With airline companies in India looking at weathering the current challenging industry scenario, domestic Indian brands have some work ahead of them. In a scenario, where full service carriers have been advertising low fares and low cost carriers have been talking about superior service advantages, for the average consumer selecting an airline has been a task that he/she has decided upon, based on the lowest common denominator- pricing.
SpiceJet, which recently mandated Contract Advertising as its creative agency on record, has launched a new communciation campaign that takes a clear step away from pricing led communication to a value-led proposition. The campaign moves away from price-led tactical campaigns to a long term strategy of creating brand salience and communicating a clear cut differentiator in the minds of consumers.
Speaking to Campaign India, Anish Srikrishna (pictured), senior VP and head of marketing, SpiceJet explains the challenges that they face in the aviation space. “You have defined the market size of the tip of the iceberg of the overall urban 18 city market pie. You have defined the traditional media choices that are present. Where this starts becoming complicated pertains to the fact that airlines is not a category that consumers tend to interact with on a daily basis. Hence, it’s not as real to their lives as other regular brands that they interact with regularly. The challenge is when you are trying to differentiate with all of these emotional quotients, how do you start making an airline brand more relevant to a person’s everyday life? We need to come up with something as emotional and relevant to start making inroads into consumers’ minds.”
Explaining the psyche of the typical Indian traveller today, Srikrishna says, “The consumer is the same whether he is travelling by full service carriers or low cost brands or any other moniker used to descrobe rbands in the category. The consumer expects certain hygiene factors, irrespective of the price that he has paid for his ticket. These include a certain degree of service and on-time performance among others. It’s a great time for airline brands to stop talking about price points and start talking about what makes their experience superior. That’s where our opportunity lies and it’s not just a communication opportunity, it’s a brand and product differentiation one.”
Srikrishna admits their communication in the past has been tactical but an obvious shift has already taken place and will conitnue to define their communication moving forward.
“We have flown an approximate 14 million passengers over the last four years, and they have largely said good things about the kind of airline that we have built. Pure word of mouth has been very good for the airline. People have spoken well about our on-time performance, young and well groomed staff, and our service features. We regulalrly get feedback on our website.”
Talking about the evolution of their brand campaign, Srikrishna explains that they decided to go with a campaign which defines a clear cut value proposition to the customer. “We wanted to communicate the fact that you get more when you fly with us. The task was to talk about what makes SpiceJet an airline worthy of your choice. The scenario that we drew up to the agency was to say, Let us assume that a consumer is on a site that compares various flight options. The consumer makes a choice based on perceptions, which may be a result of personal experiences or word of mouth. There is something that plays on his/her mind while making a choice, which goes beyond price points. That’s the space we would like to occupy.”
Srikrishna says that while digital is an important part of their marketing mix, mass media still rules as far their strategy goes. “The main task at the moment is to build brand salience and positive recall and mass media is going to play the main part in this. Online is definitely an important part of our strategy (25% of SpiceJet’s bookings comes directly to them from their website) and there is defintely scope for us to increase our presence there,” he adds.
“In the absence of a brand campaign in the previous years, what has been working for brand SpiceJet are expressly these very positive word of mouth experiences. So there is certainly room to do more in the area of CRM, to engage more with consumers,” he further adds.
The company is not too keen on looking at social media in a big way presently.”Social media is an intensely private world and the last thing that we want to do as a marketer is to go there with a crassly commerical message and create dissonance. There are enough exmaples of brands that have done that in the wrong way in social media. While it is certainly important for us to measure, monitor and respond as brand Spicejet to specifics spoken about us in online media, whether positive or negative, it is part of our forwrad strategy. Beyond that, we have our search strategy in place, which is handled by Madison Media’s digital arm," adds Srikrishna.