Why aviation marketers struggle with digital marketing integration


Successful digital marketing requires a different mindset

Aviation marketers are creatures of habit. When challenged with the myriad of digital marketing strategies and tactics available, they go back to what they know and are comfortable with – interruption-based marketing led by print advertising with media placement in trade publications.

Repeated studies in the aviation and related industry segment peg digital marketing spending between 10 – 15% of the annual marketing expenditure. In 2008, this was considered discretionary marketing spending as companies experimented with digital advertising, social media, and analytics. Today, with Apple heading toward 50 billion app downloads, you would have thought the light bulb would have clicked on somewhere in the executive suite that digital marketing is here and it’s getting bigger.

Changing the way you think

In the advertising world, digital has cut a disruptive swath through advertising agencies. Yet I still hear agency principals talk about digital agencies and digital departments. Are aviation marketers to blame when their agency partners have not integrated digital thinking into everything they do for aviation clients?

Instead of creating ads for magazine placement, shouldn’t both client and agency be thinking about complementing brand building marketing with digital tactics that provide on demand information that encourages engagement and extends the relationship?

Measuring marketing effectiveness

One of the reasons why 80% of the marketing budget is still going towards traditional advertising venues is the area of wiggle room and accountability.

Brand building ROI metrics play well for those who are not digital natives or converted digital immigrants. As long as the profitability numbers keep increasing, marketing’s influence will consist of mostly presentations at board meetings.

With digital, everything is measurable. Yes, it can involve a lot of data crunching and discussion of where in the digital marketing landscape the convergence of digital tactics influenced a purchase.  But this does provide a correlation between investment and return, providing a smaller area for marketing wiggle room.

Understand the customer’s expectations and brand experience

Apple’s closing on 50 billion app downloads should be a beacon of the future for what “on demand” marketing will look like for aviation industry. The technology is here, and the platforms are your smart phone, tablet, and laptop. The challenge aviation marketers will face is tooling their marketing organization with digital natives and immigrants.  The natives will come from the bottom up, and the immigrants will rise based on the fear of being left behind. These two groups will teach others to think in digital terms and provide guidance on how to create a seamless brand experience in real time.

Aviation Marketing: How to gain influence through understanding

People-to-people marketing starts by understanding the customer’s point of view

People-to-people marketing starts by understanding the customer’s point of view

The goal of aviation marketing is to influence a particular group of people to take a desired action. If you’re an airline, it’s about building brand loyalty and selling seats. For a component manufacturer, it’s about having your product specified as part of an avionics system or airframe.

However, many times aviation marketers make the mistake of trying to influence the customer’s purchasing decision by offering their point of view. This form of “hard sell,” based on an opinion, assumption, or previous experience, turns people off.

People-to-people marketing starts with seeing the problem from the customer’s point of view. Standing in the customer’s shoes provides the perspective necessary to understand their situation. Engagement is achieved by offering options and solutions for the challenges the customer is facing.

Three forms of awareness:

Situational Awareness: Showing that you understand and can empathize with the problems and challenges the customer is facing. Being able to connect with the customer’s reality provides insight as to what issue the customer is facing and the factors that influence the purchasing decision.

Personal Awareness: Demonstrating that you understand the customer from an emotional perspective. All of us have goals, fears, insecurities, guilt, emotional hot buttons, and limitations. Identifying the customer’s emotional need and offering solutions that connect on a personal level achieve engagement. Take, for example, vacation packages sponsored by airlines. The image of the family vacation touches the emotional need for family to spend time together. The secondary benefit is that the airline books seats to a particular destination.

Solution Awareness: This path enables customers to come to their own conclusions on their own terms. This is achieved by providing options and alternatives that empower the decision-making process.  By understanding what is at stake for the customer, marketers offer possibilities for making things better. Business jet interiors are a prime example of providing the customer with options and alternatives for finishes such as fabrics, leathers, carpets, entertainment systems, video conferencing and lighting.

Influence is achieved by understanding the customer’s point of view and guiding them through the decision-making process.

What can aviation marketers learn from a body scanner for women’s jeans?

What can aviation marketers learn from a body scanner for women’s jeans?

Empowering customers via technology builds brand loyalty

MeAlity is a “digital sizing station” installed in 30 malls nationwide. The stations take 10- to 15-second body scans of shoppers, matching their measurements against those of  in-store and online merchandise to recommend brands, styles and sizes likely to fit and flatter them best.

Airlines looking to boost brand loyalty and net promoter scores could learn a thing or two from the lead of Me-Ality.

Making air travel a pleasure again

Imagine in the not-too-distant future that when you receive an email from the airline, it actually provides something of value besides the latest routes for discounted fares providing you can travel from certain cities on specific dates.

What if the airline has a ‘scan’ of your personal profile as it pertains to travel habits, personal and shopping preferences, family members’ locations, etc.?

Now what if the email you received provided transparent pricing for travel and a host of other discount offers ranging from car rental to hotels to restaurants, entertainment venues, retail outlets, even grocery stores in the location you will be visiting.

Let’s take this a step further. You’ve checked in online, secured your boarding pass, and several hours before departure you receive a text with the latest traffic conditions affecting your travel from the airport. Add to this information on available parking with a Google map with directions to the closest or least expensive parking lots.

Upon entering the airport you scan an RFID tag that gives you the estimated time to get through security. Armed with this information, you are able to make informed decisions as to time allocation.

Taking your seat, you are greeted by an attendant that hands you a Wi-Fi enabled device programmed with a personal preference list of entertainment menus for movies, news, music, and sports. Why not push it to online shopping from your favorite e-tailers while in flight?

What does this accomplish?

First, it brings transparency to the relationship between the brand and the user – the feeling of personal service that is being provided in a manner that makes your life easier during the trip.

Secondly, it’s using social media to extend the relationship past a monetary transaction for services rendered.  A social covenant with the brand is built that extends throughout the entire trip.

Third, it builds brand advocacy. The net promoter score is really a very simple single question, “Would you recommend flying with this airline to a friend?”

With door-to-door social marketing, I would bet the answer is YES.

To view MeAlity’s website click here. Image courtesy of Me-Ality

Aviation Marketing: The difference between strategy and tactics


Strategy and tactics must work together to achieve business goals

Jeriah Owyang, Industry analyst with the Altimeter Group, posted an article defining strategy and tactics by their associated actions. Below is my interpretation for aviation marketers:

Aviation manufacturers need strategic thinking and tactical execution to move the business forward. If you have strategy without tactics, then the big idea is never implemented. If you implement tactics without a strategy, you end up herding cats.

Breaking down strategy vs. tactics:


  • Strategy – To identify clear goals that advance the overall business and organize resources.
  • Tactics – To utilize specific resources to achieve sub-goals that support the defined mission.


  • Strategy – Individuals who influence resources in the organization. They understand how a set of tactics works together to achieve goals.
  • Tactics – Specific experts that maneuver limited resources into actions to achieve a set of goals.


  • Strategy – Held accountable for overall health of the organization.
  • Tactics – Held accountable for specific resources assigned.


  • Strategy – All the resources within the organizations, as well as broader market conditions including competitors, customers, and economy.
  • Tactics – A subset of resources used in a plan or process. Tactics are often specific using limited resources to achieve broader goals.


  • Strategy – Long term, changes infrequently.
  • Tactics – Shorter term, flexible to specific market conditions.


  • Strategy – Uses experience, research, analysis, thinking, then communication.
  • Tactics – Uses experiences, best practices, plans, processes, and teams.


  • Strategy – Produces clear organizational goals, plans, and key performance measurements.
  • Tactics – Produces clear deliverables and outputs using people, tools, and time.

Below are two examples of how strategic goals can be communicated with clear tactical elements:

  • Strategy: Be the market share leader in terms of sales in the OEM-market segment of the avionics industry.
  • Tactics: Offer advanced technology components that simplify cockpit management with life of the platform warranty.
  • Strategy: Maneuver your brand into top two consideration set of aircraft entertainment systems with MRO decision makers.
  • Tactics: Implement a social marketing campaign that leverages existing customer relationships and encourages them to conduct word-of-mouth with their peers using social platforms.

3 ways to use strategy and tactics to achieve business goals

  1. Educate your colleagues on the differences between terms and how they vary.
  2. Ensure that all tactics align with business strategy, and all strategies are supported by tactical execution.
  3. Reinforce through communication how strategy and tactics work together, advancing and achieving business goals through better utilization of time and resources.

Click here to follow Jeremiah Owyang on Twitter

Image by stock.xchng user

Aviation Marketing: Defining your brand’s personality

Virgin America exemplifies their brand by portraying their customers as young, hip, and digitally connected.

Virgin America exemplifies their brand by portraying their customers as young, hip, and digitally connected.

Without a clear brand identity, you may have visibility but no personality.

“Commerce is about selling more products and services, but people are about desires and aspirations.”

Marc Gobe, Emotional Branding, Revised Edition

What do Victoria’s Secret and Virgin America share in common? Both understand the power of a brand culture and are able to translate that into a memorable brand experience. Aviation marketers that are seeking to define their brand need to consider a people-to-people marketing approach and understand that relevant brands are not based on messaging or logo design but on the experience associated with the brand.

Traditionally in the aviation industry, branding and marketing have been extensions of the manufacturing culture based on product feature and functionality. This approach is not necessarily wrong; however, it tends to create ubiquitous branding devoid of personality.  Emotionally connected brands offer the user something more. It’s the association with the brand through emotional and aspirational connections that creates brand preference and loyalty.

Business jet manufacturers understand this and play to the cultural and personal aspirations of CEO’s and such to have the best “ramp presence” or alignment with the “sports car of the sky” for their aircraft offering.

When implemented correctly, emotional branding compliments product branding by providing the human factor, bringing vision and connection with the financial, manufacturing, and marketing objectives of the company.

Matching a brand to a character association is one way to identify brand strength and relevance. Implementing this approach requires connecting with the customer on a personal level. Starting with the character’s environment helps to develop stories and scripts that resonate with the customer and peak their interest in the brand.

Virgin America exemplifies this by portraying their customers as young, hip, and digitally connected. The brand story starts to emerge, punctuated with lifestyle imagery such as the nightclub lighting when entering the plane. The digital entertainment menu in the seat back helps to define the visual platform for the basis of the branding program.

Achieving emotional branding and creating a connection with your customer base involves people at all levels of the organization sharing a vision of the brand and identifying possibilities for the brand personality.

Additional article that may be of interest on this topic:

Aviation Marketing: Emotional branding requires delivering a memorable experience

Aviation Marketing: Don’t rule out emotional connections in the purchasing process

Aviation Marketing: Emotional ties create strong brand loyalty

I’m interested in hearing from my fellow aviation marketers. What have been your greatest challenges in defining your brand’s personality? Please share your experiences in the comment section below

photo credit: thekenyeung via photopin cc