Monthly Archives: February 2010

6 Porter airlines brand advertsing

Airline marketing (One little Canadian company stands out)

Here’s a news flash for all of you who are 35 or under: Flying wasn’t always this bad.

There was a time when racking up frequent flyers miles was, actually, a little glamorous. You could fly the friendly skies and have a pleasant time. Sometimes it even lived up to the advertising brand experience.

Sorry you missed it.

In the age of strip searches, baggage fees, laptop bans and physically bouncing people from flights, most airlines are as bad as Greyhound busses. Cattle have it better on the way to the slaughterhouse. Every time I board a flight I think, “wow, there’s gotta be an opportunity here for an airline to do things differently.”

Sure enough, a small airline out of Toronto is jumping in, and turning the clock back to better days in coach.

Porter airlines brand advertsing airline marketingAt just ten years old it’s too early to tell if Porter Airlines will become a success story in the airline industry, but there’s a lot to be learned from their launch. From a branding standpoint, they’ve done it right.

In 2006, Robert Deluce, Porter’s CEO, made a conscious decision to build his airline around the brand, and vice-versa. According to Marketing News, he approached branding agencies with his vision, a business plan and a well-defined value proposition built on three things: speed, convenience and customer service.

Convenience was guaranteed by making Toronto’s City Center Airport the home base, eliminating a long commute from Pearson International.

Speediness comes from fast turboprop planes and streamlined check-in and baggage service. And customer service… well the bar was pretty low, and Porter’s a fairly small airline, so it’s been easy to provide service that one customer described as “a real joy.”

Early on, Winkreative, a branding firm with offices in London, New York and Tokyo, was hired to coordinate the entire affair. They handled everything from naming the company to the interior design of the airplanes, website development and furniture selection in the airline’s lounge.

Rather than splitting it up between three or four firms, it was a well-coordinated effort based on a solid brand premise and a single creative approach. And it’s carried through in every aspect of the operation.

“It was meant to be something fresh, something innovative, something stylish,” Deluce said. “There’s a part of it that’s a throwback to the past… to a time when travel was a bit more fun.”

I love the simplicity of the name. “Porter” conveys how the airline would carry passengers with care and help lighten their load. And the tagline, “flying refined,” sums it up without pouring on the fluff.

Thankfully, the graphic design falls in line perfectly with the idea of refinement. If you say you’re refined, you better look refined!

The sophisticated, subdued color palette and the quirky raccoon character work tremendously well together. Sorta reminds me of Olympic mascots from years past. You can debate the wisdom of using a raccoon, but the design work is fun, distinctive and superbly executed in every medium. No one’s going to forget it once they’ve experienced it.

Porter airlines branding case study airline marketingFrom the blog, Design Sponge: “This Canadian boutique airline is the most well-designed airline I’d ever been on and seemingly every detail had been given a lot of thought (including their adorable lunch boxes and chic on-board magazine named Re:Porter).

But the Porter brand is a lot more than just pretty pictures and a fancy in-flight magazine. From what I’ve heard and read, the entire operation is living up to its brand promise and exceeding expectations.

Travelocity says: “From top to bottom, inside and out, Porter Airlines has raised the bar. This new standard in air travel is evident not only in their ultra-modern facilities, but also in the quality of their staff. Each team member has been specially selected and trained to put travelers first with impeccable and innovative service.”

Nine out of ten customer reviews on SkyTrax are overwhelmingly positive.: “It’s exactly what it advertises: flying in style… thanks for bringing back the type of air travel everyone should experience and expect!”

And after scouring the travel blogs, I couldn’t find a single negative review.

From the World Hum travel blog:  “I loved flying Porter Airlines… A smooth operation, friendly staff, and free snacks. It was a pleasant reminder that air travel doesn’t have to be a succession of minor inconveniences and discomforts.”

Many people have never known anything but discomfort and inconvenience in air travel. So for them, Porter will be an entirely new experience, somewhat foreign and unexpected. And once they’ve flown Porter, their perception of the other brands will be forever tainted.

For older generations, Porter is a throw-back. An emotional trigger that harkens back to a simpler time when all the airlines did a better job.

I haven’t flown Porter, but I hope to. (It’s almost enough to justify a trip to my grandma’s hometown in Nova Scotia.) I hope they can succeed in a tremendously difficult and competitive industry. I hope they can scale up their operation without sacrificing the heart of the Porter brand. And I hope more airlines follow suit.

But I’m not optimistic. Few airlines are built on such a solid brand premise, and most are just too darn big to change direction in any substantive way. So the opportunity for little carriers like Porter, will still be here for the taking.

If they can just remember those good ‘ol days.

7 Brewpub Branding: Messaging and attitude from Brewpub Beer Snobs.

I had an experience in a brewpub recently that was inspiring and insulting at the same time.

It proved that what you say, and how your front-line employees speak, can have a major impact on your brewpub branding efforts. And it proves that branding isn’t just a function of the marketing department.

Because it only takes one bad experience…

craft beer brands and branding tipsKeep in mind, this Oregon, where there are more brewpubs per capita than anywhere on earth. So craft brewing brands are plentiful and the competition is stiff.

If you don’t like the food or the service or the beer in one brewpub, just walk around block and try another one.

So a buddy and I popped into a brewpub for a burger and beer, après golf. We were parched.

The menu offered craft beers in all the usual colors and categories… a blonde, a red, an amber, a black, a pils, a pale ale, an IPA, etc. etc.  Each beer choice had its own whacky name and an elaborate advertising claims that left us scratching our heads…

“Two more pounds of hops per barrel!”

“ 20% rye malt plus five domestic malts and two Northwest hop varieties.”

Ooooookay. Time for a translation.

We flagged down the waiter and asked for his recommendation. We’re not new to the craft beer scene, but we were hoping for a a layman’s answer to a simple question: “What would you recommend for a hot summer day like today,” I asked.

fresh hops brew pub branding and marketing“Oh. Well, the Monkey Fire Red Amber Ale has FRESH Willamette Valley hops,” he said in a knowing, assertive, somewhat snobbish tone.

As if that’s all we’d need to know.

Awkward silence… Wow. I’m thinking, “Uhhhhhhhh. So What?

What does fresh hops mean to my thirsty tastebuds? How is that going to affect the flavor of the beer? Yeah, but which one’s more refreshing?

My friend and I looked at each other, pondered that one, and turned back to the waiter for elaboration. The grungy young man just stood there, looking at us like we were from another planet.

Give me a break. If I wanted this kind of treatment I’d drink fancy wine. It was like an episode of Portlandia. Everybody knows the benefits of fresh hops, right?

Wrong. Boy, did we feel stupid.

Rule number one of Branding 101: Don’t make your customers or prospects feel stupid. Nobody likes that. Even if they are dumb as a post.

It’s pretty much impossible to build brand loyalty when people feel excluded and stupid when they’re contemplating a purchase.

There are plenty of professionals who are good at making people feel dumb: Management consultants, financial advisors, IT guys, golf pros, and most commonly, attorneys and doctors.  It’s easy to make people feel stupid when you’re an expert in a field filled with jargon like medicine or law, but a waiter in a brewpub???

Why would a brewpub waiter obscure beer in a veil of jargon?

Maybe he thinks it increases the perceived value of their brewery. Or maybe, if he appears to be a complete beer nerd,  it’ll earn him a better tip.

It’s understandable, but contrary to the laws of good branding.

With great brands, customers feel included. Not excluded.

Companies like Apple openly invite everyone into the “club.” They don’t use high tech jargon that appeals only to early adapters and computer industry nerds, they use plain, everyday English that excludes no one. And once you’re in, you feel a genuine sense of belonging.

Unfortunately, a lot of business people feel compelled to overload their presentations, websites, sales pitches, ad copy and even waiter speak with esoteric nonsense that excludes everyone except the people within their own company.

And they justify it by saying “yeah, but we know our customers and we’re targeting a demographic niche that understands that stuff.”

Doesn’t matter. Even if the target audience is brilliant enough to understand reams of engineering data and technical specs, that doesn’t mean you should baffle them with your insider-ese.

Every industry has its own vernacular. For instance, many business owners have heard TV advertising salespeople spewing on about Neilsons and CUME and gross rating points and impact quotients.

Inevitably, most business owners are left thinking, “Huh? So what?” “What’s that mean to me? How’s that affect my budget? What’s it going to do for my business? What’s in it for me?”

Every time you leave someone with nagging questions like that, you’ve missed a great branding opportunity. You’ve overlooked the real benefit of your product or service. And you hurt the credibility of your brand.

In the end, we didn’t go with the waiter’s recommendation. The beer we chose was quite good, even without the fresh, Willamette Valley hops, but the flavor was tainted by the experience we had and the nagging question the waiter never did answer.

He was so far inside that barrel of beer, he couldn’t possibly understand the consumer’s perspective.

Think about that. Think about the last conversation you had with a prospective customer, partner or key employee.  What kind of language did you use?  Was it loaded with insider information and industry jargon that sounds foreign to anyone outside your inner circle?

If it was, maybe it’s time to shut up and listen for a change. Put your ego aside and get some outside perspective. Turn off the doubletalk and turn back to plain English.

You might be surprised how persuasive plain speak can be.

For more on clear, convincing brand messages, try this post.

 

P.S. If any of you can explain the benefits of fresh hops, please leave a comment. I know we grow good hops here in Oregon, but I still don’t know what the big deal is about being fresh?  Give me a break. And if you’re thinking of opening yet another brew pub around here, give BNBranding a call. You’re going to need help differentiating yourself.