Now we're talking

Now we're talking
In an age where technology rules, the most basic human instinct is still the need to talk.

Magazine Layout

In an age where technology rules, the most basic human instinct is still the need to talk

See also: Showcase is an advertising supplement created by Idealog. For information on upcoming Showcases call Vernene Medcalf on 09 360-5700 or 021 628-200 or email vernene@

Communication is the currency of human existence; verbal interaction is hard-wired into our psyche. Without it, we retreat into isolation. But with the right kind of conversation, we flourish.

And business is no different. Auckland-based digital engagement specialist Affinity ID has been working at the art of digital conversation for more than ten years. During that time, the Affinity team has learned a thing or two about what makes customers tick.

For example, Affinity understands that the same technology that threatens to de-personalise our world actually creates the most meaningful conversations; and that technology enables us to listen more carefully. It’s also discovered how to pinpoint what customers do, why they do it and what they’re likely to do next. “We’d like to say it’s not rocket science,” says co-founder and director Angela Day, “but actually it is pretty complex.”

Putting the science meets-art-meetspsychology stuff to one side, Affinity ID’s expertise lies in getting businesses and their customers talking.

“Some companies have never understood the importance of engaging with their customers,” explains Day. “Sometimes they talk too much— confusing making a noise with saying stuff that actually matters.”

Well connected

Then there are those that already engage meaningfully with their customers, but continually strive to do it better—like Air New Zealand.

Its most important customers are members of the AirpointsTM frequent flyer programme. But, as can happen in any large, fast-moving company, the pace of change can create backwaters where things get left to tick over, while the rest of the business surges on regardless.

In recent years, Air New Zealand has been busy driving advances within areas such as flight and airport experiences, online booking and even the trialling of new fuels. But not every part of the business has enjoyed transformational attention all at once.

On the Airpoints front, a bi-monthly email newsletter was working well at carrying airline updates, Airpoints member balances and generating seat sales. But, reflecting Air New Zealand’s culture of innovation, the airline’s loyalty team recognised it could do more.

“We sat down with Air New Zealand and together set about reinvigorating the relationship with Airpoints members,” says Affinity ID’s co-founder and fellow director Geoff Cooper. “We looked at the diversity of the audience. While all were Airpoints members, their travel experiences were worlds apart—literally.”

Some were blasé corporate road warriors circling the globe regularly, while others were first-time flyers. Their understanding of the Airpoints programme also differed widely, and they lived all over the world.

Despite the customer complexity and the commercial drivers, Affinity ID knew that the key was to help Airpoints members get the most out of their airline relationship and build loyalty.

Magazine Layout

“We needed to capture their interest, inspire a desire to travel and engage them, through Airpoints, to get them flying. We needed to add value and deliver interesting, relevant information that couldn’t be gained elsewhere,” says Cooper.

“So we turned to the web and transformed a functional email into a rich, interactive communication hub, published magazine-style online each month.”

Working alongside the loyalty team, in the past nine months Affinity ID has produced more than 350 pages of exclusive content, drawing Airpoints members into an average of more than 14 minutes online reading time and lifting online interaction by 450 percent.

“We brought people together to talk about real travel experiences ‘with a twist’ by persuading well-known New Zealanders to share their experiences in a way that reached everyone.”

As a result, Airpoints members were able to discover Neil Finn’s muchloved curiosity shop in the heart of New York, tuck into Sunday lunch at Peter Gordon’s favourite London cafe and escape Tokyo’s traffic with John Kirwan and his kids for a breath of fresh air.

Artist Dick Frizzell took them through the Hawke’s Bay back country, Trelise Cooper revealed her idea of Australian sophistication circa 1975 at the Newcastle RSL Club, and Oscar Kightley shot the Samoan breeze over a beer or three.

Human, entertaining and engaging—these personal travel stories mixed with travel tips and hidden gems across 27 destinations in New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific, Asia, America and Europe were a hit.

Around these destinational anchors, Affinity ID wove news of unique Kiwi products deserving a boost— highlighting companies that shared Air New Zealand’s passion for innovation and great design.

The company also entwined airline updates, Airpoints partner news and real-life member experiences, peppered with giveaways and special offers. And it served it up each month with creative flair - in a vibrant, engaging magazine customised for the New Zealand, Australian and UK markets.

As a measure of how well this creative mix has inspired members to travel, direct sales have doubled from these communications, improving revenue from each individual piece of communication by 18 percent and delivering an ROI of 1,051 percent.

Not only that, but 63 percent of customers opened their monthly Airpoints magazine email (an improvement of 19 percent on the previous campaign) and 72 percent have now clicked through to explore the richer content, up by 546 percent.

The art of conversation, it seems, has taken flight.

For more information, visit

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).