Air New Zealand: A social media success story

As a proud Kiwi and serious sufferer of the travel bug, Air New Zealand’s marketing and advertising campaigns have always been on my radar. So it’s no surprise that when thinking of effective, innovative, and creative online marketing our very own Kiwi airline sprung to mind. Air NZ has effectively “thrown caution to the wind” and utilised social media to gain consumer interest and build a positive and prosperous online brand identity. Their successful strategy has seen them claim the spot of 6th largest airline social media presence as well as New Zealand’s number one corporate brand (Air New Zealand TV, 2011). Air NZ has led the way for how businesses can effectively use social media, shown in the video below discussing how they “do social”.


Use of technology

Air NZ has embraced the online media landscape and taken advantage of social media trends to effectively promote their company. The companies savvy use of what Air NZ’s social media enviro marketer, Tommy Bates calls “the current big three”: Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, has seen them amass an impressive following across a number of platforms (Steemson, 2010). Their website provides a hub that connects to all their other social media channels.

This site encompasses the company’s online brand identity, which has been established through their personalised social interactions, effective community management, tactical content creation, and consistent customer care. By utilising a number of different platforms, Air NZ has connected with a wider audience through a variety of ways.


Social business strategy

A social media strategy, defined as channels, platforms and tactics used to support publishing, listening, and engagement, is just the beginning for Air New Zealand (Li & Soli, 2013). The company has established a social core and developed a social business strategy by integrating social media technologies and processes into the businesses core values and practices. Through this they have effectively built online relationships with their customers and sparked conversations (Li & Solis, 2013).

When asked about the company’s strategy, Megan Mathews from Air NZ said, “our Social Media strategy has been to substantially grow our bond with customers by encouraging online interaction, promoting, sharing and providing entertaining content” (Nigam, 2011). The company uses public figures, humour and current events to make their content interesting and topical, increasing its popularity and share-ability. Examples are the airlines partnership with “The Hobbit”, the use of Snoop Dogg, Betty White and Lindsey Lohan in their Rico campaign and the All Blacks in the “Men in Black” safety video. Making their content humorous, unique, and relevant to their audience has seen many of their videos go viral, and seen additional success through free publicity gained as a result. The airline has featured in the New York Times and other leading outlets purely because of the success, creativity and popularity of their marketing efforts (Nigam, 2011).

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In Li and Solis (2013) Altimeter report, the pair identified the following six phases of development that lead to a successful social business:

  1. Planning: this involved uncovering their audience’s social behaviour. Air NZ did this by looking at what platforms their customers were on and how they were using them. They have remained ahead of the game by constantly planning and evolving with new social media trends as they change. Starting with the “the big three” they have extended their reach to additional platforms such as Instagram to stay relevant and present.
  2. Presence: using channels and platforms to establish the business online. Air NZ has effectively done this on a number of platforms, including: Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Weibo, and FourSquare. They have customised their communications to fit the differing functionality and scope of each platform (Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy & Silvestre, 2011). This has allowed them to use the different channels to the greatest extent, and effectively target a range of audiences.
  3. Engagement: building relationships through dialogue and online interactions. Air NZ uses a number of platforms and communicates in different ways, to reach and engage with their customers. The airline uses Twitter and its micro-blogging nature to provide short updates and interact personally with customers. Blogs to construct identity and facilitate rich and lengthy conversations with customers (Kietzmann et al., 2011).

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  1. Formalised: establishing an organisational engagement with social media, particularly at an executive level. The company has established a social core, which former CEO Rob Fyfe, highlights in an interview discussing the airlines “Rico” campaign. Fyfe discusses how the catalyst and concept behind Rico came from the team, and was simply bought to life by the agency (Nigam, 2010). This highlights how core team members have been trained to think socially.
  2. Strategic: integrating social practices into all areas of the business. Shown by Air NZ’s number of campaigns. Arguably the most successful example of this is their safety videos. They have turned a necessary and mundane aspect of their business into an interesting marketing tool and distinctive part of their brand identity.
  3. Converged: the business becomes social, as social becomes fully integrated into the business strategy. Shown by Air NZ’s YouTube 2013 video, “how we do social”.

This six-stage process helps to evaluate the maturity of a social business strategy. Using this model, Air NZ can be defined as a successful social business. Despite this, the business has no intention of slowing down, continuing to come up with new and unique campaigns. Their recent schemes #AirNZPacked (2014) and #AirNZMoments (2016) have taken advantage of the rising popularity of Instagram and user-generated content trend.


Air NZ has effectively evolved into a social business and developed its own quirky and distinct marketing strategy. The airlines unique, humorous, and topical campaigns have assisted Air NZ in building a positive brand identity and maintaining consumer interest. Their use of social media has resulted in a competitive advantage and point of difference over other airlines, helping them remain successful as a business. They have successfully integrated social media strategies into their overall business strategy, enabling their campaigns to produce real results.



Air New Zealand TV. (2011, June 26). Air New Zealand – How we are using Social Media[Video file]. Retrieved from

Kietzmann, J. H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I. P. & Silvestre, B. S. (2011). Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons, 54, 241-251. Retrieved from

Li, C. & Solis, B. (2013). The evolution of social business: Six stages of social business transformation. Altimeter Group. Retrieved from

Nigam, S. (2010, October 24). Exclusive: Rob Fyfe, Air New Zealand CEO talks about Rico – the airline’s brand mascot with an edgy personality – SimpliFlying – The Leading Airline Marketing Consultancy. Retrieved from

Nigam, S. (2011, April 13). For giving us funny safety videos and bringing us Rico, Megan Matthews from Air New Zealand is the SimpliFlying Hero for March 2011 – SimpliFlying – The Leading Airline Marketing Consultancy. Retrieved from

Nigam, S. (2011, July 4). How Air New Zealand is using social media to create waves globally, online and offline [Video] – SimpliFlying – The Leading Airline Marketing Consultancy. Retrieved from

Steemson, H. (2010, August 5). Social Media NZ » Air New Zealand: Best Use of Social Media Award winner – July 2010. Retrieved from



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