Air Mauritius has identified word-of-mouth marketing as a way to help it compete with some of its big-spending rivals.
The carrier operates in the competitive Indian Ocean leisure market, where it goes head-to-head with global giants such as Emirates, whose marketing budget stretches to getting Hollywood A-listers to appear in its adverts and high-profile sports sponsorships.
Air Mauritius opted to focus instead on the two pillars of word-of-mouth marketing - advocacy and user generated content.
Word-of-mouth is emerging as a dedicated marketing discipline and is, according to some, having a material impact on sales.
A case study from the airline and its partner Qube Media referenced a quotation from McKinsey:
“Marketing-inspired word of mouth now generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising and is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions.”
The airline approached social media from a standing start, having virtually no presence in 2013. It took a systematic approach to building its word-of-mouth strategy, starting with a blog, Made in Mauritius. Locals, airline staff, the tourist board, hoteliers and chefs were encouraged to contribute to the blog, which became a de facto influencer hub.
It also provided content for search engines to find, with Air Mauritius and Qube recognising that it was possible for the airline to get visibility during the inspiration/awareness stage.
Having established a digital presence via the hub, it was then able to target "advocates" and build a community of MK Ambassadors (MK is the airline's IATA code). Using Qube's proprietary platform, content generated by one ambassador would be shared with all the other ambassadors' network and measured accordingly.
The final piece of the puzzle was to create an image-based campaign using the #airmauritius360 tag. This move allowed visitors to contribute to the campaign as well as locals.
"Creating an approach based on a clear message that harnesses word-of-mouth marketing and integrates commercial objectives has meant a significant increase in sales, community engagement and industry recognition," the carrier said.