How Norwegian plans to challenge the airline establishment

Norwegian generated huge applause for its quick-thinking marketing following the split of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and its global marketing boss is adamant this disruptive approach will fuel rapid growth in the UK.

Norwegian

Nordic airline Norwegian’s “challenger mindset” will help it crack the UK market, according to vice-president of marketing, Stine Steffensen Børke.

The brand is growing at a rapid rate in the UK alone, with nine new aircraft joining its fleet next year, paving the way for a 55% increase in flights from London Gatwick next summer.

As a challenger in an already saturated market, the brand has to have a clear proposition in order to make its mark. And so it is on a huge brand awareness drive to promote the fact it is a low-cost option, particularly for long-haul flights to the US.

“We’re breaking ground by bringing the low-cost model into transatlantic flying,” says Steffensen Børke. “That’s what Norwegian has brought to the table, first for the Nordic markets and now for the UK and French markets, and eventually for Spain. That is how we’re looking to bring new customers to our brand.”

As “low cost tends to mean something different” in the European market, she says the brand has a job on its hands to change perceptions.

The brand’s goal is to disrupt “the establishment and the airline industry”, which is currently built on “high prices and semi-good quality”.

We have a challenger mindset as a company. It’s about having the guts to do things differently.

Stine Steffensen Børke, Norwegian

“We’ve come into the market with new planes, a good selection of destinations and affordable fares to make it possible for more people to fly more often and to destinations that are further away.”

Norwegian

To showcase its service and heighten brand awareness, Norwegian has teamed up with Boeing to create a virtual reality experience at Westfield Stratford. Participants are taken on a 15-minute virtual trip to New York, Los Angeles and Miami – all destinations Norwegian flies to from the UK.

By putting on a VR headset, users can experience what it feels like to fly with Norwegian while learning about key features of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. At each destination participants are encouraged to take part in a photo opportunity, a print of which they’re able to take away with them. By sharing the picture using #USAtheNorwegianWay they are also entered into a prize draw to win flights.

“We always challenge our local marketing teams to pick out something great in their local market that really draws attention to the brand,” says Steffensen Børke. “We’re trying to create brand awareness of Norwegian in more and more markets and the UK team came back with this 5D experiential event, which perfectly portrays [our brand], the destinations we fly to and the Dreamliner.”

READ MORE: Consumers are most drawn to travel and music experiences on virtual reality

Repeating the success of ‘Brad is single’

The VR experience follows Norwegian’s widely acclaimed ‘Brad is single’ campaign, which Steffensen Børke says “was my fastest ad decision ever” having made the call to run with the campaign just 30 seconds after seeing it.

“I saw it and just thought ‘yes, we’re going to do that’ because the idea was so right for our brand. It was playful, relevant and captured the moment. It was just a great opportunity,” she says.

The campaign was hooked on the break up of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with ads stating ‘Brad is single’ alongside the price for a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. The ad appeared once in the Evening Standard in the UK and in one Norwegian newspaper, as well as on social media, but was picked up by media outlets and bloggers as far afield as Australia and India, spreading its reach much further.

“We had no idea it would travel that far. The reaction we got around the world was huge. It was phenomenal,” says Steffensen Børke.

“It created a potential reach on social media of 54 million people and another 50 million via bloggers, so we reached more than 100 million people in three days across the globe based on three ads. It’s crazy. It was such a unique opportunity.”

As Norwegian continues its expansion in the UK and across Europe it will be increasing its marketing budget but Steffensen Børke says cost efficiency is always front-of-mind in anything the brand does.

We reached more than 100 million people in three days across the globe based on three ads.

Stine Steffensen Børke, Norwegian

“New markets require new budgets but with everything we do across the business we always try to find the most cost efficient way. That’s where I strongly believe creativity is a means to being cost efficient because the idea will travel further,” she says.

Real-time, reactive marketing is key for Norwegian, which Steffensen Børke admits is becoming harder as the business expands.

“It’s a challenge as we grow to maintain agility and our speed-to-market,” she says. “It was very easy when we just flew in the Nordics as we were close in both culture and language [to all the destinations we travelled to]. Growing challenges the way we work and the structure but it’s extremely important to take care of that.”

READ MORE: How Icelandair’s ‘Stopover Buddy’ experiential campaign boosted sales by 30%

Steffensen Børke heads up marketing from the airline’s head quarters in Oslo, with local marketing managers taking the lead in its key locations.

“You need to be very comfortable with your brand and what you do, and you need a structure in place to be able to roll [activity] out quickly. Norwegian is a playful brand. We have a challenger mind-set as a company, so it’s about having the guts to do things differently now and then.”

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