British Airways has a new ‘Experience the Welcome of Home’ video, telling the story of an Indian woman living in Toronto. She apparently flies British Airways to visit her family in India.
Great story, we all have places to go, and it’s well-produced. But I have no idea after watching it why it’s better to transit Heathrow on BA enroute to India than to fly any of their competitors? The ad gives me no reason whatsoever to choose British Airways, and I’m pretty sure that would be true even if I were an Indian woman living in Canada.
There are, best as I can tell, five types of airline ads:
- Those that sell flying (airlines used to do this for a reason – people were scared or flying was new – and now seem to do it for lack of any better ideas)
- Those that sell a destination (countries with one major flag carrier sometimes do this)
- Those that sell features and benefits (this was common when airlines had many of those, which sometimes distinguished them from competitors – and this is what United’s “friendly” campaign does while pretending to be about service)
- Those that sell sex (usually only Spirit Airlines even tries these days, with the humor of a teenage boy, because no legacy carrier could credibly do so)
- Those that sell service (United used to years ago, no US carrier can credibly do so today).
New York is a competitive market that airlines all try to convince New Yorkers they have the best flights and product and that they’re the home airline (“Newark is New York, really!“).
But beyond New York, what do you say? Checkers — the fast food chain — advertises “you gotta eat.” And technically what they have is food. So buying from them satisfied the logical condition, but provides no reason to buy from them than anyone else.
British Airways, like most airline advertising, is telling you you gotta fly! and guess what? They’re an airline. It’s the Checkers approach.
In order to advertise features and benefits you need something:
- That your competitors don’t have
- That will actually drive consumer purchase decisions other than price.
Good luck with that.
Some airlines could differentiate themselves based on their frequent flyer program, but they don’t do television advertising — why should they when they have 80, 90, or 100 million members in their file to market to? When they can rent hotel chain member lists?
So it’s really rare to see airline advertising that is well-done, credible, and could conceivably cause you to choose one brand over another.
That’s what made the Singapore Airlines “Understanding Your Needs” campaign so remarkable. The ads were heart-warming, sold something specific (service), and were actually credible.
Unless an airline can do that they really shouldn’t spend their money.