Ever considered whether moving your brand’s position is good idea?
Ever thought about whether you could thrive in a cheaper part of the market?
Ever got frustrated that you don’t make much progress against your competitors?
I’ve often looked at these brand positioning questions and recently experienced the repositioning of Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline.
I used to despise Aer Lingus. When I was travelling to Dublin every week for work (about 7 years ago) I avoided them like the plague, they were awful. Badly run, never on time and unpleasant. They were a poor imitation of British Airways or bmi. Worse of all they were bad AND expensive.
But in the last few months I’ve flown Aer Lingus four times and they have changed significantly. It seems they have upped their game but the main thing they have done is reposition their brand and that has done wonders for their perceived value.
They have kept the core of their national carrier approach – assigned seats, quite generous baggage allowances, trained and uniformed staff, sober style, normal planes with normal seats. But they have changed their pricing model to be similar to Easyjet – i.e. book early get cheap seats. For all the flights I have taken with them I have been booking up to 8 weeks in advance (so not incredibly early) and got flights for under £50.
Aer Lingus are now competing in my mind with Easyjet and Ryanair for my low cost flights. They aren’t competing with British Airways anymore from where I look at the market. They bring a certain national carrier quality to this low cost competition and this combination has won out for my last 4 flights. They didn’t win when they were competing against British Airways, they do when they compete against Easyjet.
Sometimes you don’t have to change what you do, you just have to move your brand or business model to compete in a different part of the market where you bring value.
Now, as a quick look at their results shows, the challenge for Aer Lingus will be to right size their cost base to the reduction in revenue per seat that low-cost has caused. They need to do this whilst maintaining a half decent customer experience and is currently differentiating them from their low cost competitors. Not an easy task but by focusing on the things that really matter, keeping some of the national carrier experience, and innovating on key dimensions they have a chance.
A good example is their investment in the hub at Gatwick or the very impressive self check baggage approach they have in Dublin. This self check baggage system means you can sticker and drop your bags automatically. Rather than detract from the experience this is a great innovation and almost guarantees no queuing.
We’ll see where the airline story goes. The “pack ’em in like cattle model” will I think become increasingly niche, especially as flying becomes more expensive. I, for one, will be looking for great value.
Thanks for reading, as ever, please comment if you have ideas or thoughts.
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