Despite political, economic, and security concerns, airlines have been doing quite well recently. The industry is enjoying highly profitable years (in 2016, net profits were $35.6 billion overall). Also, 2016 was the second safest year in air travel history.
However, for airlines to grab more market share, they must not only embrace new technology and make sure customer service is top-notch, they need to also capitalize on airline marketing trends to drive growth. Here are 5 marketing trends for airlines to consider:
1. Customer Focus & Showing Personality
Airline marketing teams should place emphasis on being humorous while ensuring the needs of their travelers are satisfied. It’s worth noting that laughing leads to learning and retention. So, a funny social media post or humorous commercial is a great way to build brand identity and awareness.
A great example to follow is Air Zealand, who became famous worldwide for their hilarious yet informative safety videos. Instead of sticking to the usual script, the airline makes these videos playful.
2. Trend Jacking
The story doesn’t have to have anything to do within the industry. Big data can help airlines understand what their customer’s interests are, and then they can jump on relevant stories as they become more popular.
For instance, when Pokemon Go was released, many airlines, from American and Qantas to Virgin Atlantic, began tweeting about catching Pokemon before the flight. Trend jacking is something airlines will certainly look to do a lot more of going forward.
3. More Customization
This is the era of customization, and the best way for airlines to customize their marketing campaigns is to truly know their customers. This requires taking full advantage of technology. For example, in airline marketing, predictive analytics utilizes data, machine learning techniques, and statistical algorithms to determine how a customer will respond to a particular offer, what they may purchase, and what cross-sell opportunities may interest them.
Clearly, predictive analytics and other technologies help airline marketing teams run the operation more efficiently. United Airlines started doing this quite early. With its “collect, detect, and act” approach, United Airlines is able to see in real time what a customer may want or need, and then take the appropriate actions.
4. Starting New Trends
A great way for airlines to build their brand isn’t just getting involved in trendy topics or social movements. Airlines should also try to start their own. That’s how a brand goes from ‘just another airline’ to ‘that awesome airline’.
WestJet, an airline that makes classic April Fool’s jokes every year, can offer some inspiration here. In 2006, WestJet put out a news release that asked guests to assist with fuel efficiencies. What passengers were asked to do was to sit in a winglet position upon takeoff. Obviously, this was a joke, but it captured a large audience and now has become a thing the airline does every year on April Fool’s Day.
5. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The machines have come onto the scene and they’re helping with every aspect of an airline’s operations. From aircraft maintenance to customer service, their use is spreading. In 2016, AI really started to take off. Over the next few decades, it will undoubtedly become indispensable to airline marketing departments.
For instance, chatbots are just one of the many types of technology airline marketing teams need to be using. They lower costs while offering customers instantaneous assistance. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, with its Facebook chatbot, can help customers around the clock. Other airlines are using different technologies, like Qantas with its VR headsets, for marketing and customer service reasons. This is helping make the whole experience better for passengers.
A Blend of Advanced Technology and Creative Strategy
Of course, there are other trends worth mentioning. Friendly rivalries, if done in good taste, can be a great thing for airlines. Qantas and Air New Zealand’s wager during the Rugby World Cup turned out to be a big success for both brands.
In the end, remember that these top marketing trends show airlines must not only embrace technology, mobile, and social media, but also need to think outside of the box. In this sense, technology is more the landscape—and not the enabler—of the operation. Airline marketers first need technologies, but it will be great ideas and execution that drives the marketing function to success.