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Be The Brand Experience

Brand Experience: Focus on Airline Brands

There is one word that captures the problem with most airlines’ brand experience, which also suggests a solution for improving brand experience. That word is anxiety.

Airlines today create anxiety for their passengers at every stage of the experience.
Airline Brand Experience

Anxiety is created:
– by not knowing which airlines fly to which places.
– by rapidly changing dynamic route and fare models.
– by suspecting you may have overpaid for the flight.
– by learning that your “reward” miles can’t be used.
– by learning you have to stay a weekend day to reduce your fare.
– by feeling business travelers are being taken advantage of unfairly.
– by not understanding the relative comfort of different planes.
– by not knowing the time that may be required to pass through security.
– by the uncertain types of meals, snacks or amenities offered.
– by anticipation of over-filled planes and crammed seating.
– by potential delays in departures and missing connections.
– by not knowing if your luggage is overweight.
– by knowing that your luggage might get lost.
– by not knowing if and where you need to check in for your flight.
– by long, slow check-in lines and the fear of missing your flight.
– by last-minute changes in departure gates.
– by changes in equipment that invalidate your reserved seat.
– by “cattle call” boarding procedures.
– by trying to find space for carry-on luggage.
– by wondering, once boarded, if the plane will actually take off.
– by uncertain timing of in-flight drink and meal service.
– by wondering if the plane will be diverted or circled before landing.
– by having to watch every single bag that is unloaded.
– by the possibility of theft, damage or misdirected luggage.
Brand Experience
Anxiety reduced:
If the airlines would hire creative brand strategists to evaluate the airline experience from a passenger’s point of view, with the sole intent of finding ways to reduce passenger anxiety, they could significantly improve the brand experience, and do so largely at minimal cost.

Airlines today fly the same planes to the same places, at the same speeds, with the same services, for the same prices. Most airlines have pretty much become commodities, competing based on price. Few have truly differentiated brands (or try to be the brand experience). Providing an actually improved brand experience will create a strong competitive advantage.

Philip Durbrow, CEO of Marshall Strategy was rewarded for being Pan Am’s Number One Passenger in miles traveled by being given an all-expense paid first-class, two-week African safari for two – back when air travel was pleasant and efforts were made to treat passengers like humans, not cargo.

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Strategic Identity and Your Corporate Image

Corporate Identity Branding and Strategy

Some people believe that “image is everything” when it comes to marketing their company. Others think “identity” begins and ends with a logo.

The reality is, both are important, and identity and image have a critical relationship in telling your unique story.

We believe that a strategic identity should help you clearly articulate who you are, what you do, and why you matter to your key audiences, in ways that are ownable, believable, beneficial, sustainable, and profitable.

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Repositioning a Brand: The Power of Brand Stories

Repositioning a Brand: Stories are a powerful way of organizing and sharing brand experiences. They put information in a memorable and compelling context.

Numerous psychology and neurology studies have shown that stories imprint more lastingly in human minds than facts, rationales, logic and bullet points. Stories unite ideas with emotions. Stories build and preserve community. They align people, build connections and support a feeling of shared purpose. Stories can forge strong allegiances between brands and customers.

One of the most meaningful ways to ensure people engage with your brand is to understand the places, activities and dreams that matter to them, and then to discover where all these stories and your own brand story intersect. This can provide a sense of connection and continuity.

The North Face, a premier outdoor equipment company, was trying to grow its market beyond a narrow niche of hard-core outdoor enthusiasts and reach to a broader active lifestyle user, without alienating either.

By repositioning a brand, for example, from “Fine Alpine Equipment and Apparel” to “Never Stop Exploring,” their story changed from “we’re a company that makes stuff” to “like you, we’re a company believe in pursuing new challenges, no matter how big or small.” This aspirational repositioning helped them connect to a broader audience without losing the authentic brand elements that defined them.

Psychological, organizational, social or brand transformation is usually preceded or accompanied by a change in the story governing that system. Trying to change forms and behaviors without changing the story that holds them in place almost never succeeds. Once the story is changed, however, patterns and behaviors tend to realign rapidly.

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Successful Branding Strategies and Your Internal Audiences

Successful branding strategies incorporated with your human resources policies can have profound effects on your company’s competitiveness. In the late 1980s, the now defunct Eastern Airlines promoted the idea that they worked to “Earn its Wings Everyday.” Unfortunately, during this time, the company was undergoing significant labor union issues, and many of the employees were disgruntled. Rather than providing the superior customer service that the brand claimed, the airline lost luggage, cancelled flights and served some of the worst food in the airline industry.

By contrast, Southwest Airlines has grown and prospered over the years without compromising its brand position, due in large part to the culture, attitudes and behaviors embraced by its employees. From booking to ground staff, luggage handlers, pilots and attendants, everyone seems to understand their role as brand ambassadors, fulfilling an important promise to customers.

One of the lessons that Southwest’s success and Eastern’s demise teaches is that a branding strategy must connect to and be reinforced by staff education, internal support and company culture.

A successful company should focus on converting promises into behaviors.

Human Resources directors are the front line in hiring quality employees companywide, and should therefore be involved in major rebranding or marketing strategy decisions. If employees are not educated about and inspired by the company’s branding strategy, corporate identity and company values, they are less likely to deliver on the promise of the brand. Employees who understand, and are motivated by company objectives are more likely to promote the brand and contribute effectively to the overall corporate identity.

Employees are what bring customers back.

IKEA has built their business philosophy around providing a superior customer experience, offering service that is customer-oriented and personal. This in combination with attractive, inexpensive furniture, has made the company a consumer favorite, It is no secret that customers are more likely to keep coming back if their experience is positive. In Ikea’s case that experience begins with the in-store visit, which is made unique through a combination of innovative product, engaging displays, and helpful people. To achieve better customer loyalty, it is essential for Human Resources to recruit and train employees who are or who become advocates for your brand, and who also understand how their actions reinforce the company’s corporate identity.

Human Resources can provide internal and external alignment

By focusing on internal audiences as key stakeholders in any branding strategy, your company will promote an environment of loyalty to the brand that can help set you apart. Externally, perceptions of products, services and brands are often a direct result of employee attitudes; if those who make and sell a product, or create and provide a service believe in the branding strategy, the customer is more likely to as well. Harley-Davidson can boast an impressive 45 percent loyalty rate among current owners, and many of them say their loyalty is directly related to the connection they have with the employees at their local Harley dealer. Even among non-motorcycle owners, Harley-Davidson has a high level of loyalty – a significant percentage of revenue comes from the sale of clothing and other branded items. This type of aspirational following is a hallmark of success for any brand.

Your company brand is only as good as your people; they should be willing to live your brand, whether it is newly formed or part of a rebranding effort. For more information on what we can contribute to your branding strategy, please contact us.

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