How we made the Avocard

I love it when our Virgin teams get creative when coming up with new campaigns to support our customers. Our current Spotlight campaign is all about celebrating how play is in our DNA, and Virgin Trains West Coast’s recent #Avocard definitely fits the bill.

As so many millennials were unable to get their hands on the 26-30 railcard, the team wanted to offer a temporary alternative railcard. All you had to do was bring your ID and an avocado with you to get a third off your fare. While this idea didn’t please everyone, it certainly made many people smile and helped lots of young travellers.

I thought you might be interested in the process behind the idea. The team shared the email thread with me, where you can see the original idea from the social team, and how the communications and management teams got involved, confused, and on board too. Like the #Avocard itself, this definitely made me smile! Happily, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Hope you enjoy:

From: Virgin Trains social media person

Hi. The 26 to 30 aka Millennial Railcard has been trending on Twitter today, due to high demand crashing the website. There has also been a fair bit of pick-up from the media, so we thought why not make our own ‘temporary’ Millennial Railcard? …introducing the #Avocard!

Couldn’t get your hands on an official Millennial Railcard? No problem! 26 to 30 year olds need simply bring an avocado along when they buy their Virgin Trains West Coast ticket, and they’ll be entitled to the same discount as with the official Millennial Railcard. We’ll be running this fun offer for a week. See attached our internal brief to staff for all the nitty gritty details. We are planning to go live in the next 15 minutes. Give me a call if you need to 😉

From: Virgin Group digital person

Hi. Adding the comms team, happy to support if they’re happy with it. May get a small backlash but fun idea.

From: Virgin Trains social media person

Yes, we definitely gave that some thought, it’s a sensitive topic. But we feel we’re on the side of millennials in this case, and don’t see too much of a reputational risk from this – we’re giving them a discount they otherwise wouldn’t get. We’re poking fun at those who criticise millennials for their avocado consumption, and doing something nice for this much-maligned demographic 😉

From: Virgin Trains communications person

I like this – do we need to think about what we’re doing with the avocados once they’re done? Don’t want to be encouraging food waste?

From: A second Virgin Trains communications person

My understanding is the avocado wouldn’t be handed over – it would be shown as you would the railcard.

From: Virgin Trains social media person

Thank you! Yes that’s right - we won’t be taking the avocados. It’s a zero waste railcard as you can snack on it after use ;)

From: Virgin Trains Management person

The avocard is just a card like a railcard. Nothing to do with food. It shouldn’t be seen as a joke. It’s a practical way to get around the issues with the website and will give us some useful information. 

From: Virgin Trains social media person

Just double checking that you know we’re asking people to bring an actual avocado to the station to get the discount? We’ve branded it the #Avocard but it is an actual avocado… They won’t need to give this to staff, simply show it to them as they would an actual railcard.

From: A second Virgin Trains Management person

I think if we do this we have to with something a bit more environmentally friendly than an avo?

From: Second Virgin Trains communications person

We can insert a line in the news release along the lines of ‘And after buying their tickets, the #avocard can be enjoyed by our passengers as a healthy snack!’ That would make clear they’re not disposable.

From: Virgin Trains Management person

I am not sure why we are complicating this so much. Why not just say bring the avocard or photo ID and you will get the discount?

From: Second Virgin Trains Management person

I prefer that... what’s happens if I turn up with an avo !?!

From: Virgin Trains social media person

From a news and social perspective, the quirky nature of the stunt is likely to cut through more. The avocado IS the railcard, but you can eat it afterwards, so we won’t be encouraging waste. And most millennials would likely already have at least one avocado in their house anyway 😉

From: Second Virgin Trains communications person

Yes – there is no card! Just the fruit! It’s a bit of fun.

From: : Virgin Trains Management person

So how do we know if they are 26-30?

From: Virgin Trains communications person

They have to bring photo ID.

From: Virgin Trains social media person

All good to go everybody?

From: Virgin Trains communications person

Yes, pls.

From: Second Virgin Trains Management person

Shouldn’t we do this just with the card and make the avo optional?

From: Virgin Trains communications person

THERE IS NO CARD! There is only the avocado. If we did have a card, it obviously wouldn’t be as fun – plus it would take us time to produce this, distribute to customers etc.

From: Second Virgin Trains Management person

Sorry being thick... what is the photo id and can’t we just use that?

From: Virgin Trains communications person

The photo ID is just to prove they’re 26-30. We could just use that with no avocado, but obviously wouldn’t be as fun!

From: Second Virgin Trains Management person

That works.... I’ll bring my son’s fake id tomorrow ( and no avo 🌱🌿🌱😊😊)

 

The #Avocard is launched, to much amusement on social and cheer from (most) millennials at rail stations:

From: Virgin Trains communications person

Hi - thought you’d like to know that Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw did a slot on the avocado story this morning, saying how mad it was (in a good way!) – they called up cafes and asked if they’d accept the fruit as part payment… Quite a long slot and lots of positive coverage!

 From: Second Virgin Trains Management person

Well done to everyone.  How wrong can I be!

From: Virgin Trains communications person

Also – the World Avocado Organisation has been in touch wanting to do more! Yes, there is such an organisation.

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