“So the crew fly on with no thought that they are in motion. Like night over the sea, they are very far from the earth, from towns, from trees. The motors fill the lighted chamber with a quiver that changes its substance. The clock ticks on. The dials, the radio lamps, the various hands and needles go through their invisible alchemy. From second to second these mysterious stirrings, a few muffled words, a concentrated tenseness, contribute to the end result. And when the hour is at hand the pilot may glue his forehead to the window with perfect assurance. Out of oblivion the gold has been smelted.”
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939.
“On January 1st, 1914, Abram C. Pheil, former mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, made a decision that would change the world – to become the first ever paying passenger on a commercial flight.
Since that historic moment 100 years ago, commercial aviation has transformed our lives. It has re-united loved ones, connected cultures, expanded minds, opened up markets, saved lives, and allowed people worldwide to dream of a bigger, brighter future and turn it into a reality.
"Today, over 3 billion passengers and 50 million tonnes of cargo reach their destination through the wonder of flight every year, supporting over 57 million jobs and $2.2 trillion in economic activity.” – IATA.
100 years have passed since that first flight, and today it seems an everyday thing. Going abroad for a meeting with a client, visiting a relative, or just enjoying a few days off at some amazing place seems to be something we take for granted without stopping to ponder the engineering marvels that allow our feet to take off the ground.
According to Deloitte, airlines, along with banks, are the providers of services less loved by consumers around the world. Still, for some people, this is a necessary evil in order to sustain the global economy by making agreements and business transactions. In addition to this conception, most people agree that flying is stressful. Anyone who has done so, regardless of the joy of traveling and visiting new places, has experienced eternal and tedious waits at airport halls; some others, the uncertainty of delays, connections and lost luggage, not to mention security issues, all of which have become a sensitive matter in recent months.
So how do airlines deal with this bad reputation and figure out a way to seduce travelers around the world? The answer is in marketing - good marketing - which some brands have taken to new heights, whilst other companies suffer vertigo.
Here are some of the best practices by major airlines today:
Passenger experience as cornerstone
Finding the way to avoid or minimize bad experiences at all costs is what keeps airline marketers awake at night. They have as a number one priority to provide the most comfortable and relaxing journey as possible, by reducing passenger’s stress and allowing them to be productive at the same time. In order to achieve this goal, airlines make major investments in creating home-like spaces and in-flight offices that satisfy all user’s needs.
Staying tuned to the connected traveler
As part of the evolutionary process of communication, today’s traveler is connected 24/7. In the aviation industry, this matter is unavoidable if companies want to maintain continuous contact with their passengers. In order to gain customers’ preference, airlines need to be able to answer questions, inform, entertain, and allow users to communicate and interact with others through their mobile devices.
Entertain and conquer
Few things can be as tedious as a long, boring trip. From new and creative ways to ensure passenger’s safety (as done by companies like Air New Zealand, United, Virgin America, TAP, SWA and Delta), to concerts aboard, fashion shows, and significant investments in proper and modern IFE (In Flight Entertainment) technologies, the commercial aviation industry has turn its attention to innovative and out of the box practices in order to make long trips more enjoyable to its customers. Certainly, it pays off!
You’ll know them by their idols
Airlines such as Emirates, Turkish, Qatar, British Airways have harnessed the power of linking their brand with the most popular sport legends and teams today. Emirates is particularly one of “FIFA’s major partners, which reportedly pays some $25-50 million per year, along with brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai Motor Group, Sony and Visa”. – Forbes.
Design, design, design
Good design means good business and marketers know it. A well distributed and elegant cabin design, as well as a unique branded livery, can make the aircraft itself such a powerful tool to communicate, create brand awareness and seduce passengers. On the other hand, designing a sophisticated airport lounge and making the waiting process much more comfortable has given outstanding results to many airlines that realize the profitable benefit of great design.
Down to Earth
But not all strategies take place in the sky. When it comes to creative terrestrial activations, airlines have demonstrated that they have mastered the art of inviting, surprising, informing, and even being capable of making people believe in miracles.
Social networks are friends
As every marketer knows, social media can be a double-edged sword, and no company, especially large ones, is exempt from making a slip that unleashes a crisis, in which case, diffusion is maximized. Nevertheless, there are always great opportunities to transform a specific or fortuitous event into a smart move for the brand, as demonstrated by Aeromexico’s clever answer to KLM’s tweet and the emotive Lufthansa’s tweet, all during the last FIFA’s World Cup.
Innovate or die
Peter Drucker said: “Business has only two functions: marketing and innovation”. And that has become airlines’ credo during the last 100 years. From aircraft manufacturers, such as Boeing and Airbus, to in flight services and food suppliers, the entire chain of value has an extreme approach to the generation of high-end products and services based on passenger needs and mega trends, which makes air travel industry a benchmark of luxury, creativity and customer experience.
No doubt that the aviation industry can be a great source of inspiration for marketers in other industries since it provides an example of continuous innovation and out of the box thinking while creating memorable experiences for those who appreciate the everyday miracle of air travel.