Q&A: Turkish Airlines on ‘widening its world’ with Messi and Drogba campaign

Senior vice-president Ali Genc tells Marketing Week about the brand’s plans to expand in Africa using its new campaign, and why global cuisine connects customers with its varied destinations.

In the approach to Christmas, Turkish Airlines has refreshed its Widen Your World campaign, replacing basketball star Kobe Bryant with Ivorian footballer Didier Drogba, alongside FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in its TV spots. The ads also place a focus on food and the variety of destinations Turkish Airlines flies to.

We asked the brand’s senior vice-president Ali Genc to outline its current marketing strategy and explain the positioning it is aiming for, both in the UK market and globally.

Q. What is the goal of the Turkish Airlines’ new campaign?

Ali Genc: In essence, the message behind the new advertising campaign is to ‘widen your world’ and by this we want to encourage our passengers to experience new cultures through travel.

Our previous commercial featured Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi in a ‘selfie shootout’, again in a bid to widen their world – and in total it had over 137 million views. The new ad carries the same theme but this time uses global footballing stars, Didier Drogba and Messi, to create the world’s most adventurous food map. The aim is to inspire people to travel all over the world and experience different cultures through a variety of mediums, but especially authentic, local cuisine.

Q. What are the brand metrics that it is aiming to influence, and that it will be measured against?

Ali Genc: With this particular campaign we wanted to convey how passionate Turkish Airlines is about food – both in terms of our own on-board cuisine as well as the local offerings available in all our destinations. Your holiday begins as soon as you step on board, and the excitement just builds as soon as you touch down. Our ultimate aim is to encourage our passengers to experience memorable cuisine throughout their trip.

Q. Why does the brand use sporting personalities in its marketing?

Ali Genc: Sporting personalities are without doubt the most travelled people – so who better to represent a brand like ours? Additionally, we have found over the years that sporting personalities really resonate with our brand as their energy and friendly rivalry is exactly how we would like to be seen.

Q. Why have you chosen Lionel Messi and Didier Drogba specifically, and why have you replaced Kobe Bryant?

Ali Genc: Kobe Bryant was the right choice for the last commercial as we were primarily reaching out to a US audience. Messi has much more of a global appeal and we felt we needed another personality that fitted this synergy to ensure we supported our overall brand strategy. For this role Didier was perfect. His African origin has meant he has not only travelled all over the region – especially for his ever-increasing charitable work – but across the globe too.

Q. How does this align with the wider business and marketing strategies?

Ali Genc: The ad visualises the extent of Turkish Airlines’ routes around the world. As we expand to offer more destinations, we want our fliers to broaden their horizons and experience different cultures with us.

In particular, we are rapidly expanding our routes into Africa. With this in mind, Drogba is a perfect fit for our brand with his wealth of knowledge in this area – both from a charitable and footballing standpoint. Our ambassadors’ lifestyles and heritage reflect how our brand wishes to be seen and engage with our audience.

Q. How important is brand advertising in the airline sector, compared with other channels such as comparison sites?

Ali Genc: We are in a service sector and consequently there are only two ways of differentiating yourself from your competitors. First and foremost is quality of service.

However, to then build on this success you absolutely need brand advertising to underline it and make sure you are making a name for yourself. In this industry building customer loyalty and brand awareness is primarily based on trust – the most important asset for any airline.

Q. How is Turkish Airlines progressing in this strategy, particularly with regard to the UK market?

Ali Genc: Every year we are seeing more passengers using our hub, Istanbul, to fly through from the UK to beyond destinations. We strongly believe that our advertising and marketing strategies have played an important role in this uplift, as well as the fact that we provide the best connections due to our strategic location. We are continuing to increase our number of flights out of the UK and at present we fly daily out of five regional hubs.

Q. What are the key challenges for airlines in today’s industry, and how can a brand’s marketing help to address them?

Ali Genc: One of the biggest challenges for airlines today is that there are a handful of ‘big players’ who dominate the majority of the market, but also newcomers who are marketing to the luxury end of the market. Trying to ‘own’ a strategic point of view in-between these areas is difficult and having good brand marketing in place can assist in this challenge – by making sure you have your own unique identity. Turkish Airlines is not interested in producing more noise to confuse the consumer.

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