Air Transport World

Building a brand: logos and liveries are a small part of the process.(MARKETING)

BUILDING A BASE OF CUSTOMERS and maintaining brand loyalty have become increasingly difficult for traditional network airlines. The rise of large and well-capitalized low-cost carriers, the emergence of the Internet as an anonymous one-stop shopping mall for travel and the growing absence of person-to-person contact between an airline and its customers are complicating life for those trying to promote and maintain a distinctive brand.

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Just what constitutes a brand? "The brand is built on all of the different elements that go into the [customer] experience," Forrester Research VP Henry Harteveldt tells ATW. "The name and the logo are the least important things. You have to have a product, a set of standards and you have to deliver and execute consistently. You know who your customer is and who your customer is not. And be unapologetic in who you serve. The branding is a function of the product, the reliability."

This is a tall order for airlines that are besieged on all sides, he concedes. Over the past few years, legacy carriers have found branding particularly challenging as they have reduced onboard amenities and begun charging for services previously included in the ticket price, such as food and checked baggage, to offset rising fuel costs. But, he says, "It probably matters now more than any time in the immediate past . …

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