Inspiration for Peace Day: What Airline Marketing Can Learn From “McWhopper”

Burger King recently made international headlines when it offered “peace” to rival McDonald’s for a day on the 21st of September, on the occasion of Peace Day. It came out with full-page ads in major US newspapers, including the hometown newspaper of McDonalds Corporation. The idea was to offer consumers “McWhopper” for a day, combining the best of Big Mac and a Whopper. McDonalds ultimately nixed the idea. While Burger King may go ahead with other rivals, the company managed to drive tremendous buzz with its smart “proposal”.

The events of this stunt made me wonder whether airlines could do something similarly innovative as well.

A recent campaign by Air Berlin comes to mind, though admittedly initiatives like #airTramp are rare. Besides the intentional use of word play, the campaign focuses on world’s first ever-hitchhiked flight. What a great idea to connect with millennials!

Airline customers comprise people of various ages, most income classes, genders and walks of life — that should be sufficient reason for airline marketers to let their creativity run wild. Different airline marketing campaigns targeting different demographics can easily be designed and broadcasted to specific viewers, making sure passengers in other target groups do not feel alienated.

Here are 3 ideas, not just for the airlines, but also for airports and airline alliances for Peace Day 2015:

1) Peace between airlines — US based airlines (Delta, American and United) and those based in the Middle East (Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad) are currently embroiled in a bitter dispute involving subsidies. How about they leave their bitterness aside for a day and run charity flights (or cause-based campaigns) together for the greater good? Both sides have had low points in this fight; these efforts can certainly help in reducing bad blood, and win more customers as well.

2) Peace between airports — London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports were involved in a very competitive effort till recently to expand their runways (and, of course, to win customers/traffic). Although Heathrow won it recently, maybe the two airports can come together on the 21st September to promote a joint fund raising drive at their terminals to promote a worthy cause.

3) Peace between airline alliances – Star Alliance, One World and Sky Team have been aggressive in roping in partner airlines around the world and touting how their alliance is better than the others in passenger benefits, connectivity etc. They are all now feeling the heat from Etihad’s own alliance in the making as well. How about they come together to form “Sky One Alliance” or something similar, for a week, at select airports around the world and open their lounges to members of other alliances. This will help in promoting the cause of airline alliances, as chief executives increasingly mull their actual value to individual airlines, amidst competing models.

These are, of course, conceptual suggestions. Operational imperatives and cost concerns will require these ideas to be evaluated carefully, ultimately arriving at a campaign that can meet viability requirements while being buzz-worthy.

Our argument is simple, and worth considering — competition is competition, agreed. But, ultimately, some causes are greater than competing, greater than businesses, and greater than even profits perhaps. Can airlines with the immense power they have (due to the sheer number of people they serve each year) help not only connect people but to improve the world in some tangible ways as well? We believe they can.

Vishal Mehra

Vishal Mehra

Vishal Mehra was leading Social and Digital marketing efforts at SimpliFlying from January 2015 to January 2016. A self-confessed commercial aviation geek, Vishal had led digital marketing campaigns at leading global agencies for 9 years, before finding his dream job at the intersection of aviation and digital marketing. His interests include Travelling, Technology, Podcasts (long before Serial arrived) and Beer.
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