How-They-See-It--4-Things-Airline-CMOs-Are-Saying-About-Marketing_BLOG.gifMarketing in the airline industry is changing by the second. From social media to data analytics, it seems everything reinvents itself every few months. This puts Airline CMOs in the hot seat. They must adapt to these changes, while simultaneously capitalizing on new opportunities.

Learning how airline CMOs are strategizing can show a lot about what to expect in the industry. Here we take a look at 4 things airline CMOs are saying about marketing.

1. A Successful Brand Strategy Requires Constant Reinvention

“I think the big challenge we have is we have to keep coming up with cool, innovative things that fit the (brand) personality. What was a great idea three years ago or four years ago is not innovative any more.” —Marty St. George, JetBlue’s Executive Vice President of Commercial and Planning.

There’s a reason why 87% of executives rate brand reputation as more important than other strategic risks. It’s because a good brand identity makes companies stand out from the crowd.

This is especially true in the airline industry, where profit margins are thin and services are quite similar across all companies. This means airlines have to consistently work on building, preserving, improving, and transforming their brand identity to succeed.

JetBlue is a great example of a company that does this well. Recently, the low-cost carrier ran its ‘Reach Across the Aisle’ campaign. This campaign offered 150 people a free vacation (as long as they could agree on a destination). Not only was this an interesting social experiment that engaged a large portion of customers, it was a brilliant way for JetBlue to keep itself involved in the conversation, to make its brand relevant and impactful. Of course, to stay relevant, the airline will have to continue to come with great marketing ideas like this.

2. Every Customer Has a Voice

“What keeps me up at night? I would probably say it is around the stickiness of the customer relationship and how we get smarter about building that relationship.” —Jo Boundy, CMO of Qantas Loyal

For a great example of how marketing has changed, look no further than the story of how British Airways lost a man’s luggage. The traveler paid Twitter a whopping $1000 to promote his story, which resulted in a huge amount of traction on social media.

If anything, this proves the following about airline marketing today:

  • Customer service must be 24/7

  • The main audience is online and always watching

  • An airline’s brand is not what the airline says—it’s what the customer says

  • Everyday passengers can be great ambassadors (or naysayers) of your brand

To put it simply, everyone and everything is connected in the digital age. Airlines have to be aware of this when they produce content and engage with customers.  

That’s precisely why Ryanair’s “Rate My Flight” service is a great marketing tactic. It welcomes every passenger to share the good and bad about flying with Ryanair. As Kenny Jacobs, the CMO at Ryanair, says, the flight rating service is “a great tool” for getting new information. Also, it allows the budget carrier to address problems as they arise and make improvements (preferably before it becomes a social media nightmare).

3. Everything Is Moving Towards a Platform Model

“We just launched a program where we’re starting to build platforms across the entire airline...following the guest journey at every touch point.” —Shane O’Hare, CMO of Etihad Airways

The platform economy has certainly disrupted the airline industry. For instance, Expedia is worth more than many major airlines—and the company doesn’t even fly planes!

This is precisely why airlines are working towards being platform companies. At Etihad Airways, for example, the company wants to connect everything about the travel experience, from pre-flight to hotel room. This is how any airline can best engage with customers and solve their needs.

In the coming years, expect CMOs to seek strategic partnerships to enable such full-service platforms (like United Airlines’ alliance with Uber). Airline marketers are seeing that customers want a seamless experience from door to door—and they’re working to provide that.

4. Data Is the Key to Efficiency

“We are changing the tier structure (of our loyalty program) and revisiting benefits we are really working around that, and key to that change is data-driven marketing. We want to make sure that we send the relevant offers to each tier.” —Juha Jarvinen, CCO of Finnair

Customers are more informed than ever and have greater access to information. We know that. But it’s important to note this goes both ways. Now more than ever, airlines have insights into the behaviors of their customers (through all that data). CMOs realize this and are making strides to use their data effectively.

Consider that 57% of marketers report revenue increases thanks to data-driven marketing. That’s because big data is the way marketers can understand their customers and understand which channels deliver the best ROI.

Data can be used by marketers for all sorts of things. For example, as airlines collect data on customers, they can discover which ancillary services will benefit their customers. This is a win-win for both sides. The airline can customize their offer more effectively and the customer can get what they actually want.

Winning in a New World

Airline CMOs are recognizing the changes occurring in marketing and their industry, and planning appropriately. Clearly, success lies in utilizing the available technology to create the best solutions. While building such solutions, airline CMOs have to keep the customer experience at the front of their minds. That’s the way to win in the skies.


Read more about how the CMO and CIO can work as partners to redefine an airline's customer experience.

Read the blog