Customer experience will keep the BA brand flying high

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You can imagine that when British Airways was able to tell us that it was ’the world’s favourite airline’, the strapline worked as powerfully internally as it did externally.

Certainly, the sense of triumph that emanated from the line when it worked alongside the Lakme Flower Duet in those famous ads of a previous era presented as much of a reassurance to customers as it did a challenge to competitors.

But if the real strength of that line wasn’t the way it galvanized every member of the BA workforce and encouraged them to go that little bit further in their efforts then it was wasted.

A new era, 10 years on, has seen BA and all airlines face previously unimaginable challenges. One result of that is flying has become largely commoditised for the economy passenger. Only premium and business travellers need look further than price for their choice of carrier. As somebody who has been lucky enough to fly long haul in business class once or twice but generally pays standard prices to go away on holiday, I honestly believe that, despite people’s general view of Ryanair, one airline’s ’standard’ cabin is largely indistinguishable from another, whatever the colour. I’ve flown with numerous airlines whose websites proudly claim that they place their customers “at the heart of everything”, only to find passengers treated to shabby service in a shabbier environment.

So, back to BA. The carrier’s new leadership has announced it will invest in customer experience to the tune of £5bn over the next five years. That gets a tick from me. If marketing is about anything right now, it’s about customer experience (check Richard Madden’s viewpoint where he talks about a piece of research that pits ’useful’ brands far above desirable or sexy brands in the eyes of the customers).

The new ’To Fly. To Serve.’ strapline should help BA rediscover its prime focus on customer service. Not because it is as strong a line as ’The World’s Favourite Airline’, but because it is already a part of the brand heritage. BA’s workforce may appreciate getting together around something that it already understands and hasn’t come from, say, an ad agency. In fact, Nigel Bogle, chief executive of BA’s partner BBH, told those attending the launch of the carrier’s first new brand campaign in a decade that ’To Fly. To Serve.’ is powerful specifically because it is so deeply embedded in the brand that it couldn’t have been written by an ad man or a copywriter.

One might argue that digging an insight like that out of a brand’s heritage should be part of an agency’s job. However, that BA and the great minds housed within BBH have stated their joint commitment to restore the greatness to this business is a good thing for both the faltering economy and the airline sector. But only if the line means something internally as well as externally will we see great service restored as the differentiator for BA at every level of its business: economy class, business class and all.

Mark Choueke, editor

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