Friends who share together travel together; AirAsia’s Facebook marketing ploy

ekastner    November 5, 2015

Title of post: Friends who share together travel together; AirAsia’s Facebook marketing ploy


Organization: AirAsia Berhad

Industry: Air Transportation

CEO: Tony Fernandes

Web references: Noble Studios, Fascinating Marketing, Hallam, Digital Training Academy, tnooz, Facebook, YouTube 

Free plane?! Where do I sign up? There is nothing that grabs attention more than free stuff. Businesses have been wise to capitalize on our drive to attain things at no-cost – just look at the line ups for free samples of three little nuts at Costco on any given day and you will understand. It’s not surprising that some of the most successful social media marketing cases include contests for free things – like a plane.

air-asia-friendsyWhen AirAsia launched direct flights from Sydney, Australia to Kuala Lumpur in 2012, it needed a unique marketing strategy to maximize their reach. Their customers’ awareness was still very little and competition was fierce. The Malaysian low-cost airline based out of Kuala Lumpur has been around since 1993 and currently operates domestic and international flights to 100 destinations spanning 22 countries. Working with both Australian and U.S. ad agencies (Publicis Mojo and Noble Studios), AirAsia created a Facebook contest that would reach thousands of potential fliers, increase their fan base, and educate the public about its newest fleet of Airbus A330s.


AirAsia Facebook cover photo promoting the contest

Already tapping into social media marketing with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Fickr, AirAsia was struggling to get their name outside of Asia and into larger markets, like Australia. AirAsia wanted to achieve an 80% load factor on each route from Sydney (of which there are seven flights per week), with the ultimate goal of moving to double daily flights within two years of the launch. With a limited budget of $80,000 and a brand promise of “Now Everyone Can Fly,” the ad agencies sought to do something that no other airline had ever done before – a free plane. The contest encouraged entrants to “book” 302 of their Facebook friends on the inaugural flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. The Friendsy contest allowed users to drag, drop, and tag their friends into seats where they highlighted the new aircraft. The brand developed an app showcasing the plane and inviting fans to explore the features of the Airbus A330, including in-flight service! This really allowed fans to engage with the brand and familiarize themselves with key products. Once their plane was fully booked they were entered into the contest and encouraged their friends to also enter where one lucky entrant won a flight to Kuala Lumpur (and back) filled with their friends.

Word quickly spread and within two days of the contest going live, AirAsia already had more than 4,000 entries. According to CNN it was “the biggest Facebook friendship test ever conceived” and it grew from local to international news generating a PR value of $1,627,593. The campaign grew AirAsia’s Facebook fan base by 30% and reached 2,291,483 people, which is 20% of all Australians using Facebook. In terms of their marketing objectives, AirAsia managed to achieve an 82.5% load factor and double their daily flights.

When the contest was all over AirAsia had received 12,500 entries, and on November 2, 2012, Julie-Anne Foster and 251 of her friends boarded their AirAsia Airbus A330 for a three-day adventure in Kuala Lumpur.

Lessons for others

Contests and give-aways are a great way to gain a following – especially on social media platforms like Facebook where a recent study concluded that on average, Facebook fans spend 24% more on a brand than non-fans and are more likely to be repeat customers. Giving something valuable away for free has the potential to become viral enabling you to expand your reach and your brand to become more well known.

Click here to listen to some tips on how to effectively run a Facebook contest including apps, like AirAsia used, from Social Media Examiner.


Submitted by: Erika Kastner, rare Charitable Research Reserve

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