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Why Google & Virgin America's Online Scavenger Hunt Campaign Rocked

IMB_GoogleDayInCloud1 Early this morning Google Apps partnered with Virgin America to launch a unique campaign where they invited people taking Virgin America flights all day, as well as those sitting on computers at home or work to participate in an online scavenger hunt for clues to answer questions they would pose at you on a website called “Day In The Clouds.” The scavenger hunt offered questions requiring you to use many different Google apps and online tools to find the answers, and integrated with Virgin America both for some questions as well as by offering free WiFi to any passenger on one of their flights today.

IMB_GoogleDayInCloud4 The campaign generated lots of positive word of mouth for the brands and though it is just coming to a close a few hours from now so the numbers haven’t been reported yet, it will likely boost both brands and work strategically to promote what each of them wanted to: Google Apps and the cloud architecture from Google’s side, and the ready availability of WiFi on all flights for Virgin America. Going beyond, here are ten quick lessons that you can take from this engaging campaign on what they know about marketing that is fun and engaging that many brands forget.

  1. Built on their core products/services. The level of integration so that users had to use many of Google’s tools to find the answer to questions and learn about Virgin America’s planes, technology and flight schedules as well as how to use the Internet on flights was brilliant. It was done in a way that no other competing brand could have done.
  2. Designed for simplicity without compromising. The site was easy to use and great looking at the same time. For every marketing person who has sat in a meeting and listened to a designer argue that it is impossible to do both, just send them the URL for this site.
  3. Forged the right partnership. The choice of these two brands together worked perfectly to add to the popularity of the scavenger hunt. Both have high goodwill among their fans and drew a tech-savvy audience to participate.
  4. Integrated the brand without being overbearing. The brands were definitely integrated in the questions without making every question about something boring and branded. The light hearted approach worked in this case, because people know clearly that they are on a branded site, and we should realize value of that – but don’t necessarily need to shove it into a user’s face at every turn.
  5. Engaged through fun and competition while educating. The engagement on this campaign was high because the content was great. The format was fun and competition as built into this in a way that made people want to engage and do even better. There were even tweets from flights encouraging plane-mates to do better to beat a competing plane.
  6. Created a sense of urgency. The timer counting down to zero as well as the choice to make this only a one day long promotion all added to the sense of urgency for this campaign. It also meant that even on an LA to SF flight (like the one Virgin America took media on in the morning) the time would be enough to complete the quiz.
  7. Offered a real challenge. Like most puzzle and game related marketing that Google has done (including their smart Da Vinci Code promotion), they don’t tend to dumb the solutions down or make it easy. As a result, they keep people engaged and have them try harder.
  8. Involved the right ambassadors. In the morning, there was a media flight that several high-influence tech bloggers including Ben Par from Mashable and Beth Blecherman from Techmamas were on where they played the game and participated in the start of the campaign. These early ambassadors posted about it and drove more interest and traffic to the site throughout the day.
  9. Made it shareable. Once you complete the hunt, you get your score and you have the opportunity to share it immediately (which I did) through Twitter and Facebook. It might have been smart for them to have prefilled text that didn’t share a score too (in case someone was embarrased by their score and didn’t want to broadcast it), but either way this final step meant that people could share via Twitter or Facebook, and also follow the campaign’s Twitter account for updates.
  10. Had real and tangible prizes. The last smart move the team putting this promotion together did was going beyond recognition and bragging rights. Those are nice, but the winners with the highest scores will get tangible prizes and that is a big motivator to continue to participate even if you may be in it and not want to finish.


Disclaimer: Virgin America is a current client of Ogilvy PR (my employer) and I have consulted on social media efforts for them in the past. I personally did not work on this campaign, however, and am not being compensated or incentivized in any way to write this post. It is my personal opinion of their campaign and nothing more.

2 thoughts on “Why Google & Virgin America's Online Scavenger Hunt Campaign Rocked”

  1. This was a great promotion. And I agree with your Top 10 Lessons. Hyatt’s “Random Acts of Kindness” program that surprises guests by picking up their bar tab or other incidentals is another example.

    Maybe it’s because of the recession, but I think fun and surprises are the keys to earning customer loyalty nowadays.

    Thanks for writing about it!

  2. The design of the web page is designed well because it’s simple, clean and intuitive. Not hard for people to understand what’s happening. I agree with Judy about perks for potential customers. It creates a bond with the customer and people don’t forget the freebie.


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