an attitude that was unique to Virgin. Graphically, we didn’t show banal shots of cabin interiors or maps, or stick to the owned color conventions. Instead, we used a gorgeous tinted treatment on shots that showed bird’s eye views of beautiful cityscapes, overlaid with a manifesto that described the emotional journey that travelers take, there and back.
We also saw the opportunity to build on the initial launch of the “Business is an Adventure” campaign with a social first campaign that communicated the benefits of Premium Economy cabin. We wanted to show how Virgin continues to push the boundaries of business, this time by being the very first brand to leverage LinkedIn’s job search feature for promotion purposes. We launched this portion of the campaign with a free job listing on LinkedIn. In the posting VAA challenged “Evolved Travelers” to submit a job application for a “Freelance Flyer” position. The job posting detailed how each of Virgin Atlantic’s distinctive amenities and service offerings would serve the varied needs of these evolved travelers. Applicants were asked to write a cover letter explaining how a free flight from the U.S. to London would be just the thing to help their career/life goals clear the runway.
The initial Business is an Adventure campaign was distributed in three primary channels: OOH for epic impact, digital display across devices for contextual relevance, and a high-profile partnership with Fast Company to drive amplifications among business influencers. For OOH we focused in New York City, using multiple size formats, from ticker tape to epic OOH screens with moving effects to create a dramatic, surround sound effect in iconic business centers where numerous transit lines meet to increase exposure, and affluent commuters pass through morning and evening. We leveraged digital display creative units to run during peak commuting hours on business focused publishers like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Flipboard. Finally, our high-profile partnership with Fast Company activated an audience of unconventional business travelers by giving them the chance to join a community of today’s leading thinkers. On owned social media, we invited people to tell us about the unique ways they make business an adventure. We then held a contest at Fast Company’s first ever Creativity Counter Conference where winners received a free round trip flight to London and met with leaders from Etsy, Foundry, and Microsoft, among others. To wrap up the communications and put our money where our mouth was, we followed winners on the two legs of their journey (there and back) to show how their mindset reflected a cycle of achievement and reward. Content from these trips was then pushed out on Fast Company, which accompanied paid digital media placements and a small print buy.
As for the Premium Economy social first campaign: The melding of creative expression with creative distribution paid off. The campaign received over 2,000 applications for Virgin Atlantic’s “Freelance Flyer” position, and boosted Premium Economy sales by 23%.