Inside the Air New Zealand Guerrilla Marketing brain – How Qantas CEO Alan Joyce became an Air Points member

The Air New Zealand marketing team is not a stranger to nifty marketing. They are known for their wacky safety videos, and for the recent wager they had with Qantas over the Rugby World Cup finals. Now, they have taken it a step further with some brilliant guerrilla marketing.

A flash of inspiration

Earlier this month, American Airlines announced that it will be launching non-stop flights to Auckland, New Zealand, in a joint-venture with Qantas. For the announcement, both the airline CEOs flew to Auckland. Since American Airlines does not have any direct flights to New Zealand yet, Doug Parker, the CEO, flew in on Air New Zealand. During the press conference, in an answer to a question, he mentioned he enjoyed his flight and Alan Joyce, the Qantas CEO, concurred that Air New Zealand is a great airline.

Much of New Zealand, including Air New Zealand staff, noticed the praise by rival CEOs. The marketing team decided to jump on the opportunity.

Quick actions reap rewards

The press conference was held on Nov 11, 2015. The airline soon reached out to its agency, True, and they turned around ideas over the next couple of days. By Friday the 13th, they had formulated the idea of enrolling Alan Joyce as a frequent flier with the airline. Over the weekend, approvals were sought for a video and advertisements in national newspapers in Australia and New Zealand.

When quizzed about how the airline is able to move so quickly, Air New Zealand’s Head of Global Brand Development, Jodi Williams told us,

“We have a great ethos internally and an appetite to challenge ourselves and push boundaries with our Marketing & Communications. We openly engage up front and through the sign-off process with a small number of key internal stakeholders, who empower us to respond and move quickly with these opportunities.”

Jodi confirmed what we had suspected — Air New Zealand is one of those rare airlines where agility is valued. Most airline marketers would probably have waited long for approval, even if such a reaction fit the culture. An airline recently shared with us that it took them 18 months to get an approval for a new mobile app!

The Results

Air New Zealand launched a video on Nov 19, just a week after the original press conference, which was a mashup of every instance the rival CEOs praised the airline. It’s short, and does the job.

The video launch was followed by full-page advertisements in Australia on Nov 24  and in New Zealand on Nov 26. The ads showed Alan Joyce’s new Airpoints card, thanking him for the praise and inviting him to fly with Air New Zealand to the US!

AirNZ Qantas

As with any guerrilla marketing effort, agility is of essence, along with humour. Air New Zealand seems to have plenty of both in their culture. As Jodi told us,

“Our brand is all about liberating from the ordinary. We are always on the lookout for opportunities right across our customer journey, and trust Marketing to bring this to life.”

Well done, Air New Zealand!

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