Mixed fortunes for airlines in first online word-of-mouth study

Virgin Atlantic, BMI and EasyJet have emerged the strongest brands in a pioneering study to measure the impact of online word-of-mouth.

The trio came ahead of well ahead of British Airways and Ryanair – both of which were found to have poor reputations online – in the Kaizo Advocacy Index.

The latest in the series of investigations into consumer sectors monitored content on Google’s Search, News, Blogs and Groups channels to gather positive and negative reaction by consumers for each airline.

Virgin Atlantic scored 68% by ‘promoters’, 30% by ‘passives’ and just 3% by ‘detractors’, giving it an overall index figure in the study of 65.

BMI and Easyjet also achieved what Kaizo deemed a positive online reputation with 48 and 25 respectively.

However British Airways managed to attract a 27% detractor rate, giving it an overall index of -6.

Ryanair’s 40% detractor rate led to a final index figure of -20.

The study remarked: “The budget airline Ryanair’s online reputation is being impacted negatively by various controversies including one over an advertisement banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, as well as one involving a fee for wheelchairs brought onto any aircraft.

“Despite coverage of Ryanair’s contributions to certain local economies, the overwhelming content on the web bad-mouthed Ryanair’s general policies that have been said to put profits as priority, with little or no concern for the customer.”

On Virgin Atlantic, the winner in the airline category, the study said: “Sir Richard Branson seems to be successfully leveraging consumer trends, such as sustainability issues.

“His announced goals to use biofuels for cars and buses by the start of the next decade and to begin flying jet planes on renewable fuel early next year, created a great amount of favourable online buzz.”

Other brands which performed well in the study included Kellogg’s, Symbian and mobile phone operators 3 and O2.

Kaizo managing director Rhodri Harris said: “Research consistently shows that personal recommendations – both positive and negative hold more power than any other kind of marketing influence.

“While organisations do not have control over what people say, with the world of Web 2.0 they do have a channel to influence conversations among people.”

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