Aviation Marketing: Social marketing begins with the correct strategy

Scoal Marketing Strategy Labyrinth

Social marketing can build relationships during the extended sales cycle.

Today, a few innovative aviation marketers are using social marketing to extend the engagement with key constituents during the sales cycle. Relationship driven, people-to-people marketing is generating brand awareness, highlighting thought leadership, and humanizing the brand.

Why is the correct social marketing strategy important?

Because 90% of buyers start their search for an aviation product or service via a search engine, not a company website, it is imperative that marketers understand to whom they are selling and where they congregate.

In addition, social marketing has a lot of moving parts. Marketers are simultaneously engaging new customers, nurturing those further along in the sales cycle, and rewarding those that have purchased and are now brand advocates.

Creating relevant content that focuses on the purchaser’s corporate pain points requires multiple campaigns based on the sales cycle. Depending on whether the audience is an influencer or purchaser, content needs to be developed for each, addressing their concerns.

How to extend the engagement

The biggest mistake marketers make is not paying attention to the landing page. Simply making an offer for authoritative information and then linking to the corporate website is a sure fire way to end interest and engagement. Marketers should create specific landing pages for each offer, reinforcing the offer and asking the viewer to share a modest amount of information in return for the desired content.

In essence, the landing page becomes the face of the brand, delivering on the brand promise.

Different audiences, different addresses

Through social marketing listening, marketers can determine where their audiences spend most of their time and where they are likely to make the purchasing decision. Younger engineers may spend their time on Facebook checking out events at an upcoming trade show, while senior executives may be more inclined to peruse a pay-per-click link on LinkedIn.

Social media channels should be tested to determine which will be the most effective and return the best results.

Segment but don’t alienate

Different social media channels offer different ways to segment their audiences. LinkedIn, for example, allows companies to target demographics by location, job title, age and gender. While this is important, don’t alienate those that  see themselves as future key decision makers. Allow this group to participate by signing up for news updates or special invitations for future events.

Photo CC BY Flickr, photo credit Fdecomite

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: Ryanair, the marketing brilliance behind the commodity-priced airfare

Call it what you may, Ryanair’s marketing is shrewd and laser focused

Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary recently called his customer “idiots.” Having never had the pleasure to fly Europe’s largest low cost carrier, I was glad not to be classified as one of the above. Yet from the decidedly colloquial North American viewpoint, it is a revealing look into Ryanair’s branding strategy.

Ryanair at a glance:

  • Founded: 1985
  • Current fleet: 294 Boeing 737-800
  • Passenger traffic: 75.8 million
  • Revenue: €4,325m
  • Profit after tax: €503m
  • Number of routes: 1,500+ per day operating from 51 bases in 28 countries

Ryanair practices marketing known by such names as gotcha marketing and aggression marketing. Gotcha marketing is based on pushing the boundaries of acceptable advertising in both truthfulness and taste, and penalizing customers that don’t follow the rules.

The penalties for not following the rules come in the form of additional fees such as:

  • Administration fee,  €6
  • Boarding pass fee,  €6
  • Reserved seating fee, €10
  • Airport boarding card re-issue fee, €60
  • Infant equipment fee, €20
  • Sports equipment fee, €60
  • Musical instrument fee, €60
  • Flight change fee – based on season, €30 – €90
  • Name change fee, €110 – €160
  • Government tax refund administration fee, €20
  • Oxygen reservation fee, €100
  • Checked bag fee, €15 – €150
  • Missed departure fee, €110

Advertising plays a critical role in these forms of marketing, starting with media placement. One-color ads are placed in tabloid newspapers. The fare prices are misleading because they don’t include the multitude of gotcha fees and usually include provocative imagery that is associated with tabloid journalism.

Because the ads are offensive to some, what follows is a formal complaint to the British Office of Fair Trading or the European Commission for Mobility and Transport. Interestingly enough, O’Leary has called the commission an evil empire populated by morons.

Which leads us back to the brilliance of Ryanair’s marketing. The formula starts with aggressive advertising, which leads to a complaint. Then CEO Michael O’Leary, stokes the fire with an inflammatory remark, escalating the pitch of the conversation while gaining free PR in the press and attention for the low cost carrier. This ultimately turns a $30,000 ad campaign into a million dollar public relations bonanza.

Ryanair understands its customers – price sensitive travelers. Ryanair’s brand promise is cheap fares and on-time service. Their customers understand the value proposition – do it yourself, follow the rules, and get from point A to B for as little as possible.

Ryanair and O’Leary are comfortable in their own skin. Each knows what they are –  the premier low cost carrier with a master marketer who knows how to differentiate his product and turn a profit in a super-competitive business.

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

Connecting with your customers’ emotions can create a brand preference

In aviation marketing, the purchase decision is often solely based on the performance specifications of a product. Each product on the market, no matter the manufacturer, will fulfill the client’s baseline need. With different products of standard utility competing for business, one way to differentiate is by manipulating the price point. Although not terribly flexible, a price can be offset by manipulating variables within the company such as service, warranty, and delivery policy.

Commanding a premium price point requires brand loyalty. Loyalty stems from the customer’s emotional connection with the brand.

Assuming a product meets the standard performance specifications, as well as the price point, the purchase decision is then left to the customer’s personal preference. People become emotionally connected to a brand for different reasons:

  • Does the brand stand for something important?
  • Can we relate to it?
  • Is the brand intense, vibrant, or innovative?
  • Does the brand benefit society?
  • Is the brand unique?
  • Does brand interaction make us feel good about the purchase?
  • Are the front line people representative of the brand values?
  • Does the brand give us peace-of-mind?

Emotional decision-making is a unique process rooted in individual experiences, beliefs, and temperaments.  Even though emotions are unique to each individual, there are several common dominator emotions:

  1. Joy
  2. Trust
  3. Fear
  4. Surprise
  5. Sorrow
  6. Disgust
  7. Anger
  8. Anticipation

We react to marketing messages and build emotional brand preferences based on how we feel about the brand, and how it fits into our web of emotional decision-making criterion.

If a brand’s marketing portrays unrealistic expectations of how the choice to use their product will improve the customers’ lives, the trust emotion leads us to question the integrity of the brand promise.

On the other hand, successful brand marketing leads one to personally identify with the brand, building trust, and ultimately securing a long-term customer relationship.

As aviation marketers, we are challenged to drive brand marketing and create brand loyalty. One source of rich brand insight comes from social media platforms. The process of writing on these platforms clarifies human emotion, providing aviation marketers with a tapestry of raw customer insights gained from unfiltered blogs, tweets and other posts.

The emotions expressed in these threads expose the customer’s level of emotional attachment to particular brands. This gives us insight into which manufacturers deliver on their brand promise, and which ones come up short.

Learning to utilize data on social media platforms provides companies with a stream of free market research, endowing savvy aviation marketers with valuable insight regarding the brand’s emotional appeal. Manufacturers can then leverage these connections to help increase market share, demand premium prices, and ultimately improve sales.

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Aviation Marketing: Generate More Revenue by Providing a Better Brand Experience

Exceeding Customer Expectations

Aviation marketers can contribute to top line growth generation by providing a better brand experience at critical customer touchpoints.

Reuben Steiger, Principal at Methods New York studio, wrote an article for Fast Company Design.com entitled, “Great Brands Are About Fusing Product And Service. How Do You Do It?” In the article, Reuben identifies actionable items to create a better brand experience. Below is my interpretation of his article for aviation marketers and how a better brand experience can lead to generating more top line revenue.

3 segments that affect the user experience:

  1. Product – an experience that occurs in the moment
  2. Service – a relationship that extends over time across platforms and mediums
  3. Brand – a pattern our brains expect based on everything we have previously heard, seen, and felt

These form the base for the brand experience. Progressive aviation marketers should monitor these segments for customer insight and share their findings across all departments in order to create a profitable holistic brand experience.

Product Innovation

In the aviation industry, innovation for many manufacturers means improving upon a functional attribute, rather than designing an entirely new product. Completely business driven, this approach to innovation is concerned with putting new product in the pipeline without the benefit of customer insight.

Perhaps a better approach would be agile product development that would speed up product validation, and allow for insight that identifies the features and functions customers are interested in and will pay a premium price to acquire.


Service is the most overused differentiator in today’s marketing. Every aviation component, system, airframe manufacturer, and airline has a customer service department. Only a few monitor social interfaces, in order to interact and listen to customer concerns to ascertain the customer’s emotional connection to the brand.

Organizations that practice a holistic approach to customer service by allowing their employees to act as brand ambassadors reap the benefits of converting customers to brand advocates.  Advocates stake their personal reputation on recommendations, enhancing the brand’s social media capital through word-of-mouth advertising, all the while reducing paid media costs.


Comments from the “C” suite indicate too many aviation marketers talk about branding and not enough about generating revenue. Aviation marketers that can implement programs that achieve business goals and can be replicated over multiple product and service lines will reinforce the brand’s story in the customer’s mind and link back to results that top management cares about: revenue, sales, earnings, or market valuation.

To read Reuben Steiger’s article on Fast Company.com click on the following link:

“Great Brands Are About Fusing Product And Service. How Do You Do It?”

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Aviation Marketing: Digital Adoption and Content Creation

tablet adoption provides aviaiton marketers with new ways to connect

Smart phone, E-reader and tablet adoption is providing aviation marketers with new ways to connect with a diverse audience.

In their Top Digital Trends Report, eMarketerTM predicts that there will be over 89 million tablet users, 53 million e-reader users and 148 million smart phone users in the United States by 2014.

If this trend prediction is correct aviation marketers will have numerous platforms and networks with which to engage customers and prospects through out the adoption and purchase cycle.

Screens Everywhere

The challenge aviation marketers face is now one of learning how to use digital platforms and cloud based delivery systems to enhance the customer experience.

For example: instead of charging passengers for internet access in the airport environment what if internet access service was branded and offered for free? This is contrary to the current revenue generation thinking pattern of charging for every ancillary service, but customer loyalty could be cemented by offering free access to deals and incentives provided by merchants serving the airport ecosystem.

Taking that idea further, what if airlines streamed their own brand of entertainment to travelers in the waiting areas, and then utilized a cloud system to make it available to the traveler on their smart phone or tablet or once seated on the plane above 10,000 feet?

Forward thinking aviation marketers are already experimenting with these concepts. Singapore based, Scoot Airlines is offering iPads to long-haul budget travelers loaded with movies, music and games. This innovation occurred after ripping out their aircraft entertainment systems to reduce weight and increase fuel efficiency.

Jetstar, Quantas Airlines ltd’s low cost carrier is now offering preloaded iPads on domestic and international flights lasting longer then 90 minutes.

Both airlines plan to roll out wireless internet access in the near future, further enhancing the traveler’s experience.

People-to-People Marketing is Digital and Mobile

As users of mobile digital devices become more familiar cloud based delivery, their expectations for higher quality content will rise, as will their demand for the capability to engage in mobile commerce.

We are already seeing the trend for higher quality content in action through video ads.

Video ads are designed to support, rather than replace online and offline advertising. This form of marketing is a hybrid approach — drawing in the viewer by making a connection through a sponsorship, event or video game.

Mobile commerce will be influenced by getting customers to use their devices to check out at the register, rather than checking in at the location. Yankee Group expects point-of-sale transactions in increase to $40 billion by 2014 up from $27 million recorded in 2010.

These are fascinating trends that open up new avenues for forward thinking aviation marketers.

To purchase the eMarketerTM report click on the following link: “Top Digital Trends for 2012.”

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