Friday, January 04, 2008

Touchdown in the Snow

Toronto-based Veritas Communications publishes “Touchdowns and Fumbles,” a weekly newsletter pointing out recent PR wins (e.g. Stephen Harper’s GST-cut photo-op) and flops (the Pakistani government’s attempt to blame Benazir Bhutto for getting herself killed).

The latest issue also looks at a timely touchdown by a Canadian entrepreneur: Jonathan Carroll’s iTravel2000 "Let it Snow" promotion. His company promised to refund the retail cost of qualifying customers’ vacations in 2007/8 if it snowed more than 5 inches (12.7 cm) in their area (Montreal, Toronto, Calgary or Halifax) on Jan. 1, 2008. When the results came in, Montreal got 14.8 cm of snow on New Year’s Day, so the company is offering retail-price refunds to thousands of Quebec customers.

“This is the perfect way to start 2008 - by giving away thousands of trips,” said itravel2000 president Jonathan Carroll in a statement. “We’re now looking forward to coming up with another innovative new promotion to capture the imagination of Canadians.”

He could afford to be upbeat. itravel2000 had protected itself with the largest-ever one-day weather-related insurance policy – so it isn't paying up itself. Plus, as the Veritas crew said, the snow day allowed “itravel to parlay their fall gamble into coverage galore, including the lead story on CTV National News.”

Veritas added two useful points.

1. They praised Carroll’s customer-first attitude. “We loved that itravel president Jonathan Carroll was on the side of his customers and able to say genuinely that he hoped for enough snow to cut refund cheques.”

2. But Veritas caught one fumble: itravel’s messaging focused strictly on the promo that was now over. It didn't seem to have a new message ready to make the most of its PR bonanza. According to Veritas, itravel missed an opportunity to deliver a stronger message about its brand, “or even introduce a follow-up promo to sustain momentum… So they missed the conversion for what could have been a game-winning extra point.”

Just wait'll next year!

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