Six Brand Leadership Lessons from Air New Zealand, and the flatbed seat in Economy Class
At the edge of the world, a small airline is pushing the envelope when it comes to doing the right things. This is a hallmark of a brand that is going places, even in times of adversity. If you haven’t already heard, Air New Zealand yesterday revealed a revolutionary flat-bed seat in Economy Class that will re-define the way we travel (Check out Crankyflier’s firsthand coverage here). This prompted a lot of commentary around the world, and I really liked one from Arun Rajagopal (in addition to Cranky’s) with his focus on branding.
Arun is a creative supervisor with Wunderman in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. He is an award-winning copywriter, a co-author of the marketing book ‘The Age of Conversation’ and blogs at www.arunrajagopal.com. His interests include airlines, travel, marketing and social media.
And here’s how Arun explains Air New Zealand is re-defining the flying experience (first published on his blog)
Pic credit: Flickr – source
1. Be bold in your marketing
Air New Zealand is not shy of stirring a little turbulence in your teacup. Bold, edgy and provocative – that’s how I would describe their recent marketing.
Their ‘Nothing to Hide’ campaign was an excellent take on low cost airlines adding hidden fares. Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe even made a cameo appearance in full body-paint as a baggage handler in this campaign. It was extended to airline safety where crewmembers went bare naked in in-flight safety videos.
However, Air New Zealand recently flew into a bit bad weather with their controversial ‘Cougar’ campaign. But there’s really no thing such as bad PR.
In October 2009, Air New Zealand flew probably the first matchmaking flight in the world from Auckland to Los Angeles, complete with its own social media networking site, pre-flight airport party, loads of in-flight merrymaking and a ticket to a gala post-flight mixer attended by 150 single Kiwis.
All these activities fit Air New Zealand’s vision of “putting the fun back in flying”.
Lesson: Let your marketing be bold, unconventional and spoken about.
2. Your product matters MOST
No marketing or promotion can save you if you don’t have a good product or improve your existing product offering.
Today, Air New Zealand is in the news for their newly launched ‘SkyCouch’ flatbed seat in Economy Class.
While it’s too early to predict its success, Air New Zealand can be hailed for bringing innovation to the back of the cabin.
Like an enthusiast commented: “The SkyCouch is up there with EK’s A380 showers and SIA’s double beds. Gotta love the Kiwis!”
Lesson: Never stop working on improving your product/service.
3. Be different to be better
If you are doing something different from the pack, recognition follows you.
The airline industry usually witnesses a “McDonald’s” approach of doing things. If someone is launching a Low-Cost Carrier (LCC), everyone else does the same thing. If you start charging for check-in baggage, everyone else follows suit.
Air New Zealand’s SkyCouch is a daring innovation in terms of product, price and positioning. But this is just one of the many innovations they have been up to in the recent times.
No wonder, the Air Transport World magazine recently named Air New Zealand Airline of the Year.
Lesson: What are you doing differently to be better?
4. Leadership begins from the top
Positive change begins from the top and flows down the ladder. Under the leadership of Rob Fyfe, Air New Zealand seems to have galvanized itself and embraced ‘an authentic Kiwi can-do style’ of getting things done.
“We operate this airline in a New Zealand way – we’re not trying to emulate a Singapore Airlines or emulate a McDonald’s. We’re trying to go out there day in and day out and trying to be authentic Kiwis and give people a real genuine New Zealand experience,” says Fyfe.
Lesson: Are you the Fyfe of your organization?
5. Innovation Quotient
Air New Zealand recently made the world’s first flight using a sustainable biofuel. It also attempted sending a rocket into space. These are innovations at work.
One of the greatest assets in any organization is its people
, their knowledge and attitudes. Harness them well and you have a strong culture of innovation.
Air New Zealand has an interesting programme called Test Flight where employees pitch ideas to the executive team. If the idea is chosen, the person suggesting the idea can get to work on the project itself and get a share of the profits.
Air New Zealand also looks outside its own industry for ideas. “We don’t just look at other airlines, at airports. We look at shopping centres, we look at universities, we look pretty much anywhere to get ideas that we could potentially use at Air New Zealand,” says Julia Raue, Chief Information Officer at Air New Zealand.
Lesson: What’s your organization’s innovation quotient?
6. People make the difference
As a company, Air New Zealand is known to create a work environment that values and recognizes people for their enthusiasm and ingenuity.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the airline gave its 11,000 staff an extra day off to celebrate their part in winning the Airline of the Year award.
Lesson: How well are your people contributing to your growth? Are there ways to energize them better?