Ryanair squares up to BA in marketing offensive

Ryanair is taking aim at rivals such as BA and Lufthansa in a marketing offensive that recently appointed chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs hopes will make the brand as “liked as it is useful”.

Ryanair to ramp up above the line marketing in a bid to make the brand ‘as liked as it is useful’.

Speaking at an event in London today (26 March) to unveil the “new” Ryanair, he said the airline is adopting a plan – dubbed “Always Getting Better” – that will expand the brand’s message beyond pricing to talk about service and experience.

In response to a question from Marketing Week, he said Ryanair will use the full breadth of modern marketing – including digital, data and CRM and an above the line campaign set to launch on 10 April – as it aims to keep its position as the number one airline in Europe.

Ryanair is aiming to grow from the more than 81 million passengers it will carry this year to 120 million and it is hoping to take on BA and Lufthansa by going after business passengers, more frequent flyers and winter travellers.

The marketing campaign, which will see Ryanair hit UK TV screens for the first time, focuses on three of the big changes Ryanair has made in recent months: its new website, a move to allocated seating and allowing a second carry-on cabin bag. Created by agency Dare, the campaign will be “functional” but is aimed at injecting some personality and tone into the Ryanair brand.

Speaking about plans to improve marketing, Jacobs says the changes will include “owned, earned and paid media working together to develop one Ryanair brand across Europe, more consistent branding and brand and trade advertising working together”.

He added: “We are a challenger brand, we will always be a challenger brand, but going forward we’ll have a broader and more flexible brand conversation.

“Lowest fares will always be the centre of gravity at Ryanair…we’re famous for price, we’ll always talk about the best fares we have, but we want to develop a Ryanair brand.”

Chief executive Michael O’Leary has previously been critical of marketing, but he told Marketing Week that as with his stance on online flight search and travel agent distribution, he has changed his mind.

“Having previously said we will never go on TV or use ad agencies, we’ve changed. And the changes are real and in some cases very expensive” he added.

The changes also extend into digital, with O’Leary saying Ryanair now plans to be a digital leader. It updated its website last year to take the number of steps needed to make a booking down from 17 to 5 but even now he says the website “makes you want to lose the will to live”.

A new site is set to launch next month that will be more intuitive and offer a “joined up” experience, as well as a mobile app available in June that will let customers use a QR code to book in and board a flight.

Ryanair also plans further updates to make the digital experience more personal, including travel guides that could use user generated content and targeted communications based on customers’ travel history. The firm says 1.25 million people have already signed up to its MyRyanair registration scheme and it will use the programme to offer deals and rewards to its best customers, although there are no plans for a points-based loyalty scheme.

“MyRyanair is a fantastic keystone for data and personalisation. We can combine the website, app and CRM to allow people to get the best fares. I am a big believer in loyalty but the best way to have loyalty is to have a great product. I am a big believer in having a tribe of customers who really believe in Ryanair and know what we do and get the best fares and incentivising those customers,” said Jacobs.