Adgully Exclusive | Aiming to be the best in the airline space, focus is on Indian: Etihad's Andrew Ward
Speaking exclusively to Adgully, Andrew Ward, Vice President, Etihad Airways further elaborated on this point. "Etihad positions itself as offering inspiration for the individual. That's what our brand is about. It's about inspirational experiences for every individual or guest that flies with us. Although you are flying in first class or business class or economy, you will get that attention to detail and opportunity to have choice in what you have in terms of on-board product and services. So, the inspiration starts right at the beginning of the traveler's journey booking process," Ward explained.
Ward feels it helps a lot to have worked on both sides, the agency's and client's. His earlier stint with TBWA encouraged him to think differently creatively. He further added, "Not just in terms of advertising but it is in terms of marketing programs, promotional ideas, and new ways of doing things. Basically you are constantly challenging people to be different. So coming from outside, the airline marketing world really helped me by having a different point of you to give and to bring in new practices as well. So, that's what you learn from the agencies that they bring out that sense of creativity within you and the ability to challenge and be different."
In terms of specialized offerings, Etihad Airways offers its customers limousine services which have been launched in India for the first time. Premium economy travelers who are in UAE get bus service to Dubai or Abu Dhabi or to Al Ain. "At the moment we are offering special free car parking at the Abu Dhabi airport. So, we provide and over deliver, that's what we try to do in terms of part of our service delivery," added Ward.
Talking about the significance of the Indian market, Ward said, "India is very important market for us. It's not just about the India population here in India but it's the NRIs in USA, Canada and UK. We wanted to do something that connects with everybody which wasn't just a traditional advertising campaign."
Etihad Airways was particular about not doing a traditional advertising campaign in the Indian market. So they went ahead and launched "Next Stop Bollywood' dance competition which is an online dance competition. They received tremendous response for this and had also roped in their brand ambassador Katrina Kaif to announce the winners.
"We thought seriously about making connections through Bollywood because of its obvious popularity and taking Katrina as our brand ambassador is what we think a moment of inspiration in a way. This is because she is a rising star here and we are rising star in the airline world. If you see the photography around the room, she brings out that real star quality feel to our products on-board. After all its fashion photography, again it's doing something different, you know, it's not just a standard airline's sake. It's our sake to make it even more special by Katrina," Ward discussed in detail.
Talking about marketing strategies, Ward said, "Our strategy is to extend our brand for print, in key markets as rapidly as possible. We are 27 years old. So, we have to drive our brand awareness and at the same time we have to communicate the values of the brand that are just described in the terms of the inspiration. Also the strategy is to how we deploy our marketing activity is to innovate, use new channels, that's why we are developing ourselves for media platforms now. We have our face book page, we have run this competition "Next Stop bollywood' on face book. We have just launched this week a new face book competition based on the new destinations to Maldives in November. So, its connection we can see is in surprising and innovative ways that helps drive our brand message."
Although there is cut throat competition in this space, Etihad Airways is attempting to break the clutter by improving service on board, giving more choices in the menu and by launching exquisite Diamond First Class suites.
"I think we are going from strength to strengths. This year is very important to us as the breakeven year and we are making great strikes towards that. We have new planes coming in routes like Bangalore and Maldives. We are improving our connectivity and frequency of service. We are going daily to Geneva in June, double daily to Manchester in August. So, we are constantly improving on our services and product offerings," Ward stressed upon.
Commenting on the way forward for Etihad Airways, Ward said, "We have this vision to be the best airline in the world. It is not about being the biggest; it is about being the best. You set that benchmark when you want to be the best. You continue to improve, you assess and you can be better but that bar keeps rising all the time. To be the best, is about constantly wanting to be the best. You never say, "now we are best and all job is done'. It is a continuous challenge to innovate and be different from the competition." | By Janees Antoo [janees(at)adgully.com]