Star Alliance Turns to Social Media to Get Its Message Across in China

WeChat effort is designed to boost air travel

China represents the land of opportunity for most every marketer, if only for the massive size of its consumer base. Given its relative newness to media and marketing, it is also a market less fettered by the traditional ways of doing things. For example, mobile and social are not merely ascendant there—they are solidly the dominant vehicle for media consumption.

For the 28 airlines that belong to the Star Alliance network—whose members include Air China, Shenzhen Airlines and EVA Air, as well as founding giants United and Lufthansa—China "remains important as an international frequent-traveler market," says Mark Davies, Star Alliance director of loyalty and marketing. The Alliance introduced its first social-centric initiative in China last year, a campaign that focused on building relationships with opinion leaders in the Chinese market.

Next up, the Alliance launches the campaign "You Make a Difference," a digital and social effort targeting Chinese frequent flyers who travel internationally, along with their friends, colleagues and families.

Star Alliance has already built a so-called Elite Gathering via WeChat, enabling customers to network among their peers and trade tips on foreign travel and business practices. The new campaign invites those in a traveler's inner circle to send Thank You messages via WeChat. Once a message has been sent, the recipient selects the participating Star Alliance airline frequent-flyer program in which he or she wants to win Star Alliance Gold Status and connects to the Elite Gathering group. The message sender can enter a contest for a pair of Star Alliance "Round the World" trips.

Davies points out that "social channels are the best to reach frequent travelers [in China]. In this culture, they're more believable than other more traditional advertising channels."