The escalation of social media’s prominence within daily life, has not only dramatically modified our interpersonal relationships; but also the relationship between consumers and brands. As a result, strategic social media management has become a crucial aspect of a brands’ marketing. According to Forbes journalist Jason De Mers (2014), recent statistics have indicated that 92% of marketers in 2014 considered social media to be a prominent contributor in terms of creating brand perception and consumer interaction. Subsequently, the mismanagement of social media campaigns can have severely negative influences on brand perception and brand/consumer relationships. Qantas Airway’s 2011 twitter #QantasLuxury competition backfired when dissatisfied consumers retaliated online; exemplifying an unsuccessful social media campaign. This essay will analyse the campaign and the publics reaction, as well as identify the main factors that contributed to its downfall in order to suggest possible measures that could have been taken to prevent this negative reception occurring.
Qantas Airways is an established Australian carrier airline, and is currently the nations largest airline in terms of international flights, destinations and fleet size (Qantas, 2017). Despite being an internationally distinguished organisation, Qantas is not exempt from the negative impacts following unsuccessful marketing campaigns. On the 22nd of November 2011, the company launched an online marketing campaign using the social media platform Twitter (Miller, 2011). In a brief post at 9:00am, Qantas announced a competition, stating “To enter tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury” (Glance, 2011). The prize included winning one of 50 pairs of Qantas first-class luxury amenity kits and pyjamas, and was aimed at provided consumers with a taste of ‘first class luxury. However, within moments, the hashtag #QantasLuxury was attracting the responses of hundreds of consumers, dissatisfied with the company’s recent decision to ground the entire fleet (Glance, 2011). On the night 29th of October 2011, Qantas CEO , Alan Boss, announced that the company would be temporarily locking staff out and immediately grounding the both the domestic and international fleets; in response to the unions’ industrial action (ABC News, 2011). This action left thousands stranded for days on end, and placing many consumers in compromising positions. Many of the negative #QantasLuxury tweet responses angrily described the ordeals that individual’s were put through , with one twitter user, Tim Watts, tweeting “ @timwattsau#qantasluxury was being abandoned at Heathrow for 4 days in the snow with no customer support while trying to get home to 8mo pregnant wife!” (Twitter, 2011). While the initial goal of the campaign was to promote the Qantas brand positively, the mass amount of negative responses it accumulated resulted in significant damage to the brands reputation.
In correspondence with the fleet grounding, the key factors that contributed to the fail of the #QantasLuxury include not only the timing of the campaign, but also lack of consideration the campaign presented to consumers. Additionally, social news and the way that news is now received contributed to the campaigns fail significantly. In regards to timing, had Qantas launched the campaigns in the months prior to the fleet grounding, it is foreseeable that potentially; it would have been moderately effective, if not successful (Schneider, 2011). However, the decision to launch a campaign designed to present the ‘Qantas experience’ as ‘luxurious’ only a month after the company had inconvenienced so many consumers was problematic. This is due to two reasons, the first being that it creates a contradiction, and gives the impression that the brand is presenting itself falsely. A tweet by Twitter user “@interactivate” is exemplifies this, stating “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” (Twitter, 2011). Secondly, the timing of the campaign gives the impression that the company has a complete lack of consideration for the disruption that the fleet grounding caused. While unintentional, the timing of the campaign comes across as insensitive, especially to consumers who are still dealing with personal consequences that resulted from the fleet grounding. This is evident in a tweet by user @2FBS, who recounted their experience at the time stating “@2FBS#QantasLuxury is dressing your staff in t-shirts that say “We’re Sorry” and believing that makes up for missing a friends funeral” (Twitter, 2011). Following the Twitter backlash, a Qantas spokesperson released a statement which claimed “A large number of our customers were disrupted and inconvenienced by the recent industrial action and fleet grounding, however services have returned to normal and our customers can book flights with absolute confidence that they will not be disrupted by industrial action.” (Schneider, 2011). While this statement acknowledges the inconvenience caused, it shows little remorse or empathy for consumers involved. Furthermore, the lack of consideration taken by the Qantas marketing team in regards to timing of the campaign played a significant role in the failure of the promotion.
Additionally, social news and the way that news is now received also contributed to the campaigns fail significantly. With social media allowing consumers to not only instantly access news as it unfolds, but also allowing them to share and contribute to the conversation, popular and controversial content can rapidly attract a ‘viral’ status (Peters, 2011). According to , M. Story (pp.58) Twitter predominately consists of either other users posting links to certain content, or using the hashtag to affiliate their post with certain content . This helps to attract attention to a specify topic instantly, causing the topic to becoming ‘trending’. Journalist Brian Peters (2016) suggests that highly trending hashtags not only attract attention, but also encourage users to contribute and give their own input to the topic. In the instance of #Quantasluxury, if users did not have direct experience with the outcomes of fleet grounding, they were using the hashtag to comment on the blacklist and continue the distribution of the hashtag. Even currently, a simple search of the hashtag indicates that users are still referring to it, recalling the negative backlash, and associating it with other companies social media failures. One user, Mark Travers (@marktravers, 2017), wrote “ Looks like the #qantasluxury social media person has a new gig”, last January in relation to another companies social media backlash. Unlike traditional news forms, social news maintains a longer lifespan, in the way that internet content is easily accessible for years to come. The popularity the #quantasluxury hashtag received initially was accelerated by consumers and news media sharing the hashtag and articles on multiple social media platforms, which linked to the mass amount of #quantasluxury twitter posts.
Social media campaign failures can provide insight into preventive methods that will effectively avoid the same failures reoccurring (Peters, 2011).. This situation could have been easily avoided, if Qantas had not only considered the timing, but taken more responsibility for the consequences of the fleet grounding. Rather than launching a promotion surrounding an luxurious image, a more effective tactic would have been to launch a campaign that aimed at acknowledging the position qantas had placed consumers in previously. Alternatively, the company could have simply postponed the luxury campaign at least six months to reduce the offence caused. It it crucial that brands display a sense of awareness and accountability, otherwise they will perpetuate an reputation renewed for unreliability and dishonesty. Had Qantas released apologies and used social media to promote a campaign that aimed to apologise and support those negatively impacted, not only could this backlash been avoided, but this action could have shed positive light on the brand itself (Schneider, 2011).
Social Media presence and campaigns have become a significantly effective marketing method and way to establish positive relationships with consumers. However, it not utilised strategically, it can also rapidly damage brand reputation and consumer relationships. Evidently, companies must take key factors including timing and appropriateness of campaigns, in order to avoid failure and achieve the campaigns desired goal.
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