Something is absent from airline marketing messages in 2020.
Something that airlines have spent the better part of the last century branding customers with.
That something is love.
Let’s rewind back to 2019.
You’re about to jump on a plane to visit friends in Las Vegas for the weekend.
Even though you’re crammed into that middle seat on a 30-year-old MD-80, there’s excitement, anticipation, and the thrill of the unknown of what will unfold over the coming days.
You’ve been to Las Vegas many times, and yet the sense of wonder for what will transpire next keeps you in a state of positive anticipation.
You’re eager to see what’s around the corner.
That sense of wonder you feel as you’re sitting in that middle-seat is the byproduct of nearly a century of branding from the airline & travel industry.
The old saying goes “Airlines don’t sell seats – they sell experiences”.
The allure of airline branding
The brand sentiment of airlines and travel companies over the years has aligned psychological marketing elements, with the power of the emotional connection of travelling to see the world, to visit friends, to do this and do that.
Airlines have built their reputation, their brand, and their consumer trust, on the back of making people feel the highest emotions we can feel as humans – love, joy & freedom.
To illustrate my point – what emotions do you feel when watching these airline branding videos?
When we travel, we see smiles.
We see fun & laugher.
We see fellow human beings creating memories, new experiences and filling their minds with the thrills of the abundance of which the world can offer them.
When we travel, we see children experiencing the magic of flight for the very first time.
Travel is synonymous with feelings of joy, love & freedom.
The wonders out there we are yet to experience may be unknown at this time, but the joy of travel is instilled in our hearts since the day we came into this world.
The knowing of who we really are and our purpose, has, is, and will forever always be to seek joy, to find love and enjoy the freedom of this magnificent earth.
Travel is the ability to connect with the joy we have been seeking our entire lives.
Airline branding is disconnected
Much of the current world airline branding promotes negative emotional undertones.
While there’s nothing wrong with the negative undertone; the key in branding is for what we see and what we feel to match. If what we see is negative and what we see feels negative, excellent!
If what we see is positive and what we see is negative – the dominant feature will act as our primary interpreter of the brand message. In this case, negative emotions.
Brands have long known, that when what we say and what we mean don’t match, it creates distrust. In the case for airlines – it increases distrust in their brand, and it certainly doesn’t sell more tickets.
Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95 percent of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is the emotional mind. So the key to impressing a potential purchase behaviour on the subconscious mind is to have an aligned emotional + logical brand message.
When the undertone of a brand message invokes a negative emotion, the whole message is negative, regardless of what the words are or what pretty pictures are on the screen.
With that in mind, what emotion first comes to mind when you see these airline brand marketing images?
Travelling with your little ones should always remain exciting, that’s why we are providing kids with face shields so you focus on enjoying the flight and worry less about their safety. #QatarAirways pic.twitter.com/2ZgCODGH48
— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) September 3, 2020
Where’s the excitement, Qatar Airways?
— Chris 🇺🇸 (@Chris_1791) May 20, 2020
Stay 6-feet away from people, United Airlines.
PAL's Personal Protective Equipment for Cabin Crew:
For FP: white gear, facemask, faceshield, gloves
For FS: navy blue gear with skyblue accent, facemask, faceshield, gloves
For FA: skyblue gear with navy blue accent, facemask, faceshield, gloves
Designed by Edwin Tan👏 pic.twitter.com/J8jybE7W82
— Cielo Villaluna (@cielo_villaluna) April 29, 2020
Is flying really that unsafe that cabin crew need to wear full protective gear, Philippine Airlines?
These are images of airlines that have lost touch with the emotional goodness of humanity.
Airlines of the world… I remind you that the core of your brand is a positive emotion.
It’s freedom. It’s joy.
The core brand message is love.
The love of wanting to explore the world.
The love for human connection.
The love for bringing people together in unity.
The love for flight.
The love for a thriving aviation industry.
The love for delighting customers for no other reason other than to bring a moment of joy to their day.
The love of providing livelihoods for millions of aviation professionals.
The love of seeing another human smile.
People of the world support your airline because YOU BRING THEM LOVE, JOY & FREEDOM.
If you want people to fly & see the airline industry soar once again, double-down on promoting the very reason why people travel.
Double-down on promoting messages which resonate with the reason why people travel.
Like in every good movie – we know that good always wins. Fear always loses.
So why waste advertising dollars promoting the very opposite human emotional connection than what people want to feel when they travel?
Be the airline brand you know that you want to be.
Be the answer to the great airline comeback.
Be the very thing which is absent from airline branding – love.