An Effective Email Marketing Campaign for AirTran Airways: Sending Birthday E-Mails

It’s not the first email you’d expect from an airline, but when AirTran Airways started sending happy birthday emails to its customers, the company stumbled upon a surprisingly effective email marketing campaign.

“You might think people would say, ‘Why do I care about you guys when I’m not going to travel until next Christmas?’” said Andrew Chang, Director, Marketing Strategy and Loyalty, AirTran Airways. “But when we first sent this out, our CEO received a few dozen thank you emails just toward him, just thanking us for thinking of them on their birthday.”

During his presentation at eTail, Chang didn’t get into the nitty-gritty of why AirTran decided to launch this e-mail marketing campaign, but he’s happy they did. All of the company’s emails are automated so it’s a seamless process for AirTran to target its customers, and it frequently uses life cycle marketing to increase engagement through email. The company is also keen on customer satisfaction emails where it can gather customer input, collect data on individual customers, save it if needed and improve the overall brand experience.

AirTran has found through researching its email data that leisure travelers are very price sensitive and business travelers are more time sensitive and not as concerned with price. The company uses this data to effectively market to its customers in a personalized way. But AirTran is careful not to make emails too personal or probing. For instance, if the company knows that a customer has flown to a specific place at a specific time over the past few years, Chang said that a targeted email would not say, “We know you fly to Sarasota,” it would say, “We know you’ve flown the past few years –here’s a discount.” AirTran is also reluctant to send emails to customers while they’re on vacation

The birthday email marketing campaign, along with some other emails based on life cycle studies and targeted marketing generate quite a bit of revenue. All of them follow what Chang identified as a “progress is beautiful” cycle with the following steps being taken by the online customer: shop, buy, pre-flight, travel, post-flight, reactivation, engagement. If each portion of the cycle is followed through, Chang believes an effective email marketing campaign geared toward specific lifestyles is not far out of reach.

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