American Airlines just launched a new ad campaign — World’s Greatest Flyers — showcasing American’s customers and employees. They tell me their goal is “to be the greatest airline in the world, by being the airline employees want to work for, customers want to fly and where investors want to put their money.”
I think there have been good reasons why investors have been skeptical of airlines generally. I think the ads are well done, though, but could use a great voiceover. Delta has Donald Sutherland. United recently had Matt Damon, but used to have Gene Hackman (who trumped them all). American’s advertising needs a voice.
Their new tag line is “The World’s Greatest Flyers Fly American” and here’s a spot that I take it is describing their vision of a Road Warrior.
I very much like the ad. But nearly all airline advertising fails because it highlights flying itself, a destination, or.. sex. It doesn’t tell you why to choose one airline over another.
Singapore Airlines is an exception, they tell you they go to great lengths and pay attention to small details to make you comfortable.
In the late 1980s, American made an argument. They were The On-Time Machine.
Now Delta filed to trademark that phrase. Do the World’s Greatest Flyers Fly American?
Here American flatters their customers, they’re awesome flyers, but what is it about American that makes the airline better? They have another ad out as part of the series and it’s about the employees, talking about how great they are. In some sense it’s the Oscar Munoz strategy at United, rally the troops in hopes that happy employees will lead to happy customers.
Sometimes you need to set a goal, and will it into existence. And if this campaign represents a commitment to be the airline that experienced travelers want to fly, if that becomes their True North, it would be exciting progress.
So far though it seems like the plan is… something else with changes at the airline driven by the 87% of customers who fly American airline only once in a given year.
The drive for D0 – exact on-time push back overriding all other concerns leads gate agents to start boarding before published boarding time. Which means you have to show up at your gate ahead of time if you want overhead bin space (to avoid gate checking your bag). Which also means – with re-banked hubs – that you often have to head straight from one flight to another without time to stop for food.
But American doesn’t do well updating delays until after scheduled boarding so you often wind up standing at the gate early even when you aren’t on-time. (And in rolling delays, doesn’t tend to update times until previous boarding or departure times have passed.)
Since this D0 focus hasn’t made them the on-time airline and instead shifted the focus to making customers wait on planes (the original Airtran Atlanta hub model) rather than planes waiting on passengers, they start out from a position more as an airline for people with a low opportunity cost of time rather than an airline for business travelers. These ads need to be more than marketing, they need to be a mantra, and change the airline’s focus.
American Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class
I’m not sure whether American wants to be a premium carrier, or an ultra discount one, an airline for business travelers or a low fare low service airline. Hopefully this new campaign is clarifying, that they need and want to be the airline that the best flyers want to fly.