Reaching New Heights: How Airline Marketers Seduce Travelers

“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.

Fly Emirates

Fly Emirate

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.

Design Livery

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.

Infographic Airline Marketing


The History of Typography – An Animated Short

 “Typography is the craft of endowing human language with a durable visual form.”

- Robert Bringhurst, Canadian typographer and author of "The Elements of Typographic Style."


An animated short on the history of fonts and typography.
Created by Ben Barrett-Forrest
© Forrest Media - 2013

The legacy of Massimo Vignelli: a great master, a great friend. (By Armando Milani)

The world of design has lost a timeless icon. A bold spirit with a profound, abiding commitment to elegance and simplicity. Massimo Vignelli, known for his work on brands such as American Airlines, Bloomingdale's, IBM, the New York Metro System and many others, passed away at the age of 83. Esteemed designer, Armando Milani, shares a heartfelt memoir on his colleague and friend with More Than Branding. 

Vignelli and Milani oversee a project during a workshop at the Altos de Chavón School of Design.

Vignelli and Milani oversee a project during a workshop at The Altos de Chavón School of Design. (2006)

Massimo Vignelli has flown away with his charge of creativity, passion and dignity. I will always remember him as an extremely professional designer, a perfectionist with a big heart. He believed in timeless design, refusing any ephemeral fashion. He used so say to his students "if you design it right, it will last forever". He was like a lighthouse fighting the darkness of ignorance and bad taste.

Massimo succeeded in adapting his work to the needs of his clients, and with great coherence he never betrayed the principles of his minimalist design, always finding a subtle equilibrium between form and contents. His approach was to articulate a basic geometry in all his projects, translating it into visual pleasure, making the intangible tangible.

Massimo introduced the aesthetics of European Modernism to American graphic design. He was link to the rationalism of Mies van der Rohe, influencing the way we look at things by starting from a rational position, and choosing every solution for a precise reason. With basic grids, only six typefaces and primary colors he was able to invent different solutions for every problem, and they were always elegant and appropriate.

Among his more renowned works of graphic design, I recall the posters for the Piccolo Teatro di Milano, the logos for Bloomingdale’s and American Airlines, the image for Knoll Furniture, the map for the New York City Subway, and the graphics program for the United States National Park.

As a product and interior designer, among other projects Massimo designed the Divano Saratoga, the interior of St. Peter’s Church in New York, the Heller line of plastic ware.  His book "Canon" was widely distributed around the world.

But this is just a small list of his endless and fantastic creative productions.

When working on projects of my own, I would often wonder what Massimo would have thought about a particular idea, and from time to time I would send him my designs and ask for his advice. Massimo was always very generous with his time, and always replied with various suggestions or appreciations. When criticizing a project he was direct, logic and persuasive. His thoughts and ideas were always coherent, and his advice invaluable.

Massimo was a master of self-promotion, he knew how to sell and persuade a client, helped greatly by his wife Lella. On one occasion, I recall a competition for a corporate identity that he was participating in, along with two other important design studios in New York. When he presented his work he told the client "we are all very good, you could choose between us with your eyes closed… but if you open them, you will choose us."

He used to say that we designers should behave like doctors, suggesting to our clients to do what they need, not to do what they want.

Massimo was a tireless organizer, always pondering over new projects. I remember various AGI meetings where he was president, such as in Amsterdam, Amalfi, and Tokyo. Through his humor, enthusiasm, and distinctive elegance he communicated an international and an Italian flavor. Massimo was an Italian that held the image of Italy high around the entire world.

He used to say that he would like to design the corporate identity for the Vatican, keeping the logo, but redesigning all the rest. It was interesting to note the contrast between his sparkling personality and sense of humor and the meticulous strictness of his design.

I had the opportunity to teach with Massimo at various workshops and seminars around the world and I always appreciated the methodology, discipline and passion for design that he was able to communicate to his students. Roger Remington, director of the Vignelli Center in Rochester, said "as we move forward at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, our task is to extend his legacy of excellence in everything we accomplish.”

Massimo and Lella Vignelli, Roger Remington and Milani among others at the Moulin des Trois Arcs, Provence.

Massimo and Lella Vignelli, Roger Remington and Milani among others at the Moulin des Trois Arcs, Provence.

Collaborating with Massimo for so many years has been a privilege and a great pleasure. He was a grand master of design and a real friend, I will miss him very much and for me he will always be by our side. He wrote a book about his work "Vignelli from the A to the Z" but for us his Z will be endless.

- Armando Milani

Watch Vignelli's recent interview on More Than Branding.

Photo credits: The Altos de Chavón School of Design and Armando Milani.

Special thanks to Armando Milani for his beautiful words.