I’ve seen far too many email blasts from airlines that seem completely irrelevant. Products such as insurance, wine boxes with frequent flyer point kickbacks, and reduced cost prepurchases on flights for post lockdown. While it may be generating some revenue for airlines such as Qantas, they’re either scraping the barrel or are content with minimal revenue. In either case, it presents a huge opportunity for those looking to flourish while Qantas is failing (amongst others).
If you follow The Venture Podcast, you’ll know this isn’t my standard rant. However, as always, I’m eager to identify opportunities in the market that companies (particularly startups) can exploit should they please. It’s what helps startups to prosper due to their ability to pivot in realtime.
To my startup listeners, try this approach in your market to create differentiation.
My favourite word in marketing is empathy, and it has been completely disregarded by many companies during the coronavirus period due to the rush to generate revenue. Stop it.
As Scotty from Marketing would undoubtedly agree with, we need to empathise with our customers (and potential customers). Airlines have been known to use the following strategy, which I am far from fond of:
- Identify a requirement to generate revenue ASAP to build up a cash base during COVID-19.
- Create frequently flyer bonuses, offer flexible offers, promote the sale of complementary products.
- Generate revenue.
However, this ultimately creates an offering to fuel the company’s own requirements (pun intended) without understanding the customer. This leads to short term, underperforming results.
There’s a huge opportunity, and all it requires is a bit of empathy. Here’s what we know about the average consumer at this moment in time:
- Struggling with being at home, and overseas travel isn’t an option (domestic travel is only just starting to open up).
- Previously planned holidays are no longer an option.
- Spending most time at home or with a close group of friends in limited locations.
- Resorting to posting photos on Instagram of previous trips (we’ve all seen them) captioned with comments such as “I wish I was in Ibiza and things were back to normal #Europe2021”.
It seems almost wrong that companies are ignoring the opportunity this presents.
Instead, it apparently seemed logical to their marketing teams to sell us all insurance policies while we’re sitting at home.
Are. You. Kidding?!
Before I get too caught up, I’d like to shed some light on the workings of marketing legend Seth Godin, who in his book “This is Marketing” (link) refers to the concept of forming a “tribe” when creating change.
What Is The Change?
Airlines want people to purchase flights in advance, with no confirmed date. This is difficult, because even with flexible fares, we don’t know how things will evolve within the next month (let along the next year). We can’t guarantee we’ll be in the same job, have leave entitlements, or be in a personal position to travel. There are too many variables that a flexible fare doesn’t solve. However, that doesn’t mean we’re at a standstill.
Seth Godin mentions that we are trying too hard as businesses to create change by forcing people to change with us. This isn’t how human beings work. Instead, he mentions the importance of tribes, and how by leveraging people’s requirement for a sense of belonging, we can amplify our brands in the process (we’ve seen this with the likes of Nike and Nespresso).
What Should Airlines (Amongst Others) Be Doing?
For starters, they shouldn’t be selling us products we don’t want, particularly given it is motivated by a lack of market research (nobody has the data yet on what people want right now). However, being logical goes a long way. What airlines should be doing, should they wish to adopt the learnings of the tribe, and five degree marketing, is as follows:
- Create a tribe with a memorable name, such as Travellers on Lockdown. Disassociate it from the brand if possible.
- Create a weekly task, such as sharing your favourite photo from a recent trip overseas.
- Use strategies such as gamification to drive recurring engagement, and user generated voting to determine the winner each week.
- Promote social sharing and other relationships that don’t include your brand. By doing this, the members start to feel like part of something bigger. The tribe here is one of travellers on lockdown, so they need to be able to share ideas without you getting involved as a brand.
- Ensure there’s a benefit after this is all over. For ideas on this, see every frequent flyer system ever.
Where Does The Brand Win?
It’s seems concerning when a tribe starts to exist that you’re not a part of. The success metric or KPI is you, as the brand, not being involved in the tribe in any capacity. Here’s how it loops back to the brand:
- The tribe formed out of your brand, which means it is always associated with your brand, but doesn’t need to be marketed by your marketing team. After the initial expenditure, this is Zero Cost Marketing.
- Uploading photos and having user generated voting allows the brand to gather data about its customers so marketing material can be highly targeted. For example, knowing where someone’s favourite photo was taken allows you to market that destination to them. Further, by identifying interactions between friends within the tribe, you’re able to create group offers.
- Constantly interacting with your brand indirectly via the tribe helps people to feel a connection with your brand, which will be invaluable when things return to normal. They may even prepurchase tickets after all!
As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.