Take Aways: The #QantasLuxury Fail at 30,000ft

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This is a qantas plane and articulates that was the spark of conversation after the QantasLuxury fail on Twitter in November 2011

There has never been quite a social media campaign go wrong in Australia than the #QantasLuxury campaign on Twitter. This story demonstrated that activations that do not align conversations with the immediate goals of organisation across their line of business can do a brand more harm than good. For a case study close to home we look no further than Sydney International Airport in November 2011 as the #QantasLuxury contest left the Flying Kangaroo red-faced.

@QantasAirways: To enter tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury.TCs qantas.com.au/travel/airline…

According to the Herald Sun on the afternoon of November 22, 2011 the four social media “monitors” hired by Qantas to moderate social media interactions and content were no match for the negative groundswell that broke out across micro-blogging platform Twitter when users and followers were given the opportunity to share their thoughts around their interpretation of a Qantas luxury in-flight experience in 140 characters using the #qantasluxury hashtag. Hashtag contests (when well executed) are traditionally good social activations because it is very easy to monitor entries, can be done spontaneously, and shows the level of engagement of those in a social graph.

@davidheth:#qantasluxury is sitting on the tarmac for 90mins staring at a full-page SMH ad claiming “We’re back on schedule!”. Then returning to gate.

So far so good…however, faster than a virus mutating in Contagion, the #QantasLuxury hashtag reached national trend status in under 60 minutes following the diatribe of frustrated Twitterati giving negative comment cards in 140 characters about the recent outage of service, declining quality of in-flight amenities and the lack of sensitivity around the plight of underpaid baggage handlers following a months worth of strike and serious bouts with labour unions.

Contagion gif demonstrating the speed of a damaging conversation on the Internet based on QantasLuxury Twitter Fail

@TheHeraldSun pronounced #qantasluxury ‘a PR disaster’ at 1:01PM referring to the #qantasluxury campaign as an epic #fail as comments were tweeted and re-tweeted as the commentary made its way to traditional newsrooms with impressions estimates being cited at more than 1,400,000. More interesting than the rabble rousers riding the trend of the moment the campaign was scrutinized from a strategic point of view as insensitive and #qantasluxury campaign perceived as poor form.

@interactivate: Did the REAL Qantas PR team start this #qantasluxury thing in all seriousness? Today of all days? Do they have no idea at all? #PRfail

Key takeaways from the #QantasLuxury Fail?

1. Own It: After three hours of the Twitter jab-fest Qantas responded with a light-hearted approach in its stream drawing further criticism for the delay in response time so soon after the very public appointment of the four social media ‘monitors’. In the instance of social media back-firing having an actionable protocol in place and an escalation policy to prevent the conversational bush fires from bellowing out of control is a requisite part of good planning and should happen in minutes rather than hours – especially within peak times for a brand’s discussions which should have been monitored and flagged in the listening phase of this marketing exercise. ‘Launch then lunch’ is a big social media no-no.

2. Dig Deeper: Besides measuring the size of the discussion and the sentiment of those using the hashtag to share their views, Qantas has a size-able portion of current meaningful data. Filtering it (like panning for gold) using a taxonomy of keyword classifications by context and relevance (product, service, baggage, price of tickets, air-related, ground-related, and also irrelevant) would deliver significant insights on what mattered to most people today. Sliced and diced effectively, the data could also yield other useful information including key influencers in travel who were not part of Qantas’s social CRM presently and uncover those more likely to share favorably about the brand if giving a reason to do so.

3. Make Good News Travel Faster: Fortunately for Qantas Twitter has a short memory. Whilst today’s trends are tomorrow’s digital fish n’ chips wrappers, Qantas should take their deep findings from Twitter bursts and align their marketing objectives with their corporate communication strategy more efficiently. Using their Twitter stream in a sensitive and appropriate way Qantas could use consistent storytelling that resonates with their customers resulting in advocacy tomorrow.

The fallout of social media events leave opportunities for meme creators to get rich and of course, leaves the legend in perpetuity. Four years later, this opportunist has seen more than 76,000 views on his humorous reminder of the impact of social media that makes a great primer. (Feel free to share.)


by Stephenie Rodriguez, CEO of Mighty Media Group | @DigitalGodess