How Paris Air Show Re-Energised B2B Aviation Marketing

This post was originally published in the Airline Business Magazine, July 2015 issue. It is reproduced here with some modifications.

Who would have thought that a video showing an airplane taking off could garner over ten million views on YouTube? But Boeing did just that, with a video showing the brand new Vietnam Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft taking off at a very steep angle. The video was filmed as the 787 test pilots practiced their moves ahead of the Paris Air Show 2015.

While camera angles were well thought out, it was the timing of the video release that made it work. The video was put out on YouTube the weekend before the air show opened, and then promoted heavily on the #PAS15 hashtag, hence ensuring top-of-mind awareness as global aviation executives descended in the French capital.

Boeing fired another marketing salvo when on final day of the air show, when it partnered with YouTube to release three “choose your view” videos, where viewers could choose either a view from the flight deck, the pilots’ perspective or the plane overall as it went through the flying routing. The video had garnered about five million views before the show started, and over ten million by the time it ended.

Boeing had breathed a new life into business-to-business marketing with their moves in Paris, since most marketing at air shows usually comprises of press releases and executive interviews.

Boeing nailed a key to success in B2B marketing – they gave the common man access to the videos before anyone at the air show had seen the plane take off. Moreover, they shared behind the scene glimpses – creating a magnetic marketing effect, much like backstage access before a concert.

The Social Media Show

While Boeing stole the air show with its nifty videos, Airbus managed to get a larger order book in Paris, selling 421 aircraft worth $51 billion. The French manufacturer’s marketing machine focused on releasing daily online videos covering their deals, tweeting regularly and highlighting their “more comfortable seats” campaign. Airbus also activated a blog that was updated daily during the air show.

The cornerstone of Airbus’ air show strategy was a dedicated hashtag, #WeMakeItFly, which crowd sourced tweets, photos and videos showcasing Airbus presence at the air show, and displayed them on a dedicated micro-site. Anyone could get their footage featured on the micro-site by using the hashtag, whether or not they were in Paris. Airbus called this effort, “social air show”. Ultimately, #WeMakeItFly had over 6000 hashtag tweets with a potential reach of 30 million!

The Talking Engine Alliance

While the major players like Airbus and Boeing are known for pushing the marketing boundaries at air shows, it was a much smaller manufacturer, the Engine Alliance (EA), which caught the attention of many in Paris. The EA is a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and GE Aviation, which exclusively makes engines for the Airbus A380.

Looking to showcase itself as an innovator not just in engineering, but also marketing, the EA had the world’s first tweeting engine at the air show. A dedicated Twitter handle, @TalkingEngine was launched ahead of the air show, which tweeted in first person. The engine called the A380 its mothership, and other engines its siblings.

The account regularly engaged with aviation journalists and key influencers, often inviting them for a selfie at the booth where it was displayed. All of this content was then consolidated in a media hub the EA had created for the show. The EA also provided free wi-fi and portable power banks at their Social Lounge so visitors could juice up while at the show. Interestingly, it was a $10,000 coffee machine that attracted much attention and footfall to the booth.

Talking Engine to Journos

It was a refreshing effort that was noticed by the press, as it added a personality to the EA brand, and broke through the clutter of announcements at the air show. Ultimately, the hashtag used by the account, #EA380, reached over half a million users online. Much higher than competitors like Rolls Royce.

Social Media Renews Marketing at the Air Show

Typically, B2B aviation marketing isn’t as exciting as cutting edge airline marketing. But this Paris Air Show, manufacturers weren’t afraid to experiment. And they leveraged social media tools to the fullest.

From both Airbus and Boeing, we saw refreshing efforts to involve those who were not present in Paris – the large aviation geek population around the world. The consumption of media from these people helps create a halo effect for the respective brands, as the audience feel a connection with the brands.

The EA added a shot of adrenaline to the usually sterile world of engine marketing with its talking engine, who tweeted in first person. Things are looking up for B2B aviation marketing and we now have our eyes on Dubai Air Show later this year.

Were you at the Paris Air Show this year? Which brands stood out for you?

Full Disclosure: Boeing, Airbus and the Engine Alliance are current SimpliFlying clients. Though, the SimpliFlying team only led the efforts by the Engine Alliance for Paris Air Show.

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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