EasyJet CEO: ‘Marketers should be at the centre of all consumer businesses’

EasyJet’s chief executive Carolyn McCall has credited the turnaround at the airline since she joined more than four years ago with its understanding of marketing and consumers alongside a clear brand proposition.

Speaking at The Marketing Society’s annual conference, this year with the theme “Press Reset”, McCall said when she arrived at EasyJet in July 2010, no one could answer her question on what consumers thought of the brand. She admitted the brand had become blurred, caused by a combination of no one at the airline listening to customers and lots more competition from low-cost rivals trying to emulate EasyJet’s business.

“Marketing sits at the centre of all consumer businesses. I don’t really know how to run a business without listening to consumers, particularly understanding how they perceive your brand and deciding how you want that brand to be positioned and then attracting and retaining customers,” she said.

“That is critical to any company’s success and I’m always surprised when companies don’t do that.”

Her first job, she said, alongside working to fix operational problems such as EasyJet’s low punctuality rate, was to hire a “world-class” marketing director in Peter Duffy who she worked with to “reset the agenda for EasyJet”. That started with clarifying Easyjet’s purpose and articulating why people who work for the brand “get out of bed in the morning”.

“What we found was we wanted to make travel easy and accessible for all people. That was founded in the core of what EasyJet was at the very beginning. For us it had quite a lot of stretch in it, we had always been about affordable flying but did we really make it easy for our passengers?” she said.

That led to a range of changes at EasyJet. The airline introduced price transparency, so the price customers paid at the end was the price advertised, as well as allocated seating and a customer charter. It also made smaller changes, such as introducing healthy food options on board.

Once it had fixed these problems it then went after business customers, introducing a product that offered them improved flexibility rather than free champagne having listened to what they wanted from a corporate proposition. EasyJet’s recently launched loyalty programme follows the same theme, said McCall, looking to reset the concept of loyalty by offering customers the ability to change flight details and have access to priority boarding, rather than offering points or airmiles.

“This is why marketers are at the centre of change and resetting the agenda. They have driven business change successfully, and that’s really important, because they’ve worked really closely as one team with the finance department, the tech department and most importantly the operations department,” she said.

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