Airline marketing in 2017 – ten things to think about

It is tempting to think of 2016 as one of the worst in recent times. A spate of political crises, unending wars, terrorist attacks, economic turmoil in the developed and undeveloped world — the news appeared unrelentingly glum. 

Though, there’s good news too. The airline industry is thriving. It is expected to post record profits as a whole — a fabulous run that’s unprecedented in history, and expected to continue in 2017 as well! The demand for air travel continues to grow robustly. 2016 was also the second safest year in the history of aviation!

Every reason, then, to enter the new year with optimism and a renewed enthusiasm for serving passengers. What’s needed to ensure continued success for your airline marketing plans?

1. Look at technology as the landscape, not only an enabler of airline marketing

Here’s how to best understand this.

Earlier, technology used to be the signboard outside our houses; today, it’s the house.

We are living in a world that’s been changed forever. It’s time to change mindsets, again. Technology — mobile, social, AI — will inevitably be a part of whatever you do. It’s no longer interesting enough to say that you’re special because of it; everyone is similarly special by now. Use technology with purpose.

2. Play the long game

The hard work begins now. The golden, easy years of playing around with fancy tools and gimmicky digital campaigns are over. If you wish to stay ahead of the competition, forget the short-bursts. Create value for your customers by thinking of the long term. This might also mean thinking hard about the products and services you are marketing. 

3. Fire those who are still hung up on likes and shares

Ideally, you should have done this in 2016. Repeat to yourself: likes and shares offer no reasonable gauge of what people like. More importantly, by focusing on what people like, have you forgotten your own business goals? It’s quite likely that you have. Start fresh by building a holistic plan for measuring success.

4. Uncover failures

If a metric is going down, don’t get rid of it. If your marketing team tries to hide or avoid a metric, ask why. Ask for the hard metrics, the ones that aren’t positive; that make your marketing team squirm. If every metric looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Tanking meters often have useful insights for the company. Negative metrics are less a sign of failure than the reluctance to accept and correct them.

5. Reduce content. Refocus.

Forget about what people like on the internet. The answer, in general, is that they like to waste time and watch cat videos and read fake news. It’s no longer important to share beautiful photos of destinations. Everybody is doing it. And nobody cares anyway. There’s too much content. Instead, can your content make life easier for your customers? Does it help them in any tangible way? Connect each piece of your content to a business metric or a tangible benefit.

6. Unfriend social media  

Everyone’s caught up by now. At least, all your most important competitors have. And they know the game well. Nobody is likely to be caught out by a smart Facebook post or a Twitter comment or Instagram photo. Invest in content that has long-term value. Think microsites dedicated to a specific purpose; data-driven blog posts; a more intelligent website.

Forget the river; build a mountain.

7. Ignore outrage that is noise (a.k.a trolls)

This will be a personal call. Does online outrage matter to you? If there’s a lot of it, it’s significant. It should matter to you. If there’s some, you can probably safely ignore it. Your definitions of what counts as “some” outrage, and being able to solve genuine problems online, will ensure success. Otherwise, you can safely assume that, by now. the act of outrage itself has become a sport. And — believe it or not — your customers know this too.

8. Combine digital with offline

If the two departments that need to be connected are still not talking to each other, you’re prepping for failure. Customer service and operations need each other. Now, more than ever.

9. Counter a climate of fear

The results of the recent US elections have created uncertainty the world over. Prepare in advance for more security challenges; more incidents of hate on flights; more terrorist threats. Prepare in advance. Refrain from spreading panic. Ensure that your airline deals with customers of all creeds with sensitivity. 

10. Invest in deep learning

Stay ahead of the competition. Deep learning is changing the world, and how we understand it. Airlines that build a deep learning team in 2017 will be the ones that will best serve customers in 2020, and every year following it. Machine learning offers exponential gains — the benefits will range from understanding flyer patterns, interests, optimising flight schedules, offering human-like customer service bots, reducing operational costs and so on.

Our extended analysis of airline marketing in 2017 will be available as a special report along with the most important marketing trends for 2017. You can sign up below to be notified once it’s out (and we’ll send you our 2017 social media outlook report right away!)

State of Airport Marketing 2013

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Shubhodeep Pal

Shubhodeep Pal

Vice President, Products and Operations at SimpliFlying
Shubhodeep Pal is the Vice President, Products and Operations at SimpliFlying. He has been leading Research, Product Development, Marketing and Business Development since December 2010 from the headquarters in Singapore.He has spoken at airline conferences and delivered training workshops for senior aviation executives. He has also appeared on television interviews and been quoted in publications such as the Wall Street Journal. His writings have appeared extensively on SimpliFlying and respected industry outlets such as Airlinetrends, Tnooz, Airport World, Low Cost and Regional Airline Business Magazine and Loyalty360. In a previous role, he also conducted a workshop on social media at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore.He speaks three languages fluently, and is also a published poet and amateur film critic.He can be reached at shubhodeep@simpliflying.com.
Shubhodeep Pal
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