Anyone that knows me knows that I am a travel junkie. For each calendar year, I set a personal goal of visiting three new places. Doesn’t have to be exotic (one year was Bermuda, the Berkshires and Beaumont, TX. Yes…Beaumont, TX). So it should come as no surprise to anyone that if free airline tickets were to be up for grabs I would be all over it. Add to it that it’s on my favorite airline, JetBlue (tall people such as myself find flights difficult and JetBlue understands that), and they’re using social media/events to promote these tickets and you have a recipe for my happiness.
Here’s the back-story: JetBlue is currently celebrating its 10th birthday and to commemorate, they’re traveling the country to their hub cities (Boston, my hometown, among them) and distributing free tickets via a social media scavenger hunt. Follow their @JetBlue twitter handle, solve the clue and show up in their location with the requested item (birthday card, airplane item, etc) and you win a FREE AIRLINE TICKET. Sound amazing? To this event planner/social media lover, it sure does. Yes it is a marketing tool – we’re not naive – but what a great method to engage a core audience via a non-traditional channel and reward those that are brand ambassadors. And at the end of the day, drum up some serious excitement and press for their airline.
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to solve the clues in time (dang!) but 600 lucky Bostonians walked away with free Round-Trip tickets on JetBlue for their “troubles” i.e. ditching their cubicle, making a Happy Birthday JetBlue sign and walking across Boston Common. I was mad at myself for about two days for not scoring a ticket (my yearly goal is still 3 clicks away from being accomplished!) and still am sad not to have a freebie in my pocket. This was a great opportunity and I missed it. I mean…who wouldn’t want a free ticket? Apparently, this guy.
His complaint? That the ticket promo built excitement but the end result for the winners was frustration due to the restrictions placed on the ticket (among others: you must depart from Boston, you can only book via the phone and you have to pay the taxes on the ticket). He has since ignited interest on Twitter and the @Jetblue folks, specifically @MHJohnston, are perplexed (as am I) and asking the question: “Removing restrictions would drastically reduce the number of tickets that could be given away. Still worth it?”
As a marketer and an event planner, I think this was an amazing concept executed with style, excitement and flair. And anyone who participated had to know there would be restrictions on the ticket – as there are with reward miles tickets, earned certificates, etc. – and to now claim this experiment was a failure in customer relations seems shocking. 600 people walked away with something with a pretty high value (a free airline ticket) for pretty minimal effort (20 minutes out of the day).
Would I feel differently if it were my ticket and I couldn’t use it based on the restrictions? I don’t know. I might be disappointed but then I hope I’d realize that it’s…a…FREE TICKET. And maybe I’d give it to a friend. Or donate it to a charity to use in a raffle. But then again, I’m a travel junkie and I consider any opportunity to hit the open road a good one. What about you?