Mexicana must understand that traditional rules of airline branding do not work any longer

I saw this advertisement on four different websites today. So, Mexicana and OneWorld are doing a great job with banner advertising. But I’m not really sure whether it gets any points across the viewer. Why do I say that? Because an airline brand is no longer what you [the airline] say it is, it’s what they [the customers] say it is.

First impressions matter

When I first saw this advertisement, these questions would come to the travelers’ minds:

  1. Why is Oneworld the “most important” alliance in the world?
  2. And whose claim is that? The alliance itself? Or an independent third party?
  3. Who is Mexicana? A new airline from Mexico? Or an old one?
  4. Are they any good?
  5. Do they fly anywhere other than Mexico?
  6. Oh..and which of those logos is Mexicana? The first or the last… they both look similar!

None of those questions were answered. And from a marketing standpoint, what’s the “call to action”? Being the curious type, I clicked on the advertisement anyway, and I came to a “Promotions” landing page, which didn’t quite make sense.

Repetition doesn’t work anymore

The page I was led to repeated the same message, THREE more times! I was getting impatient at this time, so I click on the advertisement on the right bar, hoping to find out more. Where does that lead me? The SAME page. Yes, I’m not joking. The same page re-loads and I’m back to square one. In about 10 mins, I’ve still not found out any of the answers to my above questions! And that’s being about 20 times more patient than the average web user.

Enlightenment at last… or is it?

As I dug around, I finally found another graphic, which seemed to go just a little more into the details of Mexicana joining OneWorld. And I thought now my curiosity would be doused. The details certainly shed more light onto what the new alliance meant, but I still failed to understand why OneWorld is the most important alliance in the world, and what’s the significance of Mexicana joining them. Most importantly, I’m still clueless how it would benefit me if I fly to Mexico once in a couple of years, and only to Cancun!

How could this have been done?

Instead of just proclaiming that Mexicana has joined the “world’s most important alliance” and leaving me to figure out what that might mean for me, the airline and the alliance could have tried one of more of these things:

  1. Get Mexicans who fly Mexicana to upload videos on YouTube on why this alliance will benefit them
  2. Get Mexicans who don’t fly Mexicana to upload videos on YouTube on why this alliance will benefit them
  3. Get Frequent Flier members who fly Mexicana to share their side of the story
  4. Get a family to share their story, and get a few businessmen too
  5. Have employees share publicly how this would change their work, and may be even improve it

Then compile all these videos and stories on a landing page on the website, or a blog, where the clicks from the ads would come. In fact, the ads themselves should just feature a person and a story. Why? Because it makes the story authentic.

Authenticity matters

Through these suggested efforts, even if at the end of the day I don’t understand why Oneworld is the “most important” alliance in the world, I might find someone I can relate to – the businessman, or the Mexican – and connect with the story to see how the alliance benefits me. Listening to other people tell their story moves more people to action, than blatantly claiming something in an advertisement.

So if you’re working with Mexicana, may I recommend you stop spending $50,000 (or more!) in getting me to watch the same advertisement four times in a day. Instead, spend $10,000 to hire a social media agency to put together the campaign suggested above. If nothing else, you’ll save $40,000. Oh, and if you need a reference, just go over to Volaris – which already does a fantastic job with authentic branding. What do you think?

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco.Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others.Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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Showing 21 comments
  • Samuel
    Reply

    I love oneworld (quality > quantity): oneworld revolves around you. Unlike Star Alliance (quality < quantity) and SkyTeam (in between). Quality is always better than quantity.

    • Shashank Nigam
      Reply

      Samuel, I believe it because you're telling me that. Wish the ad had
      you featured, telling me this fact about Oneworld.

  • Scott_Bren
    Reply

    Whilst I agree with the thrust of your argument, I disagree with the implicit assumption that all advertising should have a “call to action”… could it be that Mexicana simply wanted to inform people of their new alliances, and little more? I'm not sure that “listening to other people tell their story moves more people to action”… it may just be me, but I think most travelers (business travelers, individuals and families) would not have the time or motivation to watch YouTube clips of people talking about why they fly an airline??

    • Shashank Nigam
      Reply

      Scott, yeah, probably they won't watch full videos, but even putting
      quotes next to photos, hence attributing them to people, would work
      better than the current arrangement. I'm not sure what this achieves.

  • patriciabue
    Reply

    OH …!!! traditional way of doing things, repetitive , not innovative….if some suppliers in Latin AMerica would just look around ( other regions…!!!) to see what the rest of suppliers are doing ….it would be so beneficial and much cheaper, believe me. In this case , Mexicana, should look around in their own market…but in floor 32 of the Mexicana Tower in Mexico DF , they don`t consider Volaris a real competition.(!)

    If Latin America would just forget for a minute: ” this is not for us…”until it comes to Latin America”….”we have to wait until the trend arrives “….

    We need to generate MORE and BETTER and then some MORE…., we need more success stories…!

    • Shashank Nigam
      Reply

      Patricia, I think you hit the nail on the head. As I spent a couple of
      weeks in South America this month, I got the same feeling as well –
      that of complacence and nonchalance. Most airlines are living in their
      own bubble, and don't want anyone to burst it. What's needed is
      someone to hold them by the collar and shake them hard, to bring them
      to the new realities of airline branding. And I'm happy to play that
      role 🙂

      The good news is that airlines in the region are slowly, but surely
      waking up to the facts. Volaris is already the #1 user of social media
      in Mexico, across industries! LAN, Azul and COPA are trying out new
      initiatives that should bear fruit if executed well. And there's
      interest from a number of other airlines. Now, they just gotta put
      their foot down, and get something done, rather than just imagining
      the possibilities and backing off.

      • patriciabue
        Reply

        i play the collar shaker quite well myself….all help is welcomed though!

  • Waylon Kenning
    Reply

    OK, so I read your blog post. Mexicana didn't really push why joining One World was important, but that's not to say that there's still a requirement for traditional advertising models. Your suggestions of getting people to be authentic and upload themselves to Youtube could work in a country with high broadband penetration, but if that's not where people are due to a lack of internet infrastructure, then that's not going to work.

    Here in New Zealand, Air New Zealand is mentioned in the news quite regularly, whether for positive or negative attention, either way it makes people think about the brand. I've found Air New Zealand to really be quite innovative with marketing ideas, such as http://www.grabaseat.co.nz which encourages people to constantly visit the site, and their viral video about flight safety shot in the nude.

    As for Mexicana, they need to do more research into who their customers and potential customers, and come up with methods to contact them. I'd assume that mobile phone penetration is quite deep within Mexico, so I'd run a competition where you could txt in your details and go into the draw to win a free flight by answering a question about my airline. That way you gain contact details, the right to contact those people, and to educate them about our brand.

  • Shashank Nigam
    Reply

    @Waylon – Love your idea about mobile-based marketing. Certainly would work in Mexico!

  • Tobias Rueckerl
    Reply

    I think alrlines must learn from other industries. They need marketing actions, which touch clients on a low emotional and basic requirments level.
    Why not having timely defined actions like McDonalds? “Mexican weeks”, “Texas days”. In that time you'll going to have specialised offerings. Don't be too serious. I think you must sell: If you are using my aircraft you are: cool, clever, you'll get the best deal. The message: Others are airlines – we are more!

  • Shashank Nigam
    Reply

    @Tobias: I love your concluding message!

  • Tobias Rueckerl
    Reply

    Thanks, much appreciated!

  • Iliana Cruz
    Reply

    so what would you recommend to a carrier like MX which is still not very known abroad?

    I also like Tobia's idea, … but would you trust me (the airline)?

  • Yogesh Pagar
    Reply

    Surely won't trust, unless I find that difference. As Tobias rightly said 'We are more'.. But it should be visible, the different experience must be felt in the air & on ground as well.

    Issue with MX could be, travelers already have 'extra' knowledge about Mexico, the region, the culture & people etc.. MX branding team need to explore new taste, bundle it with MX' conventional marketing methods & re-package old & new (researched, explored & current aged other sides of Mexico) together.

    Unless the entire mindset within the organisation believes 'they are more than just an airline', complete re-branding exercise is futile.

  • Shashank Nigam
    Reply

    @Illiana: As I've recommended in my article, getting the customers' voices heard would help build trust much more than the “airline claiming” something..

  • Tobias Rueckerl
    Reply

    Some first thoughts:

    Iliana, Mexicana is a great airline with a great history. I think it has to develop a marketing strategy to make Mexicana known in that way that people abroad know, that MX is Mexico.
    If you want to experience the modern Mexico you have to fly with MX – because nobody else shows you how coo and colourfull the modern Mexico is. Mexico – as we think to know it here in Europe – is swinging life, colours, music. I think the brand is too cool, too any like.
    If I have a first look on the airlines homepage my first thought was: That's a brand from Northern Europe. I can't see any link to Mexico…
    The brand looks cool – but I think it would need more “fire”, it represents not the way of life in Mexico. The homepage, by the way, is not too user friendly.

    And to answer your question: Yes, I still would trust Mexicana if they become more colorful, possibly funnier. People want to enjoy the product. Safety and reliability are prerequisites, that have not be expressed by extra serious branding. Lufthansa i.e. is for my taste too cool too, too German. Their LCC-Subsidiary Germanwings is cool in a different way, a way which makes fun.

  • Yogesh Pagar
    Reply

    Nice Tobias,

    Lliana,
    Air-Asia's strong branding & promotions since its inception can not be missed here. They continued reaching out to global travel media although they got established pretty fast.

  • Samuel Liberant
    Reply

    Great points of view everyone.

    I am not a marketing professional myself, but looking at the articles, postings and Mexicana's website, I do believe that we have to consider who the target audience for these specific oneworld advertisements – I would assume business passengers would have been the main target in this instance because of the network benefits (reach) and loyalty the alliance represents.

    (Social Media)
    We also have to think of who are the users of social media (i.e. which passenger profiles use social media in Mexico and abroad?) – For example, there may be a very different adoption level of social media by the same passenger profile/type in Mexico and Australia. The question is also how to tackle these customers information delivery needs in each market. Some routes are mainly business routes, whilst others have more leisure travelers. Qantas has done a very good job at this with the “internationalisation” of its website to suit key markets and address their needs (product offering and promotions) in their own language.

    (Revenue Management)
    Whilst revenue management deals with maximising seat revenue, it has to work hand-in-hand with marketing and network planning to assess new business needs derived from that marketing effort. Hence the marketing effort must promote a sense of trust in Mexicana, especially from foreign customers. I do believe that being associated with Oneworld though is beneficial for Mexicana because Oneworld affiliates tend to be very reputable and safe airlines.

    (Website)
    Whilst it is true that a website must not only be simple to navigate, it must also provide with the most relevant information for the specific user profile, and avoid duplication of information (redundancy), Mexicana could use additional space to advertise other product features instead of having three same adds in the one page. Here again, Qantas, through it's Frequent Flyer profiling system and/or booking engine, targets promotions according to customers purchases and page navigation (past and current). Nowadays, you do not have to be logged on to a frequent flyer account on the airline's website for the system to analyse your behaviour and deliver information on related products.

    To answer Iliana's question about trust, I do agree with the rest that human beings like a point of reference and link things through a story – social media is a very clever way to promote a trusting brand and generate transactions.

    In this instance, we must address what and who Mexicana intends to convey the message to and not think that a single banner comprises it's entire marketing effort.

    On that note, being a Mexican myself, I would like Mexicana to recognise that Australians love Mexico and that there is a huge market potential here. The airline has not done much to promote its services and the only thing that is aparent is that Qantas now flies to Mexico from Australia!

  • Iliana Cruz
    Reply

    Gracias! great comments, I am also pleased to see that MX is well known within the international industry.

    Have you heard about the phrase “Mexi who?” this is a problem which MX has abroad. Eventhough MX is the 3rd oldest airline in the world after KLM and Avianca, MX is still not a well known airline in some market segments in the US and CA. However, I believe we have done a good job broadening our reach, mostly through our website and OTAs.

    MX does have a strong presence in the domestic social media arena. I know MX is active in facebook and twitter, there are also great promotions through most of our distribution channels and with commercial partners, these all mostly within Mexico. BTW MX just gave away a luxurious villa in Acapulco one of the most important promo in MX history.

    As far as marketing and promotions.. we do like to have fun, this year we rolled out a very cool and innovative campaing around a different theme each week. Each week we launched a theme featuring our signature products such as VTP (MX own packaged deals: hotel, air and land transportation, etc.), MexicanaGO *(loyalty program) and our air only product under the same concept. Some of the themes were “carnaval, MX beaches, wonderful US cities week, skii getaways, among others”

    Having said this, you all make a valid point, MX needs to get out there in a global arena. As RM I make sure I have a great product portfolio, but as Samuel rightly pointed out, it has to be an orquestrated effort with Marketing and network planning. A product wihtout mktg is like a car wihtout a motor. I am not an expert on social marketing nor my comments represent MX opinion but I believe we could show more our Mexican side although you don-t want to be too Mexican.

    About the OneWorld comment, MX entered Europe and SAO at the end of 2008, since then slowly but surely we are building more pressence in Spain and UK. I want to believe that being a OneWorld member is like an endorsment for MXs efforts to consolidate as a reliable, safe and secure airline. It is important to show that MX is also a serious, safe and global airline … but I have to agree, it does not say that it is a fun airline!

    Lastly, MX unveiled a new image in 2008. Tobias you were right on, it was a Scandinavian designer so it is not your typical Mexican logo, as we had it in the 80-s with the Mexican embroid. The new image shows a clean, fresh sort of minimalist look with free flow letters to represent MX as a dynamic, flexible and innovative airline. As a continous effort to renovation and innovation, just last week MX launched a series of custumer centricity initiatives to strenght its commitment to service as a reliable, flexible and trasnparent airline. It is all about service and the customer.

    Thanks all for your comments! feel free to send more.

  • Brian G. Jones
    Reply

    Age old problem. But in thias case it's a communications problem, not just a brand problem. Communication is NOT what you say, it's what people hear. To that end, use the “communications” aspect not the “brand” aspect to ask, What are people (customers) hearing? Tried and true customer surveys help clarify what you (who on the inside with all your intuitive knowledge) know already–the customer's perception of Mexicana is “X, Y and Z”. Now it's up to upper management to change that. I suspect the reason for the OneWorld move is to change that perception. It's a start, but the bottom line is action: customer service, keeping your brand promises and managing expectations. Good luck.

  • Robert Golden
    Reply

    Legacy airlines as you mention are no longer “legacy”, they simply are airlines operating now in a system of pooled airlines to retain operations. At the end of the day, all carriers are replaceable and can be re-branded through marketing. Does this bring new business? It will through FF affiliations and loyalty from what I refer to as the mother ship carrier who calls the shots. That being BA/AA who have the existing customers to push Mexicana through incentives and benefits.

    No dirfferent than what is happening with Austrian in the USA now under the wings of the LH group of airlines. The Image remains, service remains, name remains but “legacy” and independance are no longer possible to compete in a global market without partners and so called home-market carriers. Do any airlines have a home anymore? Most are competing for business outside their home market anyway and that is where push comes to shove and revenues fall and that is where the “consumer” benefits be it on Mexicana or any other legacy

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