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People Power Takes Aussie Social Enterprise to Branson

22 April 2015 at 9:48 am
Xavier Smerdon
A spontaneous social media stunt by a high-profile Australian social enterprise has snowballed, culminating in the campaign reaching Virgin CEO Richard Branson and millions of consumers.

Xavier Smerdon | 22 April 2015 at 9:48 am


People Power Takes Aussie Social Enterprise to Branson
22 April 2015 at 9:48 am

A spontaneous social media stunt by a high-profile Australian social enterprise has snowballed, culminating in the campaign reaching Virgin CEO Richard Branson and millions of consumers.  

Melbourne-based consumer goods social enterprise Thankyou jumped on the opportunity to increase its reach when supporters began tagging them on Facebook in response to a request by airline Virgin Australia for consumers to nominate brands that they would like to see on in-flight menus.

Thankyou CEO Daniel Flynn tweeted Virgin CEO Richard Branson in response, which started a wave of tweets from Thankyou supporters, including celebrities and Geoff De Weaver, a Top 100 Twitter tech influencer who has over 1 million followers.

“As of now, there are over 1700 comments on the post, with over 900 from the Thankyou community asking Virgin Australian to stock Thankyou products,” Flynn said. “As a comparison, there are four other brands…that have received about 10 posts collectively.”

Flynn and his team decided to take the campaign further in their quest for Thankyou products to be supplied on Virgin flights.  

“Backed by the support of the Thankyou community and knowledge that this deal would literally change thousands of lives with access to immediate food aid and long-term food solutions, the team came up with a bold idea to amplify the opportunity,” Flynn said.  

The organisation created a digital message on a truck that we parked out the front of the Virgin Australian offices in Brisbane that read: “Hey Richard, love the question your team posted on Facebook, looks like there’s a truckload of support for Thankyou. #ichoosethankyou".

Flynn also delivered Thankyou products to the Virgin Lounge at Melbourne Airport and Virgin Australia followed Thank You on Twitter and re-posted to their 463,000 followers.


Thank you Thankyou. We’re glad you’re as excited as we are that we’re now providing complimentary food on all domestic…

Posted by Virgin Australia on Thursday, 16 April 2015

“The minute we first saw Virgin Australia's post, we saw it as a perfect opportunity because essentially it gave us permission to rally support for our products. As we began to engage our fans and we saw an influx of comments for Thankyou on the post, we knew that we could take it even bigger,” Flynn said.  

“We knew that if we could create even more of a buzz online using different channels then we'd really stand a chance of getting Virgin's attention. The reality is that our team are always busy managing competing priorities, but we knew that the value of this opportunity was huge and worth our time so we put everything else aside and acted fast.

“The thing is, this isn't a campaign; it wasn’t in our marketing plan,” Flynn said. “But because as a team we are fast and fun, we had the opportunity to see a post on Wednesday that sparked our interest, share it on Thursday and then carry out a bold idea to make a big impact on Friday.”

Thankyou, which has been operating since 2008, funding safe water access for those in developing countries through the sale of bottled water, food and body products, is known for its playful, high-visibility campaigns which often target celebrities and major brands.

In 2013, a series of marketing stunts culminated in meetings with Coles and Woolworths and the stocking of Thankyou products in major supermarkets.

That campaign included the flying of a 10,000 foot flag above Coles and Woolworths headquarters and a social media campaign intended to spotlight consumer demand for Thankyou’s product range.

“If you want to challenge the status quo and stand out, I've learnt that it's crucial to make the most of opportunities,” Flynn said.

“In business it's easy to become risk-averse, but the problem is that by avoiding ever taking any kind of risk, the less likely we are do anything remarkable. There were risks involved with this activity – it could have failed and it might have been embarrassing. But the potential value that we saw outweighed the risk.

“Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. Based on previous campaigns we had done, we were nearly certain this could be huge if we put everything into it. We figured out what we wanted to achieve…what our objectives were and then from there, came up with bold and creative tactics.

“Social enterprises often have a community of people that want to help, they just need to be presented with an opportunity. There are times when you just have to reach out and ask for support. In terms of creating great content, it's about thinking big and not limiting creativity.

“We don't allow the word 'budget' during brainstorm sessions…we come up with the idea and then at the end figure out how we can make it happen – whether it's through in-kind support or getting partners on board.

“We were pretty stoked to see Virgin's post on Friday afternoon, showing a picture of the billboard truck we parked outside their head offices. From here, we're looking forward to meeting with the Virgin team soon and seeing what opportunities there are to work together!”

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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