The top competitors to British Airways are: AMR Corporation, Delta Air Lines, Inc., Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Southwest Airlines Co., UAL Corporation, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, Continental Airlines, Inc., Qantas Airways and Ryanair Holdings PLC.
Global Positioning UK & Abroad
According to the Business Superbrands survey for 2009, BA's brand position in the UK has plummeted from number 8 in 2008 to number 36 this year. The survey also reveals that BA's arch-rival, Virgin Atlantic, has improved its brand position in the UK to number 25, up from number 28 in 2008. (Source: http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/airline-business/2009/02/t5-debacle-damages-bas-brand.html)
As reported by Bloomberg.com, British Airways is experiecing economic troubles - 'Europe's third-largest airline had a net loss of 217 million pounds ($360 million) in the six months ended Sept. 30, widening from 49 million pounds a year earlier.' Also, recent layoffs are building on the negativity of BA's current public image - 'scrapping 3,000 more jobs on top of 1,900 already eliminated and hiring workers on lower pay.' (Bloomberg.com - http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601102&sid=akq4mIAC.QZM#)
British Airways, being the world's leading global premium airline, finds itself "in a period of unprecedented change" (http://www.britishairways.com/cms/global/microsites/ba_reports0809/our_business/strategy4.html) where having a clear vision defines the company's future. When we think about British Airways, three keywords dominate our understanding of what the company stands for: global, premium and airline. These conscious and meaningful words communicate systemic direction and value. Not only they stretch the company's dynamic competencies and image, but also shape the company's organizational culture. It is the very essence as to why the company exists: "It is vital, therefore, that we remain absolutely committed to our plans to establish British Airways as a high-performing, market-focused, global premium airline." (http://www.computing.co.uk/computing/news/2242751/british-airways-launches-board)
In terms of its strategic communication strategy, BA employs a variety of tools, media channels and messages. As part of BA's corporate strategy and objectives, the company's Compete 2012 programme seeks to "instil the drive and competition of the Olympic spirit into the way we work and perform as a team, and it puts our customers at the heart of our culture." (http://www.britishairways.com/cms/global/microsites/ba_reports0809/our_business/strategy4.html)
iPhone Application (Digital)
Taking advantage of the iPhone's capabilities, British Airways has won praise for its iPhone version.
Value Calculator (Digital)
British Airways is attempting to prove that it can be competitive on price, and has launched a value calculator on its website that compares its prices to those of Ryanair and easyJet - With British Airways, the price you see is the price you pay. You can rest assured that there won't be any extra charges.
Business-class Service Only
'British Airways will launch later this year an on-board internet service for business class passengers travelling from London to New York. Customers will be able to send texts, emails and access the internet in-flight. BA claimed this is the first time such technology will be offered on transatlantic flights.' (Mari, 2009 - http://www.computing.co.uk/computing/news/2242751/british-airways-launches-board)
BA launched a campaign called 'BAcking Britain' which will offer 5,000 return flights with the aim of helping UK small and medium businesses win new business abroad.
The airline is a London 2012 Olympic Games sponsor, and in association with UK Sport, offers athletes who are part of the World Class Performance programme special allowances.
"British Airways focuses on offering online services to retain old customers and to attract new customers. [...] The online portal is helping British Airways to drive down costs and increase revenues. Almost a third of all the company's bookings are made on ba.com, with almost half of all European leisure fares sold via the UK site, as a testimony to its popularity with customers. [...] In FY2009, the company introduced a new feature allowing customers to upgrade their booking at any time between buying a ticket and checking-in online. British Airways had launched a new service, allowing customers to check-in or access real time arrivals and departures information through their mobiles. [...]" (Datamonitor PDF)
Current Communications Mix for British Airways
This is mainly comprised of mass media advertising in print and television forms respectively, as well using the medium of the internet to support these adverts with banners and imbedded ads on appropriate sites.
They use little below the line communication, with the exception of PR, although this could be used much more effectively to boost and maintain brand image, and to defend against negative press. For example 'BA Christmas strike threat moves closer'. (Teather, 2009 - http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/nov/02/ba-christmas-strike-threat-closer) They also occasionally use sales promotion in the form of offers and airfare sales to try to generate new custom and boost sales, but this is potentially risky for them as they are not competitive in terms of price and by reducing it too much they may lose the ability to charge a premium for their services.
A short analysis of some of British Airway's Current Adverts:
It follows the salience model of television advertising, with some level of involvement, in that it draws the audience in by juxtaposing the idea of an airport with the seemingly incongruous one of an underwater world and seeks to reinforce the brand Image of BA, but its focus is to differentiate itself from other products in the same class. In terms of effectiveness, although this advert is quite stunning in terms of visual display, it does not take into account what the consumer wants- they buy flights to get somewhere else.
This advert was launched in 2006 and again, whilst visually very compelling seems a little confused in its positioning - luxury or good pricing? And although the image of a happy child has high emotional influence on some, it may have a negative effect on others, those who have paid a premium in order to be in a quiet, peaceful environment, not one filled with children. This may have worked 3 years ago, but the cynicism of today's consumers might view this as a 'smoke and mirrors' effort.
This seems to be more in line with the traditional brand image of British Airways, suggesting that their customers are of the class that would understand and appreciate this kind of humour. This 'warm hearted' TV ADS seem to be targeting a different segment altogether and although this might be what BA want to expand into, they seem insincere when placed next to the print ads. BA would benefit from a clearer definition of their target segment(s) and, if they are targeting more than one, the advertising should be based on the same creative platform.
Print Ad Examples:
The Advantages/Disadvantages of Advertising
This type of marketing does not always sit well with today's media savvy consumers and, when viewed in light of negative press on the company, seems false and sycophantic. Although cost is not usually an issue to a company like British Airways, their recent losses mean that it would be prudent to look towards cheaper communication tools such as viral media or PR. On the plus side, advertising guarantees a wide audience and can go some way towards changing perceptions if it is positioned and implemented correctly.
Inconsistency of Message
The incongruity between their print and television advertisements is damaging to them in terms of perceived brand identity and image because the messages they are giving out are confused and almost contradictory towards one another. This can be more clearly explained by using the brand identity prism. (Fill, p.358)
We are told that the brand personality refers to 'Those human characteristics that best represent the identity, best understood by the use of celebrity spokespersons who provide an instant personality.'(fill, p.359) For BA, this might be a classic London Businessman, with a tangible air of aggressive efficiency about him. However, if we are to go by the advertising of recent years, it might also be a champion of hedonistic flights of fantasy, in the most luxurious settings. Their approach towards their corporate and business customers is completely different to their approach towards their holiday and leisure customers.
Although it is important to target your different segments with methods most appropriate to them, it is also important to maintain a clear message about what your brand stands for:
'For a brand to be maintained and to work, it is important that the communications used to develop and maintain the brand are consistent and meaningful. Part of the essence of integrated marketing communications is that the mix used to support a brand, including the messages that are used to convey brand values, must be consistent, uniform and reinforcing.' (Fill, p.366)
By using IMC, BA should 'speak with a single voice' (Shimp, p.X) and use a creative platform which clearly translates their positioning and core benefits, and only needs slight adjustment to differentiate between segments.
Need to Maximise PR potential
PR, it is not used to full effect and there is a need to counteract any negativity in their perceived brand image with a more proactive PR strategy. Although they have done things such as the 'Great Britons' to try and promote a wholesome image and to show corporate responsibility in a consumer climate where such things are increasingly influential, we are relatively unaware of it. Integrated Marketing Campaigns are all about building relationships; therefore PR should play an important role.
Focus on Consumer Benefits.
People buy plane tickets to get to somewhere else - the end destination of the flight is what they are really buying. Consumers need to feel that there are tangible benefits in choosing one brand over another, and BA need to promote these benefits in their marketing. The benefits of BA are that they are premium, that they are reliable as a result of many years experience, and that they are able to fly a wide variety of flight destinations. In a world where consumers are increasingly media savvy, and an economic climate where they are looking for real rather than perceived value, companies like BA need to be straight talking.
Reassessment of Positioning in Current Market Conditions
As already mentioned, BA have lost out in the European Market to low cost carriers like Ryanair and Easyjet. Long haul, transatlantic flights are where the benefits that BA offer - advance seat booking, in-flight entertainment, flat beds, quality meals and increased leg room - really add value in the eyes of the customer. This approach finds strength in that the merger with Iberia opens up South America for them and in that the advent and subsequent rise of the Euro means that while flying within the continent is cheaper, the overall holiday is not. Therefore, a new marketing campaign may well benefit from focusing on this aspect of their operations rather than short haul, European flights where competition is too fiercely dominated by price.
A new IMC would need to reassure employee, shareholders and customers that they are capable of staying afloat and holding their position as a premium airline. This is where proactive PR strategies could counteract the effects of their recorded financial loss for the last two years
- Need for consistency in all marketing to reinforce brand image and positioning
- Need for a greater use of marketing tools beyond mass media advertising, for example PR to improve credibility.
- Need for a greater focus on real benefits in ads.
- Need for a retargeting and repositioning in the face of recent competition in the European Market
- Need to reassure consumers by capitalising on Brand experience, and by empathising with their concerns
The first target segment for the new IMC will be the customers who use the business class service for international travel. The second target segment will be the customers who use both first class and economy services for leisure travel; those who appreciate the need for added extras on a long haul flight.
Business Customers -need to reassure them that we empathise with their needs e.g. providing internet access and a private lounge, and with their motivations for flying long haul. We also need to remind them what it is we offer in comparison to other providers and regain brand loyalty.
Leisure Customers - we need to reassure them that we empathise with their needs in a sincere and straightforward manner. We need to make them aware of the benefits of flying further and of flying with BA.
Both - we need to reassure consumers and other stakeholders that we are able to cope with recent setbacks and that we are a reliable investment.
New Positioning Statement
The motivation behind a new IMC approach to BA's marketing, that will be used as the creative platform for the campaign:
"We're here for the Long Haul"
Marketing Communication Strategies
Profile strategies: to influence stakeholders.
Push and pull relate to the direction of the communication to the marketing channel and do not relate to the intensity of communication and only refer to the overall approach. Profile, however, refers to the presentation of the organisation as a whole, and for the purposes of this campaign, we have decided to focus mainly on the three stakeholder groups shown below. Communication with other groups, e.g. retailers would also be dictated by the new brand positioning statement.
(Fill, p.302 - adapted)
Levels of Meaning
The above statement firstly communicates the reassurance that BA is not going anywhere, which is designed to pacify several different stakeholders including shareholders, employees and customers. It also clearly states the new positioning for the brand in terms of services rendered, which should lead to consistent message content in subsequent marketing. Thirdly it can be used for both target segments because it provides a platform that enables BA to communicate the core benefits for each.
For Business customers, this would be translated into empathy for why they are travelling long haul - going the extra mile to try to make progressions in their careers, and suggesting that BA will be with them for its duration, which could be emphasized through loyalty schemes. The use of 'we're' has a communal tone to it and the immediacy of 'here' suggests that BA is always available to help. In communications terms, the metaphor of the 'long haul' will be rendered as dedication, which strongly resonates with this particular segment. Therefore, two specific media channels (TV and print) will be used to converse the notion of loyalty on two levels: 1. Reinforce and 2. Reward.
TV & Print Advertising will focus on not only the benefits associated with flying BA Business class such as collecting BA Miles, cabin bonuses, worldwide lounge access, priority check-ins, on-board meal preferences and unparalleled comfort, but also reinforcing the idea of togetherness and how BA can help the customer achieve his or her desired goals.
Reward - "Promotions" Campaign
Business Professionals that have recently been promoted will have the chance of purchasing a round-trip ticket to any flight destination for the price of a one-way ticket. Eligibility: BA Executive Club Card; Proof of recent promotion (1-2 months).
Print advertising with a direct call to action, placed in major business publications such as The Economist and the Financial Times, will be utilized as main media channel as these are the primary outlets for this segment.
For Leisure customers this proposition would be translated to empathise with the 'long haul' of preparation that often goes into a holiday, indicated by its status as a high involvement purchase. BA takes a bit of the stress out of the decision making process, that could be communicated by advertising pre-flight help services and in-flight entertainment to make the waiting seem a little shorter (in accordance with the awareness that customers just want to get there). The reassurance that they will stay stable also counteracts fears consumers may have about early booking in today's economic climate. Marketing should also be geared towards the benefits of long haul destinations in terms of both holiday quality and financial savings, in comparison with European holidays.
Treadmill Challenge (TC) Campaign
The campaign targeting the Leisure segment focuses on the 'We're here for the long haul. Are you?' statement to support new brand positioning and communicate the value benefits of flying with BA. The objectives sought are to create awareness, promote benefits of dedication to reinforce and support new brand proposition, generate traffic to BA's website and customer involvement, and add real value.
Maximum of 60 minutes per session
(The longer you run, the more you save.)
- 1 mile = 100 BA miles
- Accumulated miles are valid for only 1 year
- Deployment in major UK cities
- Seeking involvement within local communities to generate publicity and establish relationships
- Each Treadmill center will comprise of around 30 machines
- TV & Print advertising introduces the challenge with a specific CTA ('Find out more at www.ba.com/tc') that directs users to visit BA's TC website
- Print media placement in The Sun, The Guardian, Leisure and Travel - popular readings among the target audience
- Ad copy direction: 'London - New York, in 20 minutes'
- TC website contains all necessary information about benefits, entry, eligibility, launch dates and list of all participating cities and communities
- Registration is required to guarantee a place in the challenge and for obtaining a free BA Mile card.
'By creating awareness and trust it is possible to create goodwill and interest, which may translate into purchase activity or favourable word-of-mouth communications.' (Fill, 2009, p.568) Hopefully such events would attract media coverage which is free advertising for BA, and because it is interactive, it is a form of Direct Marketing that creates a relationship with, and demands response from, the consumer.
In order to fully communicate its proposition to its consumers, BA needs to ensure that all employees are aware of, understand, and wholly embrace the new brand position. 'We're here for the Long Haul' is a clear statement that defines the values of the company to its employees, and so directs customer-oriented behaviour within the workforce.
BA Employees within different departments are expected to nominate top-performing colleagues for their consistent contribution and dedication to the company. Finalists are to compete for 30 all-inclusive (individual or family) and paid flight tickets to any destination. BA will host the 'British Airways Employees of the Year' event at the end of every fiscal year. Also, winning employees shall be featured on BA's corporate website and receive partial media coverage in BA's 'High Life' flight magazine.
SMART is a managerial framework that applies to the definition, development and evaluation of business/marketing objectives, specifically that they must be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Targeted and Timed. 'This clarifies thinking, sorts out the logic of the proposed activities and provides a clear measure for evaluation at the end of the campaign.' (Fill, 2009, p. 335)
Specific: Actual variables that are to be influenced in the campaign. (fill, p. 335)
The core objective of British Airways is to connect people from one destination to another.
- Advertising stimulates awareness and publicity for the new brand proposition.
- PR stunts to build company credibility and produce free 'advertising' in media coverage. Also creates a direct relationship with the consumers.
- Internal promotions to motivate employees with regard to the new positioning.
Measurable: Set a measure of activity against which performance can be assessed. (fill, p. 335)
- Advertising teaser campaign's performance measured by number of clicks, USVs (unique site visits), number of registrations completed, number of claimed BA Mile cards
- Business Promotions Campaign measured by number of flights claimed and/or inquiries.
- Performance of PR measured by number of people participating in TC, number of redeemed miles, increased booking through various channels as a result of WOM advertising and media coverage.
- Increased productivity and positive customer feedback from employee promotions campaign.
- Changes in attitude to brand resulting from advertising is harder to quantify. Would recommend conducting customer research before and after the campaign to evaluate the overall success of the campaign.
Achievable: objectives need to be attainable (fill, p. 335)
- Customers are the heart of everything. BA aims at achieving loyal customers for the long run, and thus is constantly providing high-class training to its employees.
- If this is coupled with staff incentives, there is both the motivation and the means for them to perform to a consistently high standard.
- BA has the financial power to implement these schemes.
- The new positioning statement provides an anchor point that all staff can relate to and work from.
- PR campaign sets achievable goals for the consumer and rewards them in direct proportion to the amount of effort they put in.
Realistic: The actions must be founded in reality and be relevant to the brand and the context in which they are set. (fill, p. 335)
- Increase in awareness and sales are realistic within the time frame.
- BA has the resources to carry out this campaign.
- All marketing activities are related to dedication and perseverance, the values embodied by the new positioning statement, which in itself does not stray too far from BA's established ideology and vision.
Targeted and Timed: Which target audience is the campaign targeted at, how precisely is the audience defined and over what period are the results to be generated? (fill, p. 335)
Audiences are divided into 3 categories:
- Customers - Business and Leisure
- Local Communities - Involved in PR campaign
Time Period - see below.
IMC should be comprised of:
- 50% advertising
- 30% PR
- 20% Sales promotions