According to ISM Boston‘s website, Gary Leopold, their CEO, “not only eats, sleeps and breathes travel, he knows it from the client side.” After having a conversation with him, one would appreciate the completeness of the sentence – and the man.
Not only has Gary led ISM Boston – a niche travel marketing firm – for almost 25 years, he has also been involved in the strategic planning for all accounts, one of them being Emirates Airline. ISM Boston recently won the Emirates account for North America after a review. He was gracious enough to speak to us about the unique challenges faced by airline brands and how they can succeed – both in the US and abroad.
In essence, Gary feels that airlines need to give autonomy to marketing agencies and push them to innovate – like Emirates does. Over the five years ISM Boston has had the Emirates account, they seem to have surpassed their own expectations on the quality of work produced for Emirates.
When asked whether US based airlines can ever regain their former glory, Gary believes that airlines here need to ensure consistency across product, service and the brands will become stronger. Moreover, they need listen to their customers, and come up with innovative ways (and probably new business models) to address their needs. When asked to recall an incident, Gary gets animated while describing how he doesn’t mind sitting on the tarmac on a JetBlue flight, since there is seat-back entertainment and he doesn’t need to miss his ball game. You can watch the full 20 mins video interview below.