June 7, 2012
Stumping for Virgin America, or Get Your Own Fake Mayor
“Airline adds new route.” You have to try very hard to produce a more ho-hum announcement than that. Even adding the specifics – “Virgin America comes to PDX” – doesn’t help. Not even a little.
But fortunately, Portland, Oregon, gives Virgin America’s marketing team quite a bit more to work with. Try these on: Mayor of Portlandia welcomes Virgin America to Portland and We put a bird on Portland. Better, right?
Mainstream audiences may not “get” these headlines, but they don’t have to. In this case, Virgin America’s audience is very specific: people who are passionate about Portland. If you’re one of those folks, like I am, you recognize a fake mayor when you see one, and you’re far from surprised when you hear “put a bird on it” is in the Urban Dictionary.
The shenanigans tapped by Virgin America this week for its newest stop come from the IFC comedy sketch show Portlandia. The series, which lampoons hipster culture, has a growing cult following already eager for season three (January 2013). One of the most viral skits out of Portlandia is “put a bird on it,” a reference to turning anything into art by adding the silhouette of a bird. And its most endearing recurring character is its mayor (@Kyle_MacLachlan), whose mock authority is so broad people distinguish him from Sam Adams, elected mayor of Portland, by referring to Adams as the “real” mayor. In addition, Adams has a role on the series: he’s assistant to the fake mayor, of course, and he’s petitioning for a very real Emmy nomination for the show.
What gets people talking about Portland right now? The answer is Portlandia. Virgin America’s use of its characters and inside jokes creates a reason for the target audience to pay attention to the brand’s expansion to PDX. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. It’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and corporate blog. And it’s my current favorite example of influencer marketing. By including the mayors of Portlandia and Portland, Virgin America smartly leverages the camaraderie (and all the social chatter) between the show and its beloved city.
So, can you use influencer marketing for your brand? Of course you can! It’s highly likely, however, that your target audience is fresh out of fake mayors — so try tapping into some social energy specific to your own goals. Ask yourself: Who informs my audience? What entertains them? What trends and products are wildly popular? When you’ve got your answers, attach yourself to the momentum in a timely fashion. It’ll grab the attention of those you want to reach.