How a conversation at the Mumbrella Awards sparked Velocity’s Earnbassador campaign

Velocity recently announced it was "converting" its marketing budget into frequent flyer points - up for grabs for members who promote the program. Abigail Dawson sits down with the team behind the campaign to uncover the motivation and strategy behind the campaign - and the conversation that started it all.

One year after Velocity Frequent Flyer made its “biggest mistake” – ‘accidentally’ adding 999 million frequent flyer points to The Million Point Giveaway, making it ‘The Billion Point Giveaway’ – the company is once again giving away the thing its consumers want most – points.

Velocity’s award-winning Billion Point Giveaway campaign

Velocity’s newest campaign, the #Earnbassadors, puts its customers at the very centre and relies on frequent flyers to create the content which will then make up the advertising campaign.

Instead of putting its marketing budget behind an emotive television commercial or humorous out-of-home advertisements, Velocity has decided to pay its members by giving them frequent flyer points for promoting the brand on social media.

Its marketing budget, the brand says, has been “converted” into points.

But for Ant White, the chief creative officer of CHE Proximity, the campaign does more than sharing pieces of content across the internet – “it humanises the brand”.

“We are a brand obsessed by our members, everything we do is for the members, so it is just another thing we are doing for our members.

“It has also got a sense of humour”,  White continues, explaining how Dean Chadwick, CMO at Velocity Frequent Flyer, challenged the agency to “bring more Virgin back to Velocity”.

“[Richard] Branson [the founder of Virgin Group] is a very entertaining guy and [#Earnbassadors] is not silly, it is not slapstick, but there is a sweet spot of humour and it humanises the brand and puts us on the level of members.”

The campaign, White continues, also rationalises the irrationality of people’s obsession with points in a lighthearted way.

“They are irrational, people are irrational about points – we have hopefully touched a real sweet spot with that.”

Chadwick, who joined Velocity Frequent Flyer two years ago from his previous gig at American Express, says the Earnbassadors campaign was designed to break the mould of traditional advertising and help the brand stand out in an overpopulated market.

The marketer, who led the agency to winning the Mumbrella Award for Marketing Team of the Year, says the brand also needed to establish a point of difference and a distinct brand which would be recognisable without a brand logo.

“We looked at the category, we had a wall which was all of the advertising coming from us and our competitors and if you take the logo off, you don’t know who it is from really.

“Coming from financial services for over 20 years, I wanted to inject some humour, we are not financial services, we are a loyalty program, it’s fun, we wanted to do fun things so I am hoping through this piece of work we can translate that to our members.

“Ultimately, what does our brand want to do? We want to be recognised by the people that they serve and hopefully this campaign will allow us to do that,” Chadwick says.

Speaking about how the Earnbassadors idea was born, Chadwick reminisces about the time White put the idea to him.

“It was the Mumbrella Awards night where we were fortunate enough to win Marketing Team of the Year and then Ant leaned over to me with David [Halter, CSO and MD of CHE Proximity Sydney] and he says ‘Right, we have got to do something new’ and he had obviously been thinking about this for a while because he says ‘I am not allowed to tell you tonight because I am meeting with you tomorrow but I have got this great idea that I am not allowed to talk to you about and it is called the Earnbassadors’.

“Ant is very good at keeping secrets, but we then spent a rather enjoyable night just really talking about this idea and from the moment that he mentioned Earnbassadors and the intent behind it, it really resonated with me,” the CMO continues.

Despite his excitement, which is coupled with nerves, Chadwick acknowledges that the campaign has been a challenge because it’s had to break the norm in advertising.

“It has been a challenge for us, we are breaking the norms of how we do communications and we are very regimented in our approach, we would engage out marketing team, work with the agency, work with corporate affairs, doing the things that we are used to, but getting members to create content where we have little control does challenge us as individuals, but we need to feel comfortable with that.”

White agrees, appreciating that the campaign has been a progression of the agency’s previous work.

“It has been a progression with how we have been working and the campaigns we have done, but it feels like a responsible and grown-up approach.”

The acclaimed creative pays homage to its previous Billion Point Giveaway campaign and appreciates “it shone the spotlight internally at Velocity”, but recognises that its new #Earnbassador campaign helps move the brand forward.

“That was great because again we humanised the brand, we put a face to the brand, but you can only get away by doing mistake things for so long, otherwise you are going to look silly,” he says.

“The natural progression is ‘Let’s put the spotlight on the members’. We are obsessed by members, let’s shine the light on all these people who are making the most of the system and they’re really good people out there and it felt like the right thing to do and it wasn’t us just making fun of ourselves the whole time, it is actually us making a more sensible decision.”


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