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Craig Landry on Air Canada’s new strategy and competitive marketplace

Air Canada's VP of marketing on the future of its brand

In the wake of the launch of Air Canada’s new “Your World Awaits” campaign from JWT Canada, Marketing editor-in-chief David Thomas caught up with Craig Landry, the airline’s vice-president of marketing, to talk strategy, the battle for the global and younger customers and how Porter and Westjet are pushing Air Canada to deliver a better customer experience.

The airline industry in general seems to have been stuck competing in a commoditized pricing rut. How does the industry – and Air Canada in particular – need to resell the magic of travel better?

Our research demonstrated a compelling insight shared by our customers – that as they travel, their experiences become a part of who they are. This was particularly true among younger travellers and millennials who, perhaps through technology, have developed a global perspective that is more intimate and personal. Our new campaign brings this insight to life through a unique and beautiful photographic treatment, accompanied with bold headlines. The campaign is meant to capture the imagination and inspire.

Other airlines are trying to reach out beyond their borders as well to reach a global traveller. I would say that Air France has done a very good job of leveraging French culture and style in their global communications platforms. Virgin Atlantic has boldly carved out a distinct look and feel, while Air New Zealand attracts customers with their humour and their heart.

The latest campaign is targeting non-Canadians as much as Canadians. How do you reach consumers outside of Canada differently than you would Canadian consumers?
A key part of our business strategy is about attracting the global customer – not just those traveling to and from Canada, but those travelling from one point in the world to another, using Canada as their connection point. An example would be someone travelling from Boston to Beijing, from Rome to Los Angeles, or from Tokyo to Sao Paolo. Air Canada serves all of these markets with one simple and efficient connection through Toronto. Indeed our future growth plans will rely on our ability to capture the global traveler. From a marketing perspective, this means we need a compelling message and global brand platform that can position Air Canada alongside the best airlines in the world, which we believe we have with “Your World Awaits.” From there, an innovative and impactful media plan is needed, prioritizing key markets and points of sale. Emerging digital marketing strategies will be key to achieve this.

What else can you say about the priorities of the new AOR mandate for JWT? When did Air Canada last have the positioning as a brand that made it the envy of other airlines?
Working with JWT has been great. They understand our desire to position ourselves globally, and will help to bring this new platform to life in some very creative ways. At the same time, the mandate includes a relentless need to support day to day tactical and retail messaging in markets around the world, while helping us experiment and optimize our media strategies. JWT also plays a key role collaborating with our roster of direct marketing, content marketing and PR agencies.

Air Canada is fortunate enough to have had several eras of brand positioning that received lots of attention. In the 90s, we opened up several major new international routes with our “Hello/Goodbye” campaign – a campaign that many customers still remember fondly some 20 years later. And in the 2000s, Celine Dion helped us launch a new corporate identity with her song “You and I Were Meant to Fly.”

What do you think Porter and Westjet have been doing well, that Air Canada needs to emulate/catch up to?
Porter has done a great job of telling the story of their company in a way that has really engaged consumers and communities. Air Canada has some catching up to do to show key markets like Toronto how much the city means to us, what we do to help drive the aspirations of the city, and the exciting future we have together.

Westjet has been a great entrepreneur with a solid business plan. As they now move more into the market for business travel, they continue to push us to innovate faster to stay ahead in the game, which of course is good for consumers.

What does it mean to have a more human brand?
Having a more human brand means being acutely aware of the experience of air travel from a consumer perspective. Being successful in this business is not just about having great products and services supported by operational excellence. It’s also about recognizing we are in the customer service business, and that our customers are also looking for an airline that provides a complete experience for them when they travel. We are very aware of this, and indeed the promise of Your World Awaits serves an invitation to the Air Canada experience.

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