Airline Marketing as true Service?
There seem to be three conceptual options that airlines could follow in their communication approach:
- Ignore the reality of today’s travelers and just continue to communicate the traditional messages of travel excitement, supposedly great service, and some either non-existing or irrelevant service upgrades
- Get straight to the point, be honest about all current shortcomings (the average age of a US airline plane is more than 17 years old and will have more technical problems than a new airplane), admit mistakes and be totally transparent and clear about what the airline is planning to do to address at least some of the problems
- Don’t market anymore at all in any mass media and reinvest all marketing communication dollars into service improvements either pre-flight or during the flight.
Interestingly enough all airlines are following option 1, no one has the courage to either pursue the full honest approach of option 2 or the marketing budget reallocation strategy of option 3. I think it’s very worthwhile to consider a combination of option 2 and 3. Then an airline would be brutally honest about the current state and the planned improvements and use cost efficient online communication (emails and corporate blogs) to spread the word to its core audience. I think airline marketers forget too often that the most valuable and profitable travelers are reading the business sections of newspapers and portals and are well aware of the real problems. They don’t want to be communicated to but they want to be informed. With this strategy marketing would become a much more efficient and honest information application without spin and would be transformed into a true service function for travelers. What a change.
It always amazes me how little courage we witness in our marketing industry, even in categories that are under tremendous pressure and fight for survival.