How successful can a great social campaign be?

One of my favorite marketing videos on YouTube is the one in which an airline shows how they surprise their passengers on a Christmas Eve flight. When the passengers are waiting for their luggage, presents appear on the belt. One for each. The official version of the video is viewed more than 100.000 times and it has given them a lot of attention in several media. A great move: people like surprises, which means customers are pleased. They also like to share about it. On top of that, many potential passengers have seen this video, and it may have well been their introduction to the brand. As it was for me. If a video like this is your first encounter with a brand, it’s bound to make a favorable impression, and you remember it with fondness. Exactly what marketers would hope to achieve, because the theory goes that next time I book a flight, I will be considering this airline more than others.

So far, so good. Brilliant social media marketing. What else can go wrong, right? Well, the airline in question is called Spanair. The video was shot in 2010, and made waves in the beginning of 2011. In that same year, Spanair recorded losses of 150 million euros. Last week they announced bankruptcy and suddenly and immediately ceased operations, leaving many passengers stranded.

It’s very sad for the employees of Spanair, the stranded passengers. But it also shows something about social media marketing. The campaign around the unexpected luggage could be considered as a success, but in the end, that did not mean that the company was able to attract enough passengers. If you don’t have your business in order, even millions of views on YouTube and enormous amounts of positive media attention cannot save you. The success of the campaign can only be measured by a result that matters: survival of the company. Clearly, it wasn’t that successful.

Having said all that, I still love the video. Here it is.

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