Friday, December 21, 2007

Marketing: Strategic vs Reactionary

One of the core activities of marketing is strategic brand management. The brand is the public interface between the company and the general public, who are potential customers. In terms of strategy it is your brand that will allow you to survive into the future and set long term direction, but all too often companies believe that their brand is simply a name, and changing how that brand is positioned will have little affect on customers loyalty and feelings towards it. Strategic marketing means developing the brand in a planned manner rather that altering the brand as a reactionary measure under duress of adverse conditions.

A perfect example of strategic marketing vs reactionary marketing is the example of Ryanair and Aer Lingus.
Ryanair are in the grand scheme of things a relatively new entrant to the airline industry, yet due to their excellent strategic marketing have managed to transform themselves into Europe’s biggest airline in terms of volume in quite a brief amount of time. Michael O’Leary, CEO of the Irish airline made the decision to adopt low fare airline techniques that had experienced some success in the US and converted them to fit the European market. Ryanair knew exactly what they were offering, who they were offering it too, and how they wanted to convey this message. Ryanairs strategic position and marketing methods were so successful that within a few years many copycat airlines had arisen.
Conversely we can observe Aer Lingus, who under the protection of the state and pre-Ryanair had very little to worry about. The brand enjoyed a world class reputation for both the levels of customer satisfaction and the fact that it was so closely related to Ireland a fact that was easily observed in marketing communications. Aer Lingus however were not very forward thinking and really had no future strategy at all. As more and more of Europe’s airlines went the Ryanair route and changed to low fare models a sense of panic set in at Aer Lingus HQ and they began the transformation of Aer Lingus into a low fare airline.

The Brand that had been developed for some many years was gone, abandoned for a generic low fare model that experienced moderate success, however faced with Ryanair and a more expensive look-a-like customers turned to Ryanair. Furthermore Aer Lingus' long haul and short haul services are two very different services, however under new marketing campaigns the Aer Lingus brand as a whole was tarred with the "cheap" brush.
The start of this year has seen a reversal of this knee jerk reaction with the attempted revival of the “old” Aer lingus yet while they try to cater for both customers seeking price and others quality under one brand, success will undoubtedly be limited. Aer Lingus did not and re not thinking strategically, Ryanair did.

The following videos show and older more romantic Aer Lingus ad (which is actually quite humorous), followed by the message they were trying to send at the start of their change.

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