Virgin Holidays Increases Online Bookings 260%

Virgin Holidays, the UK’s favorite worldwide holiday company, went through an ambitious brand refresh that places consumer experiences and engagement at the heart of their website and recent holiday campaigns. With their Black Friday #RedIsTheNewBlack campaign yielding 260% increase in bookings over the previous year and their #SeizeTheHoliday campaign winning ‘campaign of the year’, the company is rapidly integrating UGC into their overall marketing strategy.

Dynamic UGC-driven OOH Campaign Gives Customers a Chance to #SeizeTheHoliday

Virgin Holidays launched their brand refresh campaign with Seize The Holiday, in September 2016 showcasing UGC from their customers vacationing around the world. The company engaged with customers via various channels including a television spot encouraging them to upload their holiday photos to Instagram with the hashtag #SeizeTheHoliday.  The submitted content was captured and approved via rights management using the Stackla platform.  Once approved, these pictures were then broadcast on digital billboards throughout the UK.

“We really wanted to take it away from the celebrity ether and root it in real people doing authentic things on holiday” – Claire Cronin, Virgin Holidays Vice President of Customer and Marketing

The content was submitted and captured on the Virgin Holidays blog where customers had a chance to be showcased on their website and digital billboards.

“We are very excited to have launched this campaign,” said Sophie Manning, Marcomms and Social Media Senior Executive at Virgin Holidays. “Combining the DOOH element with Stackla has enabled us to create a socially-driven content experience. The Stackla platform is so easy to use and is definitely helping drive engagement and give a sense of excitement to the competition.”

The Virgin Holidays’ live TV ad was awarded the prestigious ‘campaign of the year’ by Marketing Week. The ad resulted in 16.9 million impressions from its promoted tweets and 836 web searches per minute when it was broadcast live.

#RedIsTheNewBlack unites social users to unlock Black Friday discount offers

Following the Seize the Holiday campaign, Virgin Holidays launched their first breakthrough Black Friday event.  “In previous years we’ve dabbled in Black Friday, but we’d never quite managed to cut through the noise,” said Cronin. “This year we wanted to try something different.”

The goal – to launch an event that could harness social media to build consumer excitement, engagement, and increase bookings.

Instead of launching an ordinary Black Friday sale, the company wanted bargain-hunters to get involved on social media to unlock incredible discounts.  Virgin Holidays announced that they would be releasing unique offers that would only be revealed once unlocked.   The key to unlocking each offer?  Users were asked to tweet @virginholidays using the hashtag #RedIsTheNewBlack within an 8 hour period.  As the number of tweets grew and hit various thresholds, a widget on their website would reveal the unlocked offers to all site visitors. “Working with social aggregation platform Stackla, we created a dynamic visualisation whereby the volume of tweets revealed increasingly generous deals”, said Cronin.

As an incentive to participate, once the 3000 tweet mark was reached, only those that had tweeted the hashtag would be entered into a competition to win a holiday for £100 (125 USD).

Campaign doubles expected engagement results and increases social sentiment by 37%

The widget drove a frenzy of engagement with ‘super-users’ who promoted the hashtag at an impressive pace throughout the day. “We set ourselves a difficult challenge of 3,000 tweets within eight hours and we achieved well over 6,000 which is an incredible result”, said Cronin.  Not only did the result produce a huge win for reach and engagement, but it also allowed them to identify their most loyal consumers and increase overall social sentiment by 37%. “We were also a top Twitter trend for a period of the day which is a fantastic result.”

260% increase in online bookings + passenger number up by 64% YOY

The ultimate success metric for the company was whether they saw an increase in sales from their investment in this year’s campaign.   “The campaign was a brilliant example of our teams working together to drive demand with a 260% increase in online bookings”, said Cronin, more than doubling what was achieved in 2015.  “Additionally passenger numbers were up by an impressive 64% YOY”.

Next Steps

With campaign results like this, UGC is quickly becoming integrated into more of Virgin Holiday’s marketing channels. “Stackla has enabled us to integrate social engagement into our website which is something we’ve never done before.  The platform offers so much more than just UGC aggregation; the flexibility to work across other media as well utilising content across our various channels is a big drawcard.

“Using social for sales has proven to be incredibly effective and definitely something we’ll continue doing in the future.”

For more in-depth insight into Virgin Holidays’ UGC strategy, check out the on-demand webinar: How Social Proof Fuels Travel Marketing Success