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Frugal WOWs: A social media experiment by KLM

In 2010, a team at KLM set out to experiment with delivery of tiny gifts -- more demonstrations of commitment and recognition than anything of significant value -- to customers who had made public their travel plans via a Twitter posting. For seven weeks, employees of the airline scoured Twitter for examples of passengers about to board flights who were signalling their travel plans. In some cases, Foursquare was the vehicle the passengers had used to communicate their plans.

In each case, once the team identified a passenger, they did a little research. What else could they learn through quick review of their Twitter profile, information they had posted on Facebook, or other traces they had left through public postings. They garnered information that would let them personalize a small gift so that it would demonstrate real interest and be meaningful to that person, in particular.

Once identified and researched, a team member (or two) mobilized. Having come up with a gift idea, they scrambled off to buy the gift -- sometimes a gift card, sometimes a trinket, sometimes an upgrade on a KLM flight -- locate the passenger in the terminal or gate area, and present the gift.

They captured many of the stories and documented their work in a video available on YouTube, which you can watch below.

This is a great example of a company experimenting to create frugal WOW experiences. At Bain, we often call this a form of "activating Promoters." It involves creating an experience so remarkable, so out of the ordinary, that it merits telling your friends. Moreover, by choosing people who are active on social media, KLM focused on people who have already demonstrated a high likelihood to share their stories with their circle of friends.

Have you seen other examples of similar experiments? What seems to work best?

(Note: Thanks to Alan Woollam, who brought this video to my attention through Twitter!)

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Reader Comments (1)

Rob, thanks for featuring the KLM Surprise case. I was one of the people involved with Boondoggle Amsterdam, the creative agency that helped KLM with the execution.
More background info on the case on

Two other related thoughts:
- Cases like KLM Surprise make that consumers change their expectations of what a company should have as a 'hygiene' service level -
- Although exceeding expectations is great, beware in going too far in managing expectations, that creates negative buzz -

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPolle de Maagt

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