My family travels quite a bit for work and pleasure. This past year has been a particularly busy travel year. While living in and flying often to United hub cities over the past 20 years or so, I became a loyal United flyer pretty early on and our kids have followed suit. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise in 2010 when both of our kids, under the age of 12, made United Premier status. This got me thinking about Kid customer loyalty. Our family can’t be that unique, two traveling parents who take their kids with them a lot. So what does United do uniquely to engender loyalty in a family/household that is 100% loyal? Turns out not much. Sure, the kids collect miles and get free upgrades, just like their parents. But isn’t establishing brand loyalty with kids, preteens in this case, like hitting the jackpot for consumer marketers? The fact that air travel is one of those hard-to-switch categories once you’ve achieved status, makes me wonder why United wouldn’t try to lock in my kids now for life? Would it be so hard to add more kid-friendly CE gadgets to the United miles for gifts options? Or offer them Netflix-like movie usage while in the Red Carpet room?
So what does this have to do with tech PR? The PR profession has always listed ‘customers’ as an obligatory target audience in PR plans, but the truth is we haven’t always had consistent access nor purview with this important audience. With the arrival of technologies like social CRM that invite customers to engage with brands from customer care, innovation and enthusiast perspectives, I’d argue that the PR profession has never been in a better position to help engender brand loyalty. This is a step beyond leveraging social media with customers.
When I think of my family of four traveling over the holidays this year, all of us with Premier and higher status on United, I can’t help but think what a huge lost PR and customer loyalty opportunity that was for United. Not that we were somehow so unique, but more-so that United would want to focus on this Frequent Flyer Family, and do whatever it could to engender and promote it. They knew who was traveling ahead of time, the kids’ ages, and their United status. Why not ask more families like us to blog about it? Check-in as a family at different United Family online locations? Submit a video chronicling what travel is like from a kids’ perspective? Provide service enhancement suggestions? (side note: my kids are way better travelers than a lot of adults I see. They can beat most people’s bin-to-gate time, hands-down.)
So PR peeps, let’s deliver in 2011 on that component of the PR plan that pledges to treat customers like a priority audience. Think beyond the social contest and fan page. Which brands do a good job of engendering loyalty across everyone who lives under the same roof? And United, if you are listening, I am all ears and would love to engage with you as the representative of a very loyal, enthusiastic traveling family.
David Carlson: Social Media and Traditional PR