European Airline KLM Builds Brand Fans by Design

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A Lesson in Building Brand Fans
Last week I cam across an interesting account on the web of a wonderful brand gesture from European Airline KLM. KLM have created the ‘KLM Surprise Team’ who monitor social media channels to discover travelers commuting to, from and through Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. They make contact, arrange to meet and then surprise the traveler with a gift. As John Bell on his blog, ‘The Digital Influence Mapping Project‘ says; “This is an example of a large brand ‘reaching out’ in a very intimate and personal way to individual customers, yet at the same time enjoying a resonating effect from their efforts – thanks to the power of social media’.

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We came across this first hand account from Tim van Waard, who titled his blog post, “How KLM made me feel like a popstar”:
“I announced through my @klmfan Twitter that I would be on Schiphol airport on Tuesday morning 2nd of November. Suddenly I got a reply from a new KLM account named @KLMsurprise to ask me if we could meet up somewhere on Schiphol that morning. Uuh, sure why not?
When I arrived that morning at Schiphol airport to catch my flight to Copenhagen… I tweeted @KLMsurprise that I was ready for a meetup, unaware of the intentions. We set a place and a time through Twitter and when I arrived there I saw two guys with a big piece of paper with my name on it. This was pretty cool. In some way, people standing with a paper with your name on it makes you feel very important (popstar-like). Or maybey that’s just me. These guys handed me a present: a great aviation watch (limited edition) of KLM’s 90th anniversary and hope that I would remember them next time I would fly.
This is of course a genius form of marketing. When I arrived at the conference I have told this story over twenty times to different people and also when I returned I talked about this alot.”

The genius of this brand experience is that KLM engage people who are already active in social media, almost guaranteeing that the gesture will become an immediate piece of positive brand communication, broadcast around the world through the social media. The power of simple brand gestures like this is their ability to create a “ripple effect” for the brand as the person involved becomes an active brand ambassador. The team then tracks the “ripple” effect as the delighted passenger tells theirs friends. It’s a brilliant way to create rich brand stories for people to share – and they willingly share them because the stories are loaded with personal meaning.

If brands are genuinely committed to finding ways to surprise and delight their customers, there’s something here to be learnt from KLM.

// Dave Ansett, Brandamentalist
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Designer of Brand Gestures that Surprise & Delight

Spotted on the blog of our talented mates at Emotive Brand:
Read Tim’s full blog post here:


  1. A great example of a brand that is willing to committ to a brand experience that truly engages with it’s customers. The true genius is that KLM make the time for a social media user to feel special through an unique experience, in turn they will tell everyone they are in contact with online. Thanks for the post!

  2. You’re welcome Tim. It’s great to see a brand develop a social media campaign that is more than just tweeting and facebooking. The way they integrate their brand space – the airport – into the process helps make this more relevant and powerful. A great piece of brand communication.

  3. […] Van Waard says he told this story ‘over twenty times to different people‘ at his conference. He is not the only one to have received this pop-star treatment, KLM has posted photos of delighted traveller’s faces when they received the unexpected surprise on Facebook. This gives new meaning to surprise and delight.  What is even more impressive is that each person receives an individualized gift based on their social media profile. […]

  4. What a great brand gesture David. I love the simplicity of this idea. I have always thought that if you can get people talking about your brand you are halfway there. And for something as personal as a watch, I think KLM have definitely made at least a handful of customers for life, and have connected with many more. It would be very hard to ever buy a different brand of watch ever again after they meet you at an airport and give you a freebie.

    To KLM, I’ll be going on holidays in a few weeks, I’ll shout you a cocktail…

  5. Nice one Ron. You’re right about word of mouth marketing – it still rates as the highest credibility of all forms of marketing and brand communications. This could easily be called the KLM brand ambassador program.

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