KLM blue houses and listening to a tweet

by Stan Phelps

in purple goldfish project

This little extra flies into the Purple Goldfish Project

#773 in the Project was submitted via e-mail by Gene Willis:

klm delft blue house“KLM gives Delft Blue Houses to customers who fly business class”

Here is a little additional background on the history of the houses courtesy of Theo Kiewiet:

The KLM houses are presents to travelers a board KLM flights in Business and Royal Class. They have been presented over a long period and thus have become collector items. There are currently over 90 different types which are each individually numbered in order of release.

There is Dutch Genever, 35% alcohol, in the houses, which are in fact bottles with a cork and seal on top. Sometimes the genever has been drunk but mostly the empty bottles were empty all along. On flights to some countries with strict alcohol restrictions empty houses are presented. On some of the houses a sticker explains this by referring to customs regulations. Sometimes there is a cork and seal and sometimes there isn’t (and never was) on the empty bottles.

KLM started issuing these miniature bottles in 1952. Airlines were not allowed to give presents to their customers because of unfair competition. So, KLM had some Blue Delft houses made, and filled them with genever (gin). Then, of course, their competitors complained “KLM ís giving presents to their customers”. The KLM said “May we decide how we serve our drinks? Is their a law which tells me drinks have to be served in a glass?”… and so it all started. The KLM was founded in 1919. In 1993 there were 60 different houses issued. In 1994, when the KLM celebrated it’s 75 anniversary, they issued a total of 15 miniatures, bringing the total to 75 so that the number of houses would be the same as the age of the KLM, in fact house #75 is the former KLM head office.

Marketing Lagniappe Takeaway: One of ingredients of a purple goldfish is the idea of limited.  Give something that is unique and signature.  KLM nails this with the Delft Blue Houses.  The Gin inside is just a little added lagniappe.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra for good measure) – Check out this example of doing a little unexpected extra.  KLM respond to a tweet and organizes a flight to Miami one week earlier than scheduled. Throw in the Guinness World Record for highest altitude dance party for good measure.  Music to my ears:

Lagniappe defined: A marketing lagniappe, i.e. purple goldfish,  is any time a business goes above and beyond to provide a ‘little something extra’. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure.

How do you stand out in the sea of sameness? How do you win repeat customers and influence word of mouth? Are you Giving Little Unexpected Extras?

What’s Your GLUE?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nevil Ede April 28, 2011 at 5:24 am

Made a lot of trips to Schiphol via KLM in the last 20 years. Service on this airline has always been great with lots of little extras – however, “the little blue houses” were very cool – they also always made sure they brought a big selection on board too so you could avoid duplicates if you wanted.

Very deserving award.

2 Michele Price April 28, 2011 at 9:18 am


Loving your series on sharing great ways to wow your customers. These type of posts allow my creativity to soar.
How cool would it be if every company were able to tap in to their own Lagniappe?

3 Stan Phelps April 28, 2011 at 10:19 am

Thanks Michele. Glad you are enjoying the examples from the Project. I love how KLM utilized Twitter to listen and respond with their customers.
I too think it would be cool if companies started to focus more on the customer and less about the prospect. It’s my goal to change this paradigm. Helping companies create a signature added value is a small step in that direction.

4 Stan Phelps April 28, 2011 at 10:23 am

Thanks Nevil. KLM gets it. Here is another great example of providing little unexpected extras called KLM Surprise.

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