Q: What do Google Apps and Virgin America have in common?
Usually, bringing together two major companies for a single campaign is at best a challenge, and at worst impossible, because the companies are either too closely related to one another and so they compete, or they’re not related enough, and so they don’t add anything to the overall value of a larger campaign. For The Day In The Cloud Challenge however, Google and Virgin found a commonality in the ‘clouds’ (you can use Google Apps and their cloud services while flying through the clouds on a Virgin America flight) and they used that commonality to create a rather compelling campaign.
Before we dive into the game though, let’s look at the players:
Cloud Computing is a hot topic lately, and though most of us probably use cloud based services on a daily basis without giving it a second thought, cloud computing is still not something that many people understand or pay attention to. According to Wikipedia, cloud computing is “a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet”. Hmm… Since that description does little to actually explain the concept, let’s just stick with Google’s description: “Cloud computing is a new way of using your computer that lets you store, access and share your information through the web, instead of on your hard drive.” Much better.
Google is a company that makes most of its revenue by serving ads to consumers. Since Google’s revenues are directly related to the number of ads it can serve, it’s constantly looking for more places to put more ads so that it can make more revenue. As a result, Google has become a major proponent of ‘cloud’ services, and has developed an entire suite of applications that all live in the cloud. By creating these cloud services, Google is moving people into an environment where they are viewing tens, hundreds, or even thousands of Google’s pages each day to do common tasks like emailing and blog reading, and as a result, Google can guarantee that they’ll have access to tons of eyeballs, and more importantly, more places to put more ads in front of those eyeballs.
Virgin America is an airline that prides itself on service, style, entertainment, relaxation and astonishingly reasonable fares. One of the main features of their ‘living room in the sky’ is the fact that they have WiFi across their entire fleet, free in-flight entertainment, and many of the amenities that their competitors have chosen to forgo in search of lost revenue.
Now that we understand the players, let’s look at the game:
Since cloud computing is still a relatively new idea, and many people are still unaware of the fact that they are already using cloud computing for things like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Reader and Picasa, Google teamed up with Virgin American for an event called ‘A Day In The Clouds’. The goal of that event was to get people to experience some of Google’s most popular services while taking part in a massive online scavenger hunt/trivia game by using Google applications either on the ground or ideally, in the ‘clouds’ aboard one of Virgin’s WiFi equipped planes. The contest consisted of nine rounds of trivia and games, followed by a ‘creative round’ that would be used in case of a tie. Each round featured questions that could be answered using one or more of Google’s apps, and winners received an HP netbook, 1 terabyte of Google Account storage, and a year of free flying through Virgin America complete with complimentary WiFi.
The campaign itself was a textbook example of a well-executed contest, but there are a few things that stood out and made The Day In The Cloud Challenge especially interesting:
- Twitter – On every page of the DITC microsite, there was a box that displayed the latest tweet from @DayInTheCloud, an account that was set up specifically for the campaign. From that box, users were able to follow the account, message the account directly, or see the history of DITC tweets. Each tweet that @DayInTheCloud sent out included the #DayInTheCloud tag, and users were encouraged to use that tag as well so that everyone could easily follow along with the conversations that were occurring about the campaign. Users were also able to tweet out their score after finishing the challenge, and each one of those tweets was tagged with #DayInTheCloud to help increase social sharing of the campaign. Lastly, the Twitter account was used both for conversation and for broadcasting, as they answered questions, provided updates, gave hints and linked out to other blogs that were covering the event. This allowed the Twitter account to be interactive, which makes users much more likely to follow the account in exchange for the interesting information and conversation.
- Social Media – Every DITC page included a ‘Spread the word’ box that allowed users to share the campaign with friends through various social media channels with just the click of a button. These buttons were formatted so that they would automatically populate the message field with a pre-designed message, and this allowed users to help spread the campaign through channels like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious and MySpace; greatly increasing the pre-event buzz without a lot of extra effort.
- Micro-Community – Using Google’s Friend Connect feature, DITC formed its own community where players could exchange ‘spirited pre-game banter’ with other players and meet everyone else that was participating. Engagement with the community wasn’t outstanding, but for those that used the feature, I’m guessing that it greatly added to their overall experience.
- Video – Using a combination of YouTube and Blogger Video, DITC was able to promote the competition beforehand and show participants both during and after the competition on the DITC blog. Since video (and especially HD video) is a highly effective but under-utilized way of getting a message across, it was nice to see it play such a prominent role in this campaign.
It’s tough to bring two messages from two very different companies together for a single campaign, but when it works well, the combined efforts can produce something that’s greater than the sum of the parts. Getting people to try out an entire suite of apps is a also tough proposition, and especially when those apps are built on a platform that few understand, but if you can manage to do what Google and Virgin have done and find a way to incentivize that trial and make it fun and interesting as well, you’ll have a successful campaign on your hand in no time.
- Brought together two major companies for a single campaign in a relevant way.
- Made the competition fun and accessible for all skill levels.
- Used available tools to help promote the campaign and get users involved.
- Could have used additional paid promotion.
- Some questions required a high level of technical expertise.
- Major brands work together to push a single message, leveraging their awareness through social media to engage consumers in fun and interesting ways.