Lufthansa and Nicola Lange may be getting a lot of free publicity for the airline’s clever idea to offer the guy from Apple that lost his prototype iPhone a free business class flight to Germany, but the marketing approach that has impressed me even more came from Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western International from a story I first saw in Eye For Travel. The competition enables customers to vote on ideas for how to enhance their existing mobile app and the winner gets one million Best Western Reward points.

Apparently one million points is about 62 nights of free accomodation, so it is a pretty good prize. But on looking deeper into this promotion, I am thinking that Best Western was so close to pulling of the marketing masterstoke of the year, but they didn’t quite go far enough. If you work in an airline marketing department and you want to get massive adoption of your mobile travel app, here is what you could do and what Best Western were so close to doing.

For a start, the options to vote on look like a good way of publicizing what they plan to launch anyway, but the final category of “other” really should have been the main focus. It is much more valuable to create a big installed user base than the mileage you will get out of promoting the product pipeline. 

  • Travel tools (flashlight, to do list and tip calculator)
  • Special offers nearby
  • Things to do (local events, attractions)
  • Receipt tracker for business trips (allow users to photograph their receipts and it calculates)
  • Other:

It is even possible to enter the prize draw without ever having downloaded the app for your phone. Therefore is it pretty clear that publicizing the roadmap and the resulting media mentions will be the success metric used by Best Western rather than number of downloaded and regularly used apps.

Imagine if this competion only had the “other” category, and instead of one line ideas it asked for one paragraph to one page submissions. With such a good prize on offer, the only way you would have a chance of winning would be to actually understand the current functionality of the existing app, and then make constructive suggestions on how it could be improved – ie. everyone would have a real incentive to download and use the app! Even if I don’t care about the competition, it would make me so much more likely to try out the app just to see how good it was and to think what I might suggest if I did care enough to enter.

That is genuine customer engagement, and the goodwill it would foster (assuming the competition losers were properly thanked for their input) would have also been very valuable. And then the social media potential a competition like this has is enormous, as the hotel site could progressively put up the better ideas for others to comment on before the final judging was done. Then you have a constant steam of buzz around the Best Western mobile app and its evolution! I’m personally getting a lot of interest from people after the Tnooz articles I have written to date on mobile innovation, so I know that people are genuinely very interested in this topic – Best Western was so close to nailing it. When an airline is ready to copy the Best Western idea but improve on it in the way I have suggested please let me know. The idea is nothing with the execution, so in the true spirit of sharing, please go for it. 

Not really that related, but I’m trying to work it in anyway as it is a fascinating topic:

“We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective. The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow. When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.”

So whilst Best Western may have been the leader, it is the first follower who really stands to profit from modifying this idea ever so slighly. Surely one airline will take me up on this challenge?