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Why Willa is flying influencers from LA to Coachella

The elaborate marketing stunt from the payment and invoice company was created to drive awareness, consideration, and “adoption of our service,” its co-founder told us.
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Willa

· 4 min read

Unlike Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, influencers haven’t made their way to space (yet). But they are boarding private planes—complete with champagne brunches, hangover-recovery IV drips, and other photo ops rivaling those fake private jet sets.

And, like most influencer antics, it’s all happening on another company’s dime. Willa, a payment and invoice company specializing in getting creators and influencers paid faster, recently announced Willa Air, an “airline” exclusively for the influencer set.

It, of course, isn’t an airline by traditional definition. The company, which was started in March 2020, is chartering a private plane with Monarch Air Group (and decking it out in Willa branding) to fly a select group of 12 creators from LA to Coachella for free.

a promo image for Willa Air

Willa

For now, it’s just those two flights. But Willa’s co-founder and CMO, Aron Levin, told Marketing Brew that if all goes well, Willa Air will continue for other influencer-magnet events like Fashion Week.

“Coachella is the influencer Olympics,” Levin told Marketing Brew. According to Levin, $30 million will exchange hands between creators and brands during the festival, and Willa estimates more than 6,000 influencers will attend.

Sure, Willa Air might not technically be an airline. But Willa hopes the stunt will help it stand out in the increasingly crowded creator economy.

Flying high

According to Levin, Willa Air was partly designed to drive sign-ups for its app: He told us that while any creator (you have to submit your social media profiles in the application) can apply for the flight, those who use Willa’s payment services will move up the list. He admitted that having a large following also increases the odds of getting on, but said it’s equally important for Willa to have a diverse group of creators on board.

As of Friday, Levin said more than 2,000 influencers and creators had applied for a ticket. Willa currently has more than 10,000 freelancers and creators registered on its app, he said.

a promo image for Willa Air

Willa

Willa plans on using its marketing budget to fund the free flights, per Levin. That budget, he said, comes from the company’s $21 million in venture-capital funding. “From the ROI standpoint, and how we think about this as an investment, it’s a very low price to pay to capture the attention of our audience while also doing something that’s actually helpful,” Levin explained. He added that the goal of this campaign is to drive awareness, consideration, and “adoption of our service” among the thousands of influencers Levin believes will attend Coachella this year.

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He didn’t provide exact figures around how much, exactly, Willa Air costs to operate, but he joked that it’s “a lot cheaper” than getting a sports arena named after the company or doing a Super Bowl commercial.

Made you some content

While the creators on board Willa Air aren’t obligated to post, Levin said the entire flight experience was designed so they’d naturally want to tell their followers about it—because who among us hasn’t shamelessly posted a champagne boomerang cheers to their Instagram story?

That’s why it involves a champagne breakfast before the flight out, recovery IVs for hangovers, massages, and a five-day juice cleanse after the party’s over.

“It’s an opportunity for these content creators to create more interesting content, not just at the festival, but [on] the journey to get there itself,” he explained.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and advisor, and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told us that although Willa Air could potentially get in trouble with the Department of Transportation for calling itself an airline, it’s still a solid stunt marketing effort.

He explained that, in a crowded space, or “frankly, something as dull as invoicing,” it’s great for companies to hunt for novel promotion tactics like this one. “They know who their target is—Willa’s targeting content creators. This is a very novel, very creative way to break through marketing clutter, probably get a ton of PR in the process, and elevate awareness of their brand and business among the target audience” Harteveldt said.

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