Editorial: Airlines adopt brace position

It is a fascinating time to work in airline marketing, as rival brands jockey for the strongest position in which to ride out an era of declining passenger numbers and soaring fuel prices.

Just weeks after the Terminal 5 debacle had finally disappeared from the front pages, finance directors in the aviation industry were issuing a tranche of depressing figures, which were seized on by analysts and commentators as the latest evidence of a market in trouble.

The accepted wisdom is that only the strongest will survive, and smaller players will find it impossibly hard to make their routes profitable. Casualties are expected to be high.

Clever marketing has never been more vital, and the diverse tactics currently being deployed make compelling viewing as the industry prepares for its biggest land-grab in several years.

Ryanair has gone on the offensive, introducing a £1-a-seat offer to force its smaller rivals into submission by means of sheer muscle. Slashing its marketing team made the airline no friends (as if it cared), but the Irish brand's confidence in its positioning is such that it has never been one for doing anything by halves.

Meanwhile, British Airways - another carrier expected to weather the current storm due to its size and extensive network - is continually on the defensive, trying to convince people that it can actually arrange a flight that both takes off and lands on time, complete with the bags belonging to the relevant set of passengers.

In a downturn, consumers return to the brands they trust, and the damage that recent events have done to BA is cause for concern. The moment it launched a fightback ad campaign highlighting the punctuality of T5 flights, it was slapped back down for muddling the figures.

It is time for the industry to grit its teeth. Strong coffee and stronger nerve are required in marketing meetings, as rival airlines attempt to outfox both one another and the market's horrible decline.

This week, we report on the ongoing battle between BA and Virgin Atlantic, as the latter prepares a £3m campaign undermining the former's proposed transatlantic tie-up with American Airlines, which Virgin argues would give the two airlines an unfair stranglehold on flights between Heathrow and the US.

The market's present turmoil makes this move all the more interesting, and the extra publicity will do Virgin Atlantic no harm, but rather reinforce its position as a challenger brand taking on the establishment.

Over the next few months, airlines and their agency partners will undoubtedly meet more regularly. Brands will need to play to their strengths and devise innovative ways of encouraging people to keep flying. A clever bit of blue-sky thinking could go a long way.

- Mark Ritson, page 19.

Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers