Brands have to show courage and a willingness to take risks if they are to be successful on social media, a senior marketing executive at British Airways has said.
Amanda Phillips, the airline’s head of omnichannel content and marketing operations, urged marketers not to cling too rigidly to brand guidelines when sending out communications on social channels.
Speaking at an event hosted by Kantar for Effectiveness Week yesterday (3 November), she suggested that this might require marketers to fight their corner in response to opposition from a brand’s PR department.
“You have to be nimble, flexible and contextual and you have to hold your nerve – especially when your press office is telling you off for a tweet,” said Phillips.
She revealed she had faced such internal opposition when British Airways launched a social marketing campaign in response to the Brexit vote this summer.
The airline tweeted an offer aimed at Twitter users in the US that encouraged them to take advantage of the plummeting value of the pound and book flights to the UK.
The offer was controversial among some Twitter users, who accused the brand of opportunism in the face of Brexit, but Phillips said it was effective at driving both sales and publicity for British Airways. This included having the offer discussed as a story on 11 broadcast news stations in the US.
“We had news presenters standing and pointing at a screen which showed our homepage, advocating that customers go [visit] and buy from our sale,” she recalled.
“I would have had to have spent tens of millions of dollars to get that kind of coverage [using other means].”
Phillips was joined for the discussion by Charlie Hiscocks, global director of brand communications at SABMiller, who argued that brands should judge the success of their social activity on whether it changes behaviour, attitudes or awareness among consumers – rather than immediate metrics like ‘likes’ or comments.
“The basic principles [of marketing] are the principles and digital is just the context,” he said.