3 Things The Music Industry Can Learn From Virgin America’s Cyber Monday Fail
Early on Cyber Monday morning, Virgin America, ranked America's #1 Airline by Forbes Magazine, notified customers via email blast that a two hour window to purchase plane tickets for 40% off was open. At first glance, it seemed to good to be true, and after spending less than five minutes on their broken website, the proof was in the pudding. Their website was unresponsive for most of the promotion – and none of the alternative outlets offered any relief. A strategically timed promotion on a day when consumers are arguably more apt to act on offers left many loyal customers with a bad taste in their mouth, as Virgin America opted not to honor the promotion offered yesterday morning.
What can the music industry learn from their shortcomings? Everything you need to know about the importance of fan experiences.
If you're Virgin America, you've clearly gone above and beyond to create the fan base you've obtained. They went from a nobody airline to a no brainer airline in no time flat. Their exclusivity in destinations allowed them to focus on the efficiency of their air travel while simultaneously creating a superior consumer experience, separating them from their competition. They're reputation as the party plane rings true when you step on the mood-lit aircraft, sit down in seats that give you access to outlets and television screens, and a tastefully done welcome & safety feature video that always cracks a smile for first time passengers.
They've put their stamp on air travel, and it shows – so when Virgin America offered up for 40% off all airfare for 2 hours, their consumer base lunged at the opportunity. Were they ready for the influx of web traffic and consumer demand? Absolutely not.
In the music business, being tuned into your respective fan base and how to best serve them is imperative. Personalized fan experiences have never been more relevant – in the same respect, the details driving efficient execution of those experiences have never mattered more. Whether you're announcing 2015 world tour dates or launching an Indiegogo campaign to fund the production of your first original album, the putfalls of Virgin America's Cyber Monday fail offer several good lessons any of us could apply to our outreach efforts.
1. Be Prepared.
If you're about to launch a promotion, check and re-check that all of the appropriate pieces are in place. In other words, man your battle station strategically, and have reinforcements waiting in the wings. If Virgin America was prepared for the flood of consumers who wanted to take advantage of their Cyber Monday limited offer, it certainly didn't show. Likewise, if you're looking to engage with your fans during a specific campaign, you need to be where they're going to look for you. Virgin America consumers took to Twitter, to their website, to their call center – all of which were inexcusably inaccessible. Your fans might turn to YouTube, to your website, to Facebook, to Bandpage, to SoundCloud – are your platforms prepared for the traffic they may incur?
2. Under Promise, Over Deliver.
Virgin America started with an impressive promotion that raised the eyebrows of frequent travelers who know good deals are hard to come by. At minimum, they should have anticipated the majority of email recipients would have clicked through to their website to check it out. Instead, their website was rendered useless for almost the entire duration of the promotion. Furthermore, customer support was crippled by calls, complaints, and consumers demanding better of their chosen airline. An established company like Virgin America can withstand a major hiccup like this, but if you're a band building a fanbase, over promising and under delivering is not a corner you want to be backed into. If all you can commit to is 30 minutes before a show, be realistic with your own expectations so you can manage the expectations of your fans. If your superfans leave your pre-concert sound check with a handwritten copy of the show's set list when all they expected was to watch and listen, you've shown them that their dedication to your music is as is important to you as your music is to them. Under promise, over deliver – the end result will never dissappoint you.
3. Follow Through Is Everything.
Sometimes you're infinitely prepared and you've set realistic, executable expecations – and still, something goes wrong. It happens. And maybe that's what happened to Virgin America – but what they did NOT do that you should do is follow through. Sometimes your van breaks down and you just don't get to the show in time to make the pre-show meet and greet. The answer upon arrival is not to disregard the fans who were there two hours early to see you, the answer is to do what you can in the moment and to follow up with them when you can. Whatever the reason may be – if it goes wrong, it's up to you to make it right.
Virgin America spent the better part of Monday afternoon trolling Twitter with messages like these:
All fine and good if you intend to assist, but unfortunately, for Virgin America and for those actively trying to take advantage of their offer, they opted not to honor the promotion. Perhaps they are more inclined to take the backlash of unhappy customers on the chin than they are capable of investing the time it would take to rectify the errors cause by their own technical inadequacies – either way, it's left a bad taste in the mouths of otherwise loyal consumers (many of whom are still unhappily blasting the airline via social media).
Moral of the story?
Whether you're America's #1 Airline or an aspiring Indie musician with a bright future ahead of you, it is up to you to seize the opportunities you have to meaningfully connect with your consumers. Go the extra mile. Invest the extra time in pouring a solid foundation into your promotional efforts and take care in your follow through.
It is better to be safe than to be Virgin America this Tuesday morning.