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.
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.
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.