Aviation Marketing: Finding your voice

A brand story requires a social point of view

A brand story requires a social point of view

Defining your values improves your brand story

Aviation companies that are practitioners of people-to-people marketing spend their marketing capital wisely by defining their position and understanding their point of differentiation. This due diligence leads to delivering key messages in clear concise terms that are easily understood by the constituents with whom they wish to do business.

Digital platforms from Twitter to You Tube to email have empowered companies in the aviation industry with the ability to become their own publishers and broadcasters. Early adopters of social marketing embraced the idea of self-publishing as a means to reduce advertising costs. As social marketing platforms matured, content migrated from a low cost replacement for a traditional advertising channel to conveying a larger story through the brand’s good deeds.

Orchestrating your brand story may sound like an easy task; however staring at a blank sheet of paper quickly brings home the reality that the brand story requires a social point of view. By this I mean, what are your company values and how are they contributing to the betterment of the aviation industry?

Developing a social point of view

The mission of any company is to make a profit from goods and services produced and sold. However, in the social marketing landscape, pure profit motive needs to be combined with the idea that products and services produced also make the world a better place to live.

Proactively listening to customer concerns posted on social media platforms provides the insight necessary to develop strategic social messages that resonate with customer’s values and concerns.

For example, in the biofuel market, Shell Global has an Environment and Society section on their corporate website. Content features their pioneering efforts on making ethanol from Brazilian sugarcane. Blending this biofuel with standard petrol can reduce CO2 emissions by 70% when compared to standard petrol.

Michelin is another example. Their aircraft tires produced using NZG (Near Zero Growth) technology reduces the tires’ weight and increases longevity, resulting in a tire structure that is more impact and damage resistant. The reduction in weight contributes to fuel savings while increasing passenger and freight capacity.

Brand values are derived from the social culture of the company. Companies that do well by their customers also do well for themselves.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Should your brand be aligned with a moral cause?

Why aviation brands need emotional engagement

Marketing excellence requires focus and clear positioning

Aviation Marketing: Emotional branding requires delivering a memorable experience

Emotional memory creates a connection to the brand.

Products fulfill needs. Experiences fulfill desires.

In Marc Gobé’s book, “Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People,” Gobé puts forth 10 commandments for emotional branding. One I found particularly relevant for aviation manufacturers and marketers was the premise:


In aviation manufacturing, buying for a need is driven by specification, price, and delivery.  Because a majority of aviation components and systems are manufactured to meet certain specifications and perform to MIL-SPEC or DO-160 standards, there is little differentiation between branded products.

However, few aviation marketers seize the opportunity to offer the purchaser an emotional memory or a connection to the brand far beyond the need to meet specifications.

Experiences make us feel alive and connected to the people and brands associated with the experience. For example, a few years ago Honeywell brought in Jimmy Buffet to perform at their NBAA event. While on stage, Buffet spoke of the value aviation provides to his business and how he relies on the Honeywell avionics system to safely get him and his band to the next show. This memory exceeds any attribute or stated benefit of their avionics system and emotionally positions their company as one that understands the value of the customer relationship by providing an exclusive experience.

While a majority of aviation manufacturers do not have the wherewithal of a Honey-well or General Dynamics, they still should be thinking about how to provide a memorable purchasing experience nevertheless.

  • One area that can lead to brand differentiation and emotional branding is at tradeshows. Attend any aviation trade show and you will see aisle after aisle of small trade show booths, each with a header in the same position and a table at the front of the booth loaded with cheap pens, key chains, or other items emblazoned with corporate or product line logos.
  • What if you invested a little more imagination and resources into a larger booth with space dedicated to an experience? Stepping out of the B-to-B mindset and thinking like a retailer, what if you offered your customers a visit to a Parisian internet café, or a rock climbing wall, or even a 3-D movie experience about the design inspirations that led to the physical configuration of your newest product offering?

For established products to attract and retain interest, it is important to invest in innovative thinking, new channels that engage in dialogue with customers, and product launches that capture the customer’s imagination.

To purchase Marc Gobé’s book, click on the following link: “Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People.”

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Aviation Marketing: Emotional ties create strong brand loyalty

Differentiating your brand starts with making personal connections

Those involved with aviation services and product manufacturing pride themselves on providing flawless products that perform to the highest of specifications. In their eyes, the functionality and reliability of their products define their brand promise. However, looking through the perspective of the purchaser reveals a different picture.

As the purchaser, the product’s true “reason to be” is revealed by looking past the distractions of technology and engineering, and instead looking through to the core reason the product was invented. Each product was created to help the customer solve a problem, or make their life simpler, safer or more efficient.

People-to-people aviation marketers understand that the inspiration of the product’s development greatly attributes to the feel of the brand story. This can be the point of differentiation that is remembered by the customer, and thus gains the potential to be passed onto their circle of friends.

Competitive advantages gained through functionality are short lived. Telling the brand story through the perspective of the designer, engineer, or service representative brings emotion and recall to the brand story.

As I write this, I am currently waiting on a Southwest Airlines flight to LAX. It is the first flight out for the day, and the airport is packed with college students and families trying to squeeze in vacation during the last weeks of summer.

The baggage check line was overburdened with strollers, car seats, and other necessities of modern day family travel. The kiosk attendant was hefting big suitcases with a smile on her face. As I scanned my boarding pass, the attendant confirmed my destination and lightheartedly told me she wished she were going somewhere. I told her of my reason for travel was to assist my son move into his new apartment, but that really meant I was going to help assemble IKEA furniture. She related to me, telling me that her last trip was with her daughter to perform the same function. She shared with me first hand knowledge about assembling the bed frame and how to do it right the first time.

I thanked her for the insight and continued onto the security line check-in. Thirty minutes later, I arrived at the gate with a good attitude, ready for the journey ahead. Traveling on Southwest can be challenging under high load conditions. However, the baggage attendant articulated, and thus emphasized, SWA’s brand promise by sharing her experience in an effort to make my life a little easier.

An empty airline seat is a commodity that instantly loses value when it leaves the ground. SWA does an excellent job of communicating their brand story through their employees, ensuring that when I need to travel again, their airline will be one of the first considered.

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Aviation Marketing: Customer Insights or Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious?

Captain Obvious

Insights are not shiny objects. Many times insights are buried in the customer’s emotional connection to the brand.

Good aviation marketers believe that customer insights form the foundation for brand strategy. Being able to identify insights about product functionality, user preferences, and emotional connection to the brand help to formulate the brand promise and gives the brand its “reason for existence.”

5 questions to ask when determining true insights:

  1. Does product/service use reveal something about the target audience’s mind set?
  2. Does the functional benefit of the product/service provide the greatest value to the customer?
  3. Does the product/service make customers feel better about themselves?
  4. Does the product/service create lasting value?
  5. Does the product/service act as an internal point-of-view for the brand?

If you can answer yes to the above questions, odds are you have insight for building a strong brand.

5 ways to differentiate insights from merely interesting information:

Insights reveal more about the target audience than about the product or service.

Does the insight identify a particular lifestyle or point-of-view?

Can the insight be traced back to social cause, use a technology or a political leaning?

Insights are more about the category than the brand.

Owning the category benefit is considered an indication of brand leadership.  United Airlines positioning, “Fly the Friendly Skies,” used until 1996, helped to drive category leadership.

Insights reveal more about how people feel than what they think.

Feelings connect to our deepest needs and values. Find an insight based on an emotion and you can build a brand with which people connect. Virgin American continues to demonstrate this approach with mood lighting, advanced cabin technology, and a hip attitude.

 Insights focus on what is enduring, not the latest fad.

Fads come and go. Successful brands focus on staying true to their core values and articulate these through employee/customer interactions. Southwest Airlines’ core value of on time departures and arrivals has not changed in over 40 years.

Insights stimulate new ideas.

Real insights challenge companies to act in new ways. What a frequent flyer considers important is different from what a vacation traveler considers important. Insights can lead to improvements in specific customer segments.

Being able to determine the difference between what is an insight and what is just interesting affects brand leadership. At the same time, don’t reject an insight just because it seems obvious.

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Aviation Marketing: Why marketing fundamentals are important in social media marketing

Airline Social Media Scorecard

Point-of-view marketing through social media can very effective when supported with proper brand positioning.

Successful aviation brands at their core hold a philosophy about how they will conduct their business, treat their employees and customers, and contribute to the betterment of the aviation industry. In social media terms, this is the brand’s point-of-view.

Just as the brand’s point–of-view provides a rich area for social engagement, aviation marketers must identify the brand’s value proposition and unique selling proposition (USP) to create a sustainable, healthy brand.  For aviation marketers this represents a convergence between brand positioning, product & service attribute/benefits, and brand beliefs and philosophy.

Value Proposition – The benefit your product or service delivers to your customers. The value proposition is the fundamental positioning of where your product or service sits on the spectrum of customer needs. In analog terms, it’s the 60-second elevator speech that explains your company’s offering.

Value proposition positioning:

  • Quality leader – brands that set the quality standard for that business segment
  • Low cost producer – brands that demonstrate best quality-to-price ratio
  • Service leader – brands that provide the longest warranty or most desirable return policies

Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – A description of your product or service that differentiates it in a way that will make customers prefer and purchase your brand over the competition.

Unique Selling Propositions are based on attributes and benefits of your product or service that set it apart from the competition. Examples include:

  • Small size – uses less cockpit real estate
  • Lightweight – fuel efficient
  • Solid state technology – reliable
  • Delivered on time – meets your production schedule
  • AOG service capability – global service centers

Point-Of-View Marketing

Point-of-view marketing is about communicating your brand story. This is important in social media because it invites engagement, opening dialog between your brand, customers, and prospects.

Point-of-view is about what your brand believes and your philosophy on how a market should best be served. An ideal document to lay the foundation for point-of-view marketing is your company’s mission statement.

Point-of-view marketing can take many forms. These may include:

  • Social causes – Veterans Airlift command
  • Environment – biofuel, sustainability, green building practices
  • Product design – aesthetically pleasing, recycled materials
  • Integration – open source code compatibility
  • Simplicity – intuitive use sans complexity
  • Best-in-class – we produce one product and do it well

Interesting point-of-view marketing can drive social engagement. However, one should take into account that brand authenticity and a differentiated, unique selling proposition form the foundation for a brand’s success in the battle for brand supremacy.

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Aviation Marketing: How emerging technologies will impact the differentiated brand

Emerging Technologies Google Glass

Connecting digital technologies — data, devices, screens, and sensors — will define the social experience, leading aviation marketers to customize the brand experience based on society and cultural relevance.

The Futures Company published “Technology 2020: How the Digital World is Reshaping Business.” The report provides a framework for, and a view of, the way in which digital technology will evolve over the next decade, and helps organizations plan their response to these changes.

My views on how technology changes will affect aviation marketing are below.

ICT (information and communication technologies) are challenging the idea of the brand defined by solutions and needs because interconnected technology is fluid, redefining the relationship between brands and their customers.

4 technology groups that will impact brand differentiation:

  1. Data – large amounts of information on all aspects of customer behavior, which can be stored, shared, and analyzed to gain a greater understanding of buying patterns and trends.
  2. Devices – internet-enabled devices such as mobile phones, tablets or computers capable of accessing, communicating and sharing information without the need of a physical office.
  3. Screens – flexible and immersive ways of displaying information beyond the traditional 2D computer, mobile, or television screen.
  4. Sensors – wireless-enabled sensors embedded in products that can send and receive information about how customers interact with them.

For aviation marketers and manufacturers, it is important to understand the interconnection of these technologies. However, as these technologies become unbundled and more sophisticated, customers will become accustomed to high speed “ubiquitous computing” where ICT is integrated into everyday life through interaction with product and services.

Implications of technology change


  • Pervasiveness and interconnection: When the dominant model of the personal computer fades into insignificance.
  • Mainstream adoption of 4G networks: Explosion of innovation in location-based services and applications.
  • Aggregating and analyzing data: Understanding patterns of behavior at a macro and individual level will be a marketing imperative.
  • Technology will become more visible: As customers become more comfortable with technology, digital disruption will increase.


  • Consumer concerns around data monitoring and privacy: Customers’ concerns about where, how, and with whom their information is being stored and shared.
  • People switch off from technologically mediated contact in a major way: Customers limiting their exposure to digital communication due to information overload and burnout.
  • Marketing moves from being in a “solutions and needs” business to a technology-driven, higher-service, questions business: Companies move from marketing product differentiation based on functionality to technology solutions based on individual customer’s needs.

Click on the following link to view the full Futures Company report “Technology 2020: How the Digital World is Reshaping Business 

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Aviation Marketing: Marketing excellence requires focus and clear positioning

The digital ecosystem is a disruptive force, leading many aviation marketers to take on too many capabilities instead of mastering a few.

Strategy&, Korn/Ferry International, and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently conducted a survey of 350 senior marketing professionals across many industries to find out how the role of marketing is evolving at their companies in response to changes in the digital marketing and media ecosystem.

Here is my interpretation of their findings for aviation marketers:

Best in class aviation marketers are forgoing being average in numerous marketing capabilities and are instead focusing on being great in a few differentiated capabilities that support their brand positioning.

Aviation marketers are under pressure to contribute to company growth while being challenged with new technologies, new marketing platforms, and flatline budgets. This requires aviation marketers to change the way they approach integrating new marketing capabilities with company-wide marketing programs.

Changing the mindset to reap the most from digital ecosystems requires the following:

  • Collaboration – adopting a more collaborative approach to core marketing functions to ensure that they leverage multiple channels and skill sets.
  • Strategy – being more strategic about the marketing agenda, aligning it with the com­pany’s overall goals.
  • Accountability – adopting new metrics to demonstrate marketing returns through the use of data.
  • Integrative – unifying marketing efforts across business units and product lines to strengthen the effectiveness and quality of the overall marketing effort.

While it is tempting to spread the risk of adopting new marketing capabilities by assuming a “more is better” attitude, astute aviation marketers are prioritizing their marketing capabilities based on a clear and differentiated position, resulting in a competitive advantage.

8 marketing capabilities to consider for driving current and future marketing efforts:

  1. Digital marketing – web, mobile, social marketing
  2. Marketing effectiveness – metrics, testing, dashboards
  3. Innovation – engaging customers in new ways, developing new channels
  4. Integrated multimedia campaigns  – using mul­tiple media across multiple channels
  5. Customer relationship management – managing data and relationships across touch points
  6. Portfolio management – managing performance across a broad set of products or offerings
  7. Customer insights – social media, surveys, panels, ethnography
  8. Owned digital assets – websites, communities, videos, newsletters

An organization that engages and invests in strategic capability building will be better suited to handle the disruptive change of the digital ecosystem.

Click on the following link to view the complete report A Marketing Identity Check:  Differentiated Capabilities Earn the Right to Win