Air Transport World

Sending the right signal. (airline advertising)

Sending the right signal There's a nonsensical childhood riddle that goes: "What is the difference between a duck?" The answer is: "One of its legs is alike." In other words, when you get to the basic duck, everything's alike.

It's the same with airlines. All airlines use airplanes that are the same cylindrical shape and carry the same finite number of passengers. There is also no way an airline can provide a service so unique that someone else can't copy it.

Which is why an airline, to be successful, has to have an image that will create, and hold, a strong share of the market. And its advertising has to be able to promote that image, so that the passenger knows that this airline will meet his, or her, needs better than any other airline.

"Head, heart, pocket"

The key to creating an image that, in turn, will create a loyal passenger lies in the idea of "head, heart, pocket," according to Peter Isdell-Carpenter, senior vice president of London-based Young & Rubican Europe advertising agency. At a conference on marketing perspectives for airlines of the future, Isdell-Carpenter said that to increase passenger numbers, an airline needs to create a market rather than simply try to increase a shre in the current market--a share-growth mentality tends to focus only on product or price, i.e., head or pocket. "The market-creation approach brings in the heart as well and that's where real marketing power can be generated," he said. Y&R was rated 1990 agency of the year by Media & Marketing Europe. It handled TWA until late last year.

In other words, every airline has to have a decent product so the customer can choose logically, i.e., head, to fly on it. It must depart at an appropriate time, fly to the right destination, serve an adequate meal and have reasonably comfortable seats. It also must be reasonably priced i.e., pocket, to complete with the other carriers.

The key to creating loyal passengers, then, is to give people something that makes them feel good, i.e., heart. People will pay a little bit more, or forgive a slipup in service, if they feel good about the airline. But if they don't, it only takes a slight delay in takeoff, a single bad meal or grouchy flight attendant, or a not heavily discounted fare, to lose the customer.

Thus, while consumers may respect the qualify of a product, the real edge is in their strength of feeling toward it as a "brand," Isdell-Carpenter said.

In a "recognition" survey of 6,000 international brand names conducted by Landor Associates of San Francisco, the No. 1 name worldwide is Coca-Cola, or Coke. It is no more or less expensive than its competition and whether it tastes better is totally subjective. Coke is No. 1 because people feel good about it. The advertising says it tastes good--and therefore, it does.

And therein lies the tale. The key to airline advertising is to create a product that people will feel good about, then let them know that they will feel good about it, then make them feel good when they try it. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.