KLM Stalks Passengers Through Social Media & Buys Them Gifts

By Megan O'Neill Comment

Nothing is quite to boring and monotonous as waiting for your plane to board, right? Well KLM Royal Dutch Airline decided to put a little joy into the lives of waiting passengers, social media style, with the KLM Surprise initiative. Over the holidays, KLM looked for passengers who checked into their flights on Foursquare and tweeted about waiting to board, did a little social media research to find out more about them, and then surprised them at their gates with personalized gifts. Surprise or stalking? You be the judge.

KLM describes the project on the KLM Surprise website. “We have been committing little acts of kindness to surprise our passengers. Because we wanted to discover how happiness spreads. When a passenger shares his flight plans with his friends via Foursquare, we try to surprise him with a personalized little act of kindness, right on the spot.”

I have to admit that I am a little torn about this idea. The first thing that I noticed was that none of the recipients of gifts in the video look truly excited or happy. Rather they look a little shocked, confused and even freaked out. I tried to put myself in their shoes and decided that it would be a little bit weird for a total stranger to come up to you and know things about you that they had gleaned from the social web. For some of the people in the video, such as the three who were headed to a social media conference in Cairo, it might not have been as strange. But for the guy off to Mexico to build houses for the homeless that they gifted with muscle ointment…well, that may have been just a little too personal.

On the other hand, although this seems a little bit stalkerish to me, I can’t deny that this was a fantastic viral marketing stunt on the part of KLM. It seems that they only ran the KLM Surprise campaign for a few weeks during the holiday season and their last tweet about it was back on December 18, saying “Thank you! And who knows, we might be back soon…”

If KLM Surprise becomes an ongoing thing I can see it getting huge. After all, if people actually knew about the campaign when they were taking a KLM flight (as opposed to the random people that were surprised), they would be so much more inclined to tweet about KLM and check in on Foursquare, which equals free promotion for the airline. However, for this to work they have to keep KLM Surprise going! Even if it’s just one passenger a day who gets discovered on Twitter or Foursquare, social media stalked and gifted, I have a feeling it would mean a huge increase for KLM-related Tweets, Facebook posts and Foursquare check-ins.

What do you think of the campaign? Do you think it’s creepy or cool, and should KLM bring it back?