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Icelandair Denver Photo Contest: Engaging and Effective Route Launch

I have been a part of route launches before, and I would say that for the most part, the only way the inaugural flight of a new route ever goes out full is if the tickets have been heavily discounted with promo fares. The ticket giveaway promotion is something I’ve been a proponent of for years, as I believe that psychologically, heavily discounted fares simply breed customer expectation, while giveaways foster a feeling of good fortune. In other words, if you launch New York-Timbuktu service, which previously cost, say, $2,000 via London, for $500 non-stop, the new customer expectation for New York-Timbuktu is $500. However, if you give a selected few tickets away for free, you don’t devalue that $2,000 expectation, and actually make those recipients feel “lucky” and more likely to want to support your service next time. Promo fares simply breed price sensitivity, which is bad news for airlines not called Ryanair or Spirit Airlines.

Icelandair’s current photo contest, designed to build buzz about it’s May 2012 commencement of service between Reykjavik and Denver, is another good example of how airlines can promote engagement, spread a specific message, and build advocacy at minimal expense. The contest invites participants to submit a photograph linking Reykjavik and Denver, which can be interpreted in any way the participant chooses. All entires are on display in a gallery, which will eventually be voted on, and the lucky winner will receive a pair of tickets and a few days worth of fun in Reykjavik.

It’s not likely that 180 people–fresh off a Colorado winter themselves–are just itching to go to Iceland at full fare on the very first day of service, which means that there is minimal cost to Icelandair. And in the instructions, the airline gently reminds participants to get “everyone they know” to vote for their submission, in the process making those participants brand ambassadors and leveraging their social networks to make it very clear from the grassroots that Icelandair is coming to Denver.

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