Delta Offered Customers a Chance to Buy a Gift Card Made From an Old DC-9 Aircraft. It Sold Out in Minutes


On Wednesday morning, Delta Air Lines sent out an email with a simple offer. Customers who spent $500 on gift cards would get an incredible bonus–a free $50 gift card as a thank you. Except, the bonus wasn’t really about the $50. The actual bonus was the fact that the extra gift card was made of aluminum from a retired DC-9 aircraft. 

The email showed up in my inbox around 9:30 a.m. EST. By 10:15 a.m., all the bonus gift cards were sold out. 

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Of course, the fact that the gift cards sold out so quickly isn’t really a surprise: If you’re the kind of person who is inclined to spend $500 on a Delta gift card, the fact that you can get a bonus card made from a retired airplane is exactly the sort of thing to make you stop what you’re doing and hand over your money.

Based on the speed at which the bonus gift cards disappeared, it seems that there were quite a few people happy to do just that. It’s not about the gift card, it’s about the novelty and the experience. As a result, not only did the company generate more than $500,000 in incremental revenue by sending out one email on a Wednesday morning, but the goodwill it earned with customers goes far beyond that. 

The thing is, every business can do the same thing. By that, I mean that every business can focus on figuring out how to create novelty and experiences. Even though the gift card only has a face value of $50, the real value is the connection to a feeling people have when they think about travel. Even if you’ve never flown on a DC-9, there’s a good chance that it brings back a sense of nostalgia for a time when travel was a little less about cramming people into long metal tubes, and a little more about adventure and wonder.

The good news is, you don’t need a fleet of retired aircraft at your disposal to create that same feeling for your customers. Finding DC-9’s to turn into gift cards is probably not worth your while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a similar experience for your biggest fans. 

You see, Delta isn’t the first company to offer a bonus if you buy gift cards. Restaurants do this all the time. If you buy a $50 gift card, they’ll give you an extra $15 to spend, a certificate redeemable for a free appetizer, or something trivial. 

The difference is the length to which Delta went to create an experience that would resonate with its biggest fans. No one who bought a $500 gift card for this offer cares about getting an extra $50. In fact, the extra gift card could have been worth $5 and it still would have sold out in minutes. 

Most companies aren’t willing to be creative and put forth the effort to turn buying a gift card into an experience. But yours should because it’s the best definition of a win-win that you can imagine. You generate revenue for your business, while also delighting your customers.

When you go out of your way to delight your customers, you earn back far more than the effort. As an example, Delta could have charged for the cards and people still would have bought them. It could have turned them into luggage tags and sold them at a premium. Instead, it decided to use the opportunity to delight its biggest fans. Even if it looks different, that’s absolutely something every business can, and should, do. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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