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CAA: Airport Marketing & Public Relations, "Marketing Air Travel in the Age of Anxiety"

Monday, January 14, 2002

Marketing Air Travel in the Age of Anxiety 
By Todd Lappin 
Business 2.0

What it will take to make the public comfortable with flying again.

The airline industry has an image problem. After all, what would it do
to your industry's image if your customers had to wait in line --
sometimes for hours -- submit to a frisking, and squeeze past soldiers
toting M-16s? For insight into what marketers can do to meet this
marketing challenge, Business 2.0 section editor Todd Lappin turned to
Richard Ford, executive creative director of Landor Associates, a San
Francisco-based image and branding agency that has been helping airlines
entice people into the air for more than 30 years.

Business 2.0: What will it take to get people back in the air? 

Ford: Airlines spent years building up relationships with their best
customers through loyalty programs, so that's the obvious place to
start. Those people have to keep on flying. But as far as the average
consumer is concerned, my sense is that they're waiting for proof that
real progress has been made to improve security. 

How will this influence marketing? 

Before Sept. 11, airlines were focused on design and marketing -- doing
things like painting airplanes different colors. But for the next few
years, apart from reinforcing cockpit doors, the focus won't be on
airplanes. New fabric on the seats isn't going to make anyone feel
better. For airlines, this isn't a marketing program -- it's a way of
communicating that gives people the information they need to manage
trying times. 

How can airlines do this better? 

Airport environments are going to have to be reconfigured in a fairly
significant way to make airports fast and easy to use once again. The
goal is to get security screenings down to 10 minutes, but it may take
12 months to get there, and in the meantime, there are likely to be a
lot of long lines. 

Managing these situations is going to be a real issue. For years airline
customers have been saying in surveys that they can accept almost
anything, so long as they are given straight, reliable information. I
expect there will be an emphasis on installing more plasma screens in
gate areas and lounges to give people updates on waiting lists,
departure times, delays, and even weather charts. 

Over time, will there also be visible changes in airline branding? 

We'll see a shift toward images that convey security, stability,
strength -- being part of an organization that has the resources to get
the job done, rather than being the one that's the most fun, or the most
luxurious. We may see a trend back toward displaying professionalism in
uniform design, whereas [during] the last few years, uniforms have tried
to emphasize comfort and casualness. To convey a high degree of order, I
expect we'll also see emotive colors and gestural icons replaced by
straight lines and clean design. A crisp, clean appearance helps make an
airline look like a bunch of very organized people.

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