The missed opportunity of cheesegate: Air New Zealand's Cassie Roma on being fast and fun on social media

  • Social Media
  • October 22, 2015
  • Sarah Dunn
The missed opportunity of cheesegate: Air New Zealand's Cassie Roma on being fast and fun on social media

Cassie Roma, senior manager social media at Air New Zealand, says the times and the tides in marketing aren’t changing – they’ve already changed. It’s been ten years since social media was the next big thing, and the relevant question now is, what’s next?

Roma spoke at the TNS Connected Life conference on Friday. She led in with a quote from investment guru Warren Buffett: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”

She called for marketers to keep the reputation of their company on an equal footing with consumer engagement while working on social media campaigns. Being there for customers 24/7 and answering their posts is also important.

Roma says social trends are a huge issue. Getting in on a fast-moving trend can create brand awareness, not to mention “that happy little tickle in peoples’ minds” that compels them to fly with Air New Zealand.

Marketers should focus on showing, not telling, on social media. Roma says they need to be aware of who they’re talking to, how they’re talking to them, and how their brand can affect their audiences’ lives.

She brought up a case study based on Air New Zealand’s ‘Cheesegate’ incident. In May this year, customer Jeremy Chaston politely pointed out on Facebook that Air New Zealand was providing a disproportionate amount of cheese for the two crackers it handed out as an in-flight snack.

“Dear Air New Zealand, I am writing this as a matter of national concern,” Chaston wrote. “I have been having sleepless nights wondering if I should mention it or not but tonight the straw broke the camels [sic] back. I'm pretty sure that all Air New Zealand faithful have been having the same struggle as I and so tonight I officially raise this concern…”

Chaston explained that the quantity of cheese Air New Zealand gave out justified at least an extra two crackers, and called for the company to “rectify this horrid oversight”. His post got more than 7,000 likes, and hundreds chimed in across various social networks.

Roma says her team didn’t come back with any response for “ages”, and when they did, it was boring: “Hi Jeremy, thanks for getting in touch, we appreciate your feedback and have passed this on to our team to look into.”

“They came at us hard and fast,” Roma says. Cheese-related jokes and puns flew for days before slowly petering out on their own, and Air New Zealand missed out on a golden opportunity to build its profile as a “fun” brand.

The moral of this story, says Roma, is that if somebody is begging you to be sassy with them, be sassy.

Roma later fell foul of both Beatles fans and tweens by referring to the classic British group as a boy-band on Air New Zealand’s Facebook page. “Everyone went mental about, ‘Who wrote this garbage?’”

She calmed the furious commenters by responding to their messages with Beatles lyrics. “We wanted to take peple from the sadface emoji to the winky emoji to the heart-eyes emoji.”

Move over, 1D: Can you guess which famous boy band drew this crowd at Wellington Airport in the 60s? #FlashbackFriday

Posted by Air New Zealand on Thursday, 30 July 2015

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