What makes Alaska Airlines a lovable airline brand? In conversation with Greg Latimer

Once in a while, you have a conversation that makes you believe again, that there’s an alternate to trying to nickle-and-dime customers to make money at an airline. That is, by providing such exceptional customer service and brand delivery that people come back to you because they like flying with you.

I recently had such a conversation with Greg Latimer, Managing Director of Brand and Product Marketing at Alaska Airlines. He made me believe again, that an airline brand is indeed what it does, not what it says it does.

How does Alaska Airlines build customer loyalty?

When you hear Greg’s thoughts, you know you’re talking to an industry veteran. Alaska Airlines is well known for having very loyal customers, partly due to the rewarding loyalty program that they have, but there are many other factors, as I discovered.

Greg reveals that Alaska Airlines is religious about focusing on its primary brand differentiators, which drive customer loyalty, such as its caring customer service (for which the airline has won numerous awards.) Moreover, since what gets rewarded gets done, employees were rewarded at least $900 each last year, when customer service metrics were met.

Alaska Airlines also involves its customers in being part of the brand – literally. Senior executives are in close touch with the frequent fliers, they have customer panels, and recently even got a student to design a plane’s livery through a “Paint-the-plane” competition! And passengers then return all this love back, by choosing the airline over its competitors.

Alaska Airlines strives to make travel easier (no, really!)

Greg reveals that the airline has been a pioneer in using technology inovatively to make travel easier. They were the first to introduce self-check-in kiosks at the airport, which is a common sight now. Alaska Airlines was also the first to have a “live online travel assistant” named Jen, to help travelers out. Jen still sits pretty on the top-right corner of AlaskaAir.com.

Greg has some amazing gems that he reveals in this interview about airline branding. Enjoy the interview!

Exclusive interview with Alaska Air’s Greg Latimer on airline branding from Shashank Nigam on Vimeo.

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is the Founder and CEO of SimpliFlying, one of the world’s largest aviation marketing firms working with over 85 aviation clients in the last ten years. Nigam is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior executives globally, from Chile to China. Nigam’s impassioned and honest perspectives on airline marketing have found their way to over 100 leading media outlets, including the BBC, CNBC, Reuters and Bloomberg, and into leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He writes a dedicated monthly column in Flight’s Airline Business, challenging the typical assumptions about airline marketing. His new book on airline marketing, SOAR, is an Amazon bestseller that’s shaking up the industry and inspiring other industries to learn from the best airlines. Born in India, raised in Singapore, he now lives with his wife and two young daughters in Toronto.
Shashank Nigam
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  • Jim Efird

    I spent 16 years in Alaska, many pleasant flights with these good people. Word I got was that the founder is a dedicated Christian, active in foreign misison work. Most Christians do not fit the stereotype you seen on MSNBC and SNL, and Christian-run businesses are usually very pleasantly customer-oriented.

    Every meal they served me was accompanied by a little playing-card-size picture of a cloud or some other nice scenery, accompanied by a verse from the Bible. Do they still do that? I hope so.

    I like that. Saved many of them.

  • Vishal Mehra

    Great job shashank!! Totally worth it!!! 🙂

  • Maryann Hammers

    I wonder why you think Alaska Air is lovable??? Years ago, that may have been true. I remember their ad campaign: “You don’t pay more. You just get more.” And it was true — THEN. Surely not now. The airline has definitely gone WAY downhill is service (very surly) and amenities (lack of). Now, I would say Southwest does a much better job of being lovable. Also, Virgin has a huge following, but I’ve never experienced that airline. I’d love to, based on reputation. As far as international airlines, Lufthansa does a great job of being efficient, clean, professional and comfortable — traits that darn few American airlines can claim.

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