American Airlines launches Facebook widget to collect marketing info

Here’s an interesting tale of how a large company is using a widget to siphon marketing information out of consumers. American Airlines is has apparently launched a new market research tool “disguised as a Facebook widget,” according to MediaPost. (For more info, you might also check out AA’s press release on the subject.) The widget, which AA calls Travel Bag, lets Facebook friends share travel preferences and tips.  As users give away information on their likes and dislikes, AA hopes to use the information to serve up targeted marketing messages to the widget’s users.  (For example, users who shared information on Broadway venues and Times Square hotels might get a coupon on flights to New York City, along with a discount coupon.)

Interestingly, AA isn’t just relying on viral dissemination to get users onto Travel Bag; it’s actually advertising the widget within Hotmail.com and Windows Messenger, plus social bookmarking sites like Digg. Meanwhile, it’s also planning to set the widget loose on other social networking sites.  (Interestingly, however, it’s not advertising the widget on its front page. Wonder why?)

To me, if you’re having to advertise a widget, it stops being what Facebook widgets are (utilities) and starts being something else–call it an “adget” or widget-based advertising vehicle. But still, AA does seem to basically “get it” when it comes to encouraging conversations and sharing useful information. I’m keeping a close eye on this one.

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