paris thomas cook lowcostholidays reddit
554 days ago
 

Lowcostholidays scores a social media coup, while Thomas Cook scrambles to respond

Going viral on the Internet today is an amusing story in which Lowcostholidays stuck a little dagger in Thomas Cook UK and earned a lot of goodwill.

Last November, a young man named Thomas Cook posted a comment on the travel agency Thomas Cook UK’s Facebook page that said the following:

Seeing as I share the exact same name as your huge company, and because of this I have been ridiculed for as long as I can remember. I think it’s only fair that you help compensate for this by giving me one of your lovely holidays.

The company apparently declined to give a free trip in a curt post. It has since erased its comment from its page, though the young man took a screenshot.

But Lowcostholidays spokesperson Nicole Walsh confirms to Tnooz what happened next.

Five days later, a representative from Lowcostholidays saw the message and decided to have a bit of fun.

A marketer at the company, Charlotte Hunt, used her personal page to send the young man a message:

Here at lowcostholidays.com we completely sympathise with your suffering and if your name was “lowcostholidays.com” we would certainly have accepted your request to be sent away on a weekend in Paris. … So how about we send you on that weekend in Paris?

It took nearly a year for the trip to actually happen, and today Thomas Cook posted an image of him happy in Paris that got up-voted to the number one most-read item on social news site Reddit within a few hours and was also a viral sensation on Twitter.

paris thomas cook lowcostholidays reddit

Lowcostholidays has been inundated with positive messages on its Facebook page.

Thomas Cook UK’s Facebook page, by contrast, has been getting hit with many negative comments, such as “You guys totally blew your chances in there…”

Their PR department appears to be panicking several hours into this social media storm. Its first response was to delete comments.

Then a company representative posted this at hour four into the storm:

“It is our company policy to keep the wall free for questions, comments and discussion with customers. Please note, any commercial messages, personal advertisements, links to external sites or other Facebook pages and other forms of spam to redirect traffic are not welcome and will be deleted. –Paul”

An attempt to reach a spokesperson failed.

Lowcostholidays spokesperson Walsh said that the young man was his own self-publishing machine.

“We haven’t put out a press release or publicised this in any way. It was just a bit of fun. Our team has always been very active in social media, compared to other online travel agencies in the UK, and we had been looking to have a little bit of fun.”

At little cost, the company won a trip to the front page of Reddit, a US-based site that had 42.9 million unique visitors in August.

The initiative last November came just a few weeks after Lowcostholidays was forced to withdraw an online ad campaign that invited consumers to say if they had ever been “Thomas Crooked”.

Thomas Cook threatened legal action at the time, and ABTA, the association of UK travel agents and tour operators, scolded Lowcostholidays for sullying the reputation of a fellow member.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Thomas Cook has directed us to a statement the company has made on its Facebook page.

Just a quick one from the TC team to say we’re genuinely pleased our namesake Thomas Cook looks like he’s had a great time in Paris courtesy of LowCostHolidays.co.uk! http://imgur.com/a/Lyo8S#InPdq

Whilst we admire Mr Cook’s plucky approach, we value all of our customers equally so we don’t give free holidays to all of the Thomas or Thomasina Cooks who email us! (or even our colleagues who are called Thomas Cook too!)

But we do have a cause that WE believe is truly worthwhile which we’ve extended an invitation to Mr Cook to join us with. For the 10th year running we’ll be taking hundreds of sick and disadvantaged children on a ‘Flight of Dreams’ to meet Father Christmas on board our own planes, and we wondered whether he’d like to join us and be part of the Thomas Cook volunteer team! Find out more at www.thomascookchildrenscharity.com

Furthermore, if you happen to be one the world’s Thomas (or Thomasina!) Cooks – write to us with your birthday and wait and see what happens next…

Within a day, the company’s comment had more than 200 likes. But it also had some negative comments, such as “I’d much rather a Paris trip than a guit trip” and “Nothing against the charity, but trying to use it to cover up a huge PR mistake may actually be worse than the first offense.”

Such is the Wild West of social media.

 
 
Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill is a London-based reporter for Tnooz. He's also a regular contributor to BBC Travel.

Follow him on Twitter, Google+, and his personal site .

 

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  1. Lee

    A really interesting article and one that caught my attention straight away.
    I actually worked for Thomas Cook (Airlines) for fourteen years and am not at all surprised by their reaction – in my experience it is typical. They are not a company that encourages free-thinking or innovation, in fact, (most) senior management feel positively threatened by bright pro-active individuals. It’s a real shame as it’s a great company but despite quite a few management changes of late, the same old-fashioned, chain-of-command ethos remains.

    As Sam Daams said, this should have been a no-brainer – I’m sure a couple of hundred quid would have brought them loads of much-needed positive publicity – but I can well image the hoops that the TC social media person would have had to jump through to bring this to the attention of someone who *might* be able to do something about it. You just need to take a look at the Thomas Cook website and Twitter account to see how behind the times they are. I would like to think that this PR fail might bring some positive changes – but I very much doubt it.

     
  2. Ryan

    Wow, they really put the ass in Thomass Cook.

     
  3. Michael

    This is guerilla marketing at its best! I can understand why Thomas Cook would have been reluctant to give away a free trip as I’m sure they wouldn’t want a hundred more guys with the name Thomas Cook demanding the same deal….. but I still feel they could have gained some good PR by offering the weekend.

    On the other hand lowcostholidays had no risk here and everything to gain as there is no way that they would appear obligated to anyone else trying to cash in.

    If I were lowcostholidays I would sign this guy up as a spokesperson ASAP. Imagine running an ad campaign where Thomas Cook is promoting your product. I can definitely think of some interesting ways to leverage it.

     
  4. Alex Kremer

    The interesting thing about this is marketers being smart enough to determine the exception from the norm. Of course TC wouldn’t just let me go on a free holiday by asking on FB. But the fact that this was a story with legs should’ve been noticeable by the people managing the FB page. If it wasn’t, they don’t read the likes of Reddit enough.

     
    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Excellent point: What a company should be paying for is judgment and good instincts.

       
  5. Thomas Cook

    I had no idea it would blow up like this. I just thought it was quite an amusing story and shared. The power of social media.

    I really hope no one got into any trouble over this.

     
  6. Nicolas Hauviller

    First, nice article.
    I understand that Lowcosthollidays hires smart Community Managers. However
    we cannot blame Thomas Cook for its way to handle this Facebook post from “Thomas Cook” and the subsequent « crisis » .
    When you are talking about Thomas Cook Group, you are talking about more than 31 000 employees (2010 figures from Wikipedia) whereas lowcosthollidays has about 150 staff.
    Difficult to fight in the Social Media arena in such cases as the decision processes, press relationship management, community management may be so different between the 2 companies.
    It does not mean that Thomas Cook UK did things right but in my oppinion, this is probably becoming a nightmare to manage things properly (with Social Media) when you are offering B2C services.
    Anyway, for the ones who claim that Social Media Influence (and the associated services like Klout) are useless for end consummers… we have one proof showing that this is not the case.

     
    • antoinegrillon

      Klout and Social Media Influence?! The buzz really started via the Reddit community catching the news and pushing it to the front page, not with this Thomas Cook having any influence whatsoever. As for the relationship between the size of an organization and their efficiency in terms of Social Media, decision processes and reacting quickly enough, I recommend you to read the following article by @jowyang regarding the different organizational approaches to Social Media in large organizations: http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/04/15/framework-and-matrix-the-five-ways-companies-organize-for-social-business/) Thomas Cook is certainly not in the Dandelion model and still has a top-down approach to things, I believe.

      It all comes down to control vs. providing the framework / tools / structure to allow employees to take the right decisions whenever needed (cf. Zappos and their approach to Customer Service and how it allowed them to grow their business thanks to word-of-mouth: http://www.sitepoint.com/how-zappos-does-customer-service-and-company-culture/)

      Best regards,

      Antoine

       
    • Sam Daams

      I disagree. We can blame Thomas Cook for having a structure that doesn’t let staff members see the benefit of reacting to the post differently. No matter how big you are, whoever monitors the social media channels needs to have access to someone who can approve spends ASAP. This is a no-brainer, regardless of the size of the org. Also consider that the relative cost for giving away a weekend in Paris for a larger organization is smaller than for the smaller one. Last but not least, we are talking about a blooming weekend in Paris. This would have cost Thomas Cook all of about 5 bucks to sort out.

      No, there is most certainly lots and lots we can blame TC for on this one… the big question is, now that they know that, will anything change? Doubtful.

       
      • antoinegrillon

        Unfortunately yes and even so there are 100s of examples out there, many organizations are still drowning before learning how to swim… Lots of companies really started taking Social Business as a serious matter when they got burnt instead of proactively approaching the subject.

        Even so we are in 2012, we can expect this to happen again and again as many businesses lack internal champions (With enough business experience and recognition) to drive such matters and “sell” this to the upper management (It is a P&L question for many senior managers who see Social as being Facebook only and take a pure ROI approach vs. the potential cost of not investing in it OR / AND Let’s be on Facebook because it’s trendy instead of stepping back a bit and properly think about it (cf. the P.O.S.T methodology: http://forrester.typepad.com/groundswell/2007/12/the-post-method.html).

        It is “amusing” though to have such discussions when Internet, by definition, IS social!

         
  7. Ashvin

    Charlotte Hunt for Social Marketer of the Year :) I Hope low cost holidays give her a pay rise the equivalent of their marketing spend.. One simple initiative by an employee has given them more publicity / good than their marketing budget ten fold :)

     
  8. Stuart

    What a complete bunch of chancers. Did make me smile though

     
  9. antoinegrillon

    A great example of inspiration vs. control & reactive vs. proactive when it relates to Social Media.

     
    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Thanks for your comment. I’m curious how experts will use Thomas Cook’s reaction to the bad publicity as a case study. What advice would experts give to the person stuck with the backlash? I feel bad for the guy.

      Sean

       
      • antoinegrillon

        There are many approaches to it but in such conditions, with a competing company getting all the credit, it makes it quite complex to approach and even harder to give you an answer out of the blue. The fact that the trip was publicly shared almost a year after the actually exchange between the 2 Thomas Cook doesn’t help neither.

        First thing first, it took them way to long to react. What’s certain is that they need to review their Social Media monitoring processes, probably have a less “traditional” approach to customer service (cf. my post about Zappos below)

        However, a potential option (And the one about their charity trip is not the answer…) could be to aggregate the best comments about the situation (Such as I got Thomas Crooked and co) and invite their authors to a trip or something similar to try to inflect their image towards something more open and “relax”… Better take the situation with humor, it is often what works best. To be honest, I do not know enough about this company to be sure that such an approach wouldn’t impact negatively their reputation with their historic clients.

        Question remains: Were the people spreading the information in the target market of the brand or not…?

         
 
 

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