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What every brand can learn from Finnair’s social media content strategy January 31, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Airlines, Aviation, Branding, India, Marketing, Social Media.
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I’m a huge fan of Finnair’s content strategy on social media. Suddenly, content strategy sounds like a buzzword. So for the sake of simplicity, I’d say unique and creative ways of connecting with travelers and creating buzz.

If I could create a manifesto for them, it would be something like:

At Finnair, let us create engaging content by –

  1. Focusing on passion points that people already love
  2. Being relevant and topical
  3. Being emotionally appealing
  4. Owning the experience at all touch points
  5. Ensuring attention to detail
  6. Having fun while creating the experience

It’s not easy bringing all these elephants into one room, but if and when you do, you have created magic.

It started in September 2011 with the Angry Birds flight from Helsinki to Singapore featuring the first ever Angry Birds Asian Challenge (sponsored by Samsung and Roxio). They branded and owned the experience like no other, from a creative and execution point of view. The entire plane, airport, crew and in-flight experience screamed Angry Birds. They got the passengers to play an in-flight Angry Birds challenge. Even served Angry Birds cupcakes when they landed in Singapore.

Check out these delightful snaps from the Angry Birds flight at Travelerfolio.

And then they did it again in January 2012 with the Bollywood dance video on a flight to New Delhi to celebrate India’s Republic Day. The video has nearly 3.5 million video views as of today and tons of positive PR. They spotted an opportunity at the unique intersection that Indian airlines or other international airlines majorly serving India missed – India’s love affair with Bollywood and patriotic feelings inspired by the Republic Day. And the fact that Indians would warmly appreciate the gesture by a ‘foreign airline’.

The secret here to create engaging content is to have an open slate, tell an interesting story and not be restricted by the canvas of your industry. Think about who you are targeting, what captures their interest most and be creative about it while having fun. The views will take off and the buzz will happen.

Blog Action Day & Age of Conversation 3 – Two great online causes for the win! October 15, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Books, Branding, Conversations, Digital, Marketing, Social Media.
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Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event where thousands of bloggers around the world unite to talk about a common issue that impacts the lives of people around the world. This collective buzz sparks online discussion, awareness and action. This year, Blog Action Day is all about WATER.

Why Water?

“Almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s one in eight of us.

Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. The UN predicts that one tenth of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply and sanitation.

But, water moves beyond just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue, an animal welfare issue, a sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, deserving a global conversation.”

[VIMEO 15336764]

Here are some WATER facts that I picked up from the Blog Action Day website:

  • 40 Billion Hours: African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. More Info »
  • 38,000 Children a Week: Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. More Info »
  • Wars Over Water: Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa. More Info »
  • Cell Phones vs. Toilets: Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets, but many more have access to a cell phone. More Info »
  • Food Footprint: It takes 24 liters of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion liters of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe. More Info »
  • Technology Footprint: The shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a liter of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that’s 40 million liters to charge those alone. More Info »
  • Fashion Footprint: That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing right now took 1,514 liters of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 liters. More Info »
  • Bottled Water Footprint: The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. More Info »
  • Polluted Oceans: Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. More Info »
  • Building Wells: Organizations like Water.org and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world. More Info »
  • Conservation Starts at Home: The average person uses 465 liters of water per day. Find out how much you use and challenge your readers to do that same. More Info »

Living in Oman for a better part of my life and now based in the UAE, I have been lucky to enjoy access to clean, safe water. However, I am also aware that water is a scarce commodity in many parts of the world. Hence, it is my personal commitment to reduce as much wastage of water as possible.

That personal commitment apart, one of the ways I’m contributing this year is by joining the Age of Conversation Bum Rush.

THE AGE OF CONVERSATION 3 for the WIN!


Considering the fact that social media has gone all mainstream now, Age of Conversation is a global initiative started by Drew McLellan in Iowa and Gavin Heaton in Australia, two marketing whizzes who were savvy enough to see the emerging possibilities of social media-driven online collaboration, crowdsourcing, creativity and online publishing to create the world’s first marketing ‘blook’ ‘The Age of Conversation’, 3 years ago!

Every year, AOC brings together the world’s sharpest marketing and creative minds who publish a chapter each, promote the book and the co-authors in their online community and use proceeds of book sales to benefit a charity. This is my 3rd year in the AOC adventure and being a part of this rockstar community has only benefited me, personally and professionally.

This year, Age of Conversation 3:  It’s Time To Get Busy! brings about 171 leading marketing bloggers from around the world who capture the distinct shift from social media as a hypothetical consumer loyalty tool, as it was considered only a little more than a year ago, to its current state as a staple in the modern marketing toolbox.

Although the book covers more than just social media, the topic is ubiquitous among the book’s 10 sections: At the Coalface; Identities, Friends and Trusted Strangers; Conversational Branding; Measurement; Corporate Conversations; In the Boardroom; Innovation and Execution; Influence; Getting to Work; and Pitching Social Media.

THE AGE OF CONVERSATION 3 – Official Charity – charity: water

The first Age of Conversation raised nearly $15,000 for Variety, the international children’s charity, and the Age of Conversation 2 raised a further $10,000 for Variety.

This year, all benefits from AOC 3 sales will go to charity: water. charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects.

Age of Conversation 3:  It’s Time To Get Busy! is available on Amazon in Kindle, Paperback and Hardcover versions. So don’t forget to get your copy today. The book is great mind fodder if you are passionate about communications, marketing, digital strategy, branding, PR and social media, plus they make great gifts for your agency, partners and clients, and you also do your bit for charity!

And do remember to read my chapter: Who is the real social media influencer – my take on identifying the real stars in the social media space.

Amazingly, just $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years. An average water project costs $5,000 and can serve 250 people with clean, safe water – so purchasing a copy of the Age of Conversation 3 really can make a difference to someone’s life!

Happy reading AOC3 & happy Blog Action Day!

40 out of 40 for Oman Air September 2, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Airlines, Aviation, Branding, Marketing, Oman, Travel.
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Launches 40th destination ahead of 40th National Day of Oman.

Pic credit: Christophe Selzere, JetPhotos.Net

Congratulations to Oman Air, the national airline of the Sultanate of Oman, who launched Kathmandu, its 40th destination today. 2010 is of great significance for the Sultanate as it marks the 40th National Day of Oman (the birthday of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said is on 18 November). Every corporate in the country is involved in a marketing activity to do with the #40, so it is great to see Oman Air celebrate in a unique manner by launching their 40th route.

Oman Air commenced operations in 1993. It achieved modest growth as a privately owned regional player till 2007, when the Government of Oman pulled out of Gulf Air, designated Oman Air as national carrier, recapitalized it and focused on developing it as an international airline. In 2007, Oman Air went long-haul by launching Bangkok and London. From then on, there has been no looking backwards for Oman Air, with a penchant of doing business differently from its bigger cousins in the region.

Pic credit: Smit ZhiFei, JetPhotos.Net

Oman Air - Flying High

2008 saw a slew of changes at Oman Air. In February 2008, Oman Air unveiled its new branding and aircraft livery as a part of its plans to go international. The characteristic Red, White and Green national colors and traditional Khanjar gave way to Turquoise Blue, Silver and Gold along with a Frankincense smoke plume in an effort to project Oman Air as the new wings of Oman and the ambassador of a nation known for its timeless traditions, vibrant heritage and legendary hospitality.

The year also saw the launch of new routes to the Indian Sub-Continent and the unveiling of a new fleet and long-haul route expansion program. In July 2008, industry veteran and former chief executive of Srilankan Airlines, Mr. Peter Hill took over as the new CEO of Oman Air following the untimely demise of CEO Ziad bin Karim Al Haremi, who played a stellar role in initiating the redevelopment and change of image of Oman Air.

2009 was truly a bellwether year for Oman Air. Under the leadership of Mr. Peter Hill and a revitalized management team, Oman Air went all out to dazzle the industry in a year of superlative achievements. The year witnessed in rapid succession the arrival of the first of Oman Air’s brand new A330s, the launch of Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Male and Colombo, the unveiling of new Balenciaga designed uniforms, the launch of industry-leading First, Business and Economy Class cabins on the A330 fleet. A $10 million destination marketing campaign in association with Ministry of Tourism saw both Oman and Oman Air make great inroads into European markets. During the 2009 Dubai Air Show, Oman Air finalized an order for 5 Embraer 175 aircraft with another 5 options.

Oman Air First Class Cabin

Oman Air Business Class - 1st in world to offer 4-abreast seating in cabin

In 2010, Oman Air became the first airline in the world to offer in-flight mobile and WiFi connectivity through OnAir onboard its long-haul Airbus A330 fleet. It is interesting to note that Oman Air covered impressive strides during a period when the airline industry was weathering a downturn.

Having made significant investments in infrastructure and improving its products and services over the last few years, the future looks robust for Oman Air. The airline has a strategic vision of differentiating itself from its regional competitors by being a niche boutique airline that is focused on driving point-to-point traffic rather than being a hub-and-spoke carrier.

The results of ‘Change is on its way’ and ‘Discover the future of air travel’ are promising. During the first half of 2010, Oman Air saw a 40% increase in available seat-kilometres, a 73% rise in revenue passenger-kilometres and a 14 point improvement in seat factor, over the same period last year with passenger numbers up by 46% and cargo by 44%.

Along with the ongoing development of Muscat International Airport, Oman Air is playing a key role in the development of 4 domestic airports coming up in Sohar, Ras Al Hadd, Adam and Duqm. In October 2010, Oman Air will launch Milan as its 41st route. The airline will take delivery of its 7th A330 in 2011along with the first of Embraer jets that will ply on domestic routes. Plans are on to refurbish the existing B737 fleet to the same standards as the luxurious A330 fleet. Oman Air will take delivery of its first B787 Dreamliner in 2014 (the airline will be acquiring them from ALAFCO). The first of 6 737s on order are expected to arrive in 2014 as well.

The fortunes of Oman Air will be tied to the successful joint promotion of Oman as a must-visit luxury destination by both Oman Air and Oman’s Ministry of Tourism (a point Mr. Hill emphasizes often to fill the birds), development of ancillary services related to hospitality, tourism, ground services etc., and a continual improvement of travel services in a region that offers unparalleled choice to the flying public and intense competition between regional legacy carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways who are truly global in their reach and cut-throat Low Cost Carriers such as Flydubai and Air Arabia.


Mabrook, Oman Air. More power to your wings. Fly higher for Oman!

The best cabin crew uniform in Indian skies August 17, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Aviation, Branding, India, Marketing, Travel.
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Close on the heels of JetLite unveiling their new cabin crew uniforms, IndiGo has decided to go for the PanAm designer look and shake up the skies.

Let’s have a fun contest today to find out the best cabin crew uniform in the Indian skies.

Who looks the sizzling best? Feel free to vote for your favorite airline uniform in the poll that follows the pictures. I pick Jet Airways.

* (Apologies for the ‘poor’ GoAir pic! Do share if you find a better one!)

Air India / Air India Express / Indian

Jet Airways

Jet Airways

Kingfisher / Kingfisher Red

JetLite

IndiGo

SpiceJet

GoAir

Paramount Airways

What can Steven Slater learn from a pillow fight onboard Lufthansa August 14, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Airlines, Aviation, Conversations, Marketing, Travel.
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Flight attendants are very much in the news these days.

This year belongs to Steven Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant who after an altercation with a passenger on an aircraft that had just landed at New York’s JFK International Airport, announced via the in-flight intercom that he was quitting his job and hurled profanities at the passenger who provoked him. He then grabbed a beer, activated the aircraft’s emergency chute and bolted off the plane.

While many are hailing Mr. Slater as a ‘working-class hero’ for standing up against an unruly customer & walking away from an ‘unpleasant’ situation, his otherwise social media-open and transparent former employer is forced to remain silent as this matter is under investigation. Mr. Slater looks certain to benefit from his newfound fame as an ‘air rager’ and there are calls for JetBlue to take him back to the skies. Personally, I believe he shouldn’t be allowed to do so.

Being a flight attendant is a tough and demanding job that requires immaculate stress management and people handling skills beyond the veneer of a smiling and glamorous exterior. Needless to say, cabin crew are the human face of the airline to the flying public. How they conduct themselves plus how they treat passengers in the skies and on the ground reflects the general service attitude of the airline to the world. 20 odd years into the job, it doesn’t bode well for me to have Mr. Slater on my flight losing his top and bolting off the aircraft like a renegade general.

Cut to the story of this inspiring Lufthansa flight attendant who is now the star of an emerging YouTube viral video titled ‘LH 687 – The endless dispute between the French and the Germans’.

A hilarious pillow flight broke out recently on a Lufthansa flight bound to Frankfurt from Tel Aviv. A German cabin crew was handing out complimentary pillows to Economy Class passengers when pillows were thrown back at her. Not one to be cowed down, she joined in the fun and threw back pillows at the passengers (a group of French tourists). In the 42-second clip, the stewardess can be seen dashing for the safety of her curtain as the hail of pillows intensifies. A passenger recorded a video of this funny pillow fight that ended with rounds of applause for the flight attendant for being a sport. The video is becoming a hit and there is overall appreciation for the flight attendant and the fliers for bringing some light-heartedness into flying.

A Lufthansa spokeswoman later said that the airline is laughing along with everyone else. “It’s an example of passengers enjoying themselves in economy class. And it shows we still offer pillows to our passengers in economy class,” she said.

The lesson to be learnt from this experience is simple. Mass brands such as airlines that come in close contact with human situations that are odd, impromptu, unpredictable or challenging need to be spontaneous, creative, positive, calm and responsive in a professional manner, on the go.

In today’s age of social media, judgments and opinions are formed and shared before corporations or brands can react. Hence, forget about controlling the message. Note the positive spin Lufthansa is giving to the whole incident. Kudos to them for this smart marketing plug in and not going for the staid and natural corporate measure of punishing the flight attendant. Today’s ‘age of social’ demands that we remain constantly on our guard displaying our best social behavior, no matter what the situation. Mr. Steven Slater and his kind can certainly learn a lot from this pillow fight onboard Lufthansa 687.

Book Review: Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity May 4, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Books, Conversations, Marketing, Social Media.
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When you hold a book titled ‘Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity’, you know you are in for something special.

And if the author happens to be Hugh MacLeod, it’s time to dive straight in.

But then there are always chances that you will ask ‘Hugh Who?’.

In that case, I recommend that you browse the Contents page and read gems like:

  1. Ignore everybody.
  2. Good ideas have lonely childhoods.
  3. You are responsible for your own experience.
  4. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.
  5. Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.

And more.

And then it hits you that this is a unique book. Especially if creativity matters to you, irrespective of your profession. If making a difference is important to you. If you feel you are yet to fulfill your true potential, but want to get there. If you are waiting for that AHA moment in your life when you realize your true calling. ‘Ignore Everybody’ is for you.

This book is based on Hugh’s life experiences in his inspiring journey from a struggling copywriter at Madison Avenue to a successful entrepreneur straddling the worlds of art and new media.

Those in the creative arts will easily identify with Hugh’s thoughts and ideas; many of our pains, pangs, joys and jubilation are echoed in his words, which is why I would recommend this book to the creative tribe.

I wish colleges gifted ‘Ignore Everybody’ to students because they can learn so much from this book and be better prepared for the curve ball that is life.

I love the bit-sized chapters of the book. And most importantly, the amusing yet thought provoking biz card size cartoons that introduce and conclude each chapter of wisdom.

There are cartoons on relationships that appear in between chapters that I found a bit jarring and out of place. But then I think Hugh is trying to make an important point – As we go about the business of changing the world, it is our relationship dynamics with ourselves, our good soul, our inner demons and those who matter to us that hold the key to how we get to bring about the change.

There will be several points during the book when you will feel both Hugh and you talking in the same voice. That I think is the greatest compliment the author can get.

Dear Hugh: Thank you for sharing ‘Ignore Everybody’ with the world.

As he says:

“Work hard.

Keep at it.

Live simply and quietly.

Remain humble.

Stay positive.

Create your own luck.

Be nice.

Be polite.”


What can an 8-year old & social media teach Boeing about customer service? April 28, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Airlines, Branding, Conversations, Digital, Marketing, Social Media.
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Image source: Harry Winsor’s Boeing Drawing

It never ceases to amaze me how small things lead to big actions. Especially in the world of social media.

Last evening, about 17 hours ago, I spotted this tweet by Paul McEnany. He was tweeting about Porter Airlines and then he tweeted

Speaking of airplanes – here’s a Boeing fail: http://bit.ly/aWpekl

I’m passionate about airlines and so I clicked on the URL and what I read made my jaw drop.

And then I tweeted about it. And also marked it to the attention of @simpliflying @RunwayGirl @AvWeekBenet, leading global aviation experts with an active social media presence.

Meanwhile, let me give you a quick background on this ‘Unbelievable customer service story from Boeing’. http://bit.ly/bJrABe

This story is about John Winsor’s @jtwinsor 8-year old son Harry who is a passionate aviation enthusiast. Harry sends a drawing of his airplane design to Boeing and the plane maker gets back to him with a ‘staid corporate response’. I recommend that you take a few minutes to read this blog post – Is Your Customer Service Ready for the New World of Openness? http://bit.ly/bJrABe

Here’s Boeing’s official response to Harry Winsor’s drawing.


(It seems @jtwinsor shared this experience to @edwardboches over dinner and he recommended that John blog about it).

Jon Ostrower, who is Flight International Magazine’s Aerospace Blogger @flightblogger was quick to take this up with Boeing in a tweet.

@boeingairplanes it might be time to rethink your standard form letter. http://bit.ly/aWpekl (via @arun4)

After which, I tweeted twice to @boeingairplanes

@flightblogger Absolutely. @boeingairplanes You are writing to a kid with passion. Where is your YOURS? You can get this right, still!

Dear @boeingairplanes If I were you, I’d fly this kid to your Museum of Flight. @flightblogger @simpliflying @jtwinsor http://bit.ly/bJrABe

@flightblogger ‘s tweet was then RTed a couple of times.

Couple of hours later, Boeing @Boeingairplanes responded directly to John Winsor’s blog post. Todd Blecher, who is Director of Communications at Boeing said in a comment:

Mr. Winsor,
I’m a Boeing communications director. I think I can address your comments. As you state, we have to respond to the thousands of unsolicited ideas we receive in a way that protects us against possible infringement claims. Having said that, we can do better when the idea clearly comes from a child as enthusiastic as your son. We will work on this. I hope Harry remains fascinated by airplanes and grows up to be an airplane designer. To help him and others like him we maintain the following website. http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/aboutus/wond…
I hope he enjoys it.

@BoeingCorporate also responded with a tweet on their Twitter account that said:

“The letter Mr. Winsor posted is, as he said, a required response. For kids, we can do better. We’ll work on it.”

It was a very smart move by Boeing to respond immediately and address the issue with a human touch. Boeing is now making very planned and prudent moves into the social media space. In this post, Ludo Van Vooren explores Boeing’s new communication strategy for new media engagement. (Very topical as it was published just last week!) And it seems that Todd Blecher is at the center of these efforts. Certainly Boeing is walking the talk.

The story doesn’t end there:

Alaska Airlines, whose drawing Harry Winsor created and sent to Boeing, wants to send him a special reward. @AirlineReporter had marked a copy of his tweet to @AlaskaAir asking them to have a look at Harry’s drawing. And they responded back via Twitter.

Sandy Ward at the Future of Flight Museum, Seattle @futureofflight wants to showcase Harry’s airplane drawing at a spot in their museum where they showcase innovative ideas and designs.

The story has been featured on Seattlepi, @piboeing a leading aerospace industry blog. And I’m sure it will be picked by others in the days to come.

And TV stations in Denver and Seattle would like to interview Harry Winsor on this story.

The big picture:

I believe that social media is more about being social, responsive and showing that you care, whatever the size or nature of your business. This goes beyond mere presence on social networks.

Ultimately, this should be the goal of all marketing communications – reaching out to the right target audience, listening to them and telling them what they would like to hear.

Kudos to Boeing for coming out in flying colors in their first test with social media. And kudos to Harry Winsor who will grow up knowing that he made a difference with his passion for airplanes.

Brand Leadership Lessons from Air New Zealand January 26, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Branding, Conversations, Marketing, Travel.
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5 comments

At the edge of the world, a small airline is pushing the envelope when it comes to doing the right things. This is a hallmark of a brand that is going places, even in times of adversity. For example: Air New Zealand.

And here’s how they are getting there.

Pic credit: Flickr – source

1. Be bold in your marketing
Air New Zealand is not shy of stirring a little turbulence in your teacup. Bold, edgy and provocative – that’s how I would describe their recent marketing.

Their ‘Nothing to Hide’ campaign was an excellent take on low cost airlines adding hidden fares. Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe even made a cameo appearance in full body-paint as a baggage handler in this campaign. It was extended to airline safety where crewmembers went bare naked in in-flight safety videos.

However, Air New Zealand recently flew into a bit bad weather with their controversial ‘Cougar’ campaign. But there’s really no thing such as bad PR.

In October 2009, Air New Zealand flew probably the first matchmaking flight in the world from Auckland to Los Angeles, complete with its own social media networking site, pre-flight airport party, loads of in-flight merrymaking and a ticket to a gala post-flight mixer attended by 150 single Kiwis.

All these activities fit Air New Zealand’s vision of “putting the fun back in flying”.

Lesson: Let your marketing be bold, unconventional and spoken about.

2. Your product matters

No marketing or promotion can save you if you don’t have a good product or improve your existing product offering.

Today, Air New Zealand is in the news for their newly launched ‘SkyCouch’ flatbed seat in Economy Class.

While it’s too early to predict its success, Air New Zealand can be hailed for bringing innovation to the back of the cabin.

Like an enthusiast commented: “The SkyCouch is up there with EK’s A380 showers and SIA’s double beds. Gotta love the Kiwis!”

Lesson: Never stop working on improving your product/service.

3. Be different to be better

If you are doing something different from the pack, recognition follows you.

The airline industry usually witnesses a “McDonald’s” approach of doing things. If someone is launching a Low-Cost Carrier (LCC), everyone else does the same thing. If you start charging for check-in baggage, everyone else follows suit.

Air New Zealand’s SkyCouch is a daring innovation in terms of product, price and positioning. But this is just one of the many innovations they have been up to in the recent times.

No wonder, the Air Transport World magazine  recently named Air New Zealand Airline of the Year.

Lesson: What are you doing differently to be better?

4. Leadership begins from the top

Positive change begins from the top and flows down the ladder. Under the leadership of Rob Fyfe, Air New Zealand seems to have galvanized itself and embraced ‘an authentic Kiwi can-do style’ of getting things done.

“We operate this airline in a New Zealand way – we’re not trying to emulate a Singapore Airlines or emulate a McDonald’s. We’re trying to go out there day in and day out and trying to be authentic Kiwis and give people a real genuine New Zealand experience,” says Fyfe.

Lesson: Are you the Fyfe of your organization?

5. Innovation Quotient

Air New Zealand recently made the world’s first flight using a sustainable biofuel. It also attempted sending a rocket into space. These are innovations at work.

One of the greatest assets in any organization is its people, their knowledge and attitudes. Harness them well and you have a strong culture of innovation.

Air New Zealand has an interesting programme called Test Flight where employees pitch ideas to the executive team. If the idea is chosen, the person suggesting the idea can get to work on the project itself and get a share of the profits.

Air New Zealand also looks outside its own industry for ideas. “We don’t just look at other airlines, at airports. We look at shopping centres, we look at universities, we look pretty much anywhere to get ideas that we could potentially use at Air New Zealand,” says Julia Raue, Chief Information Officer at Air New Zealand.

Lesson: What’s your organization’s innovation quotient?

6. People make the difference

As a company, Air New Zealand is known to create a work environment that values and recognizes people for their enthusiasm and ingenuity.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the airline gave its 11,000 staff an extra day off to celebrate their part in winning the Airline of the Year award.

Lesson: How well are your people contributing to your growth? Are there ways to energize them better?

What else can you learn from Air New Zealand? Feel free to add your views and comments.

Be Brand Social in 2010 December 31, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Branding, Conversations, Social Media.
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As the world gets ready to welcome another brand new year, it’s a good time to get a pulse of where social media is headed to in 2010.

In his ‘6 Social Media Trends to watch out in 2010’, David Armano says that social media will be ‘more popular, more exclusive and more mobile’.

Among other predictions, Niall Harbison believes social media will focus more on the ‘quality of information’ than the ‘quantity of followers’.

Jackie Huba says that what was hot in 2009 will be out in 2010. Her prediction for 2010: social gets integrated into business functions. And about time that happened.

Marketing Sherpa and MediaPost report that social media marketing budgets will increase in 2010, largely at the expense of other media.

B. L. Ochman predicts that blogs amongst other social media channels will become the hot ad medium of the year and ad agencies will finally take the lead in social media.

Brian Solis reminds us that the future of interactive marketing lies in the ‘golden triangle engagement’ – a converging point of social, mobile and real-time web.

Brian Morrisey hits the ball out of the park when he says that marketers will/should treat social media as an integrated part of a digital strategy, than as a stand-alone area for experimentation.

In ’10 Ways Social Media Will Change In 2010′, Ravit Lichtenberg says that ‘social media will no longer be social media’ but a ‘single, cohesive experience embedded in our activities and technologies’ and ROI measurement of social media engagement will matter ever more than before.

What are your social media predictions for 2010?

My belief is that more enterprises and brands, especially in the Middle East and other social media nascent markets will get on the social media bandwagon with varying measures of success.

Some of the challenges they will face are lack of social media expertise, issues of controlling the message, trying to conform this ‘new social way of communications’ with the traditional way of brand communications, being transparent in conversations,  pains of creating value over noise, constraints in marketing budgets and working with ‘people who know the real deal’, the pressure to prove ROI at the outset of social media engagement, the diverse challenges in communicating with Arabic and English-speaking audiences etc. That was a handful, eh?

My recommendation to brands who are stepping into social media waters in 2010 is to use your social media experimentation to rethink your digital strategy (if you already have one apart from a corporate website). Social works best when it is in sync with your digital activity.

If you are smarter, you should be taking lessons learnt from social media and applying them to your current marketing strategy. You should be thinking more on the lines of what could work better for you in the present than what has worked well for you in the past. You should also be keeping a close watch on your competition as well as what other social media savvy brands around the world are up to. Learning from their successes and failures shortens the curve for you.

Your marketing should be tied to goals – measurable, attainable and contributing to your bottom line. And to get there, you will need to work with pros who straddle the new age domain of ‘integrated’ brand communications with relative ease  – a world where advertising, digital, social media marketing and public relations blend together seamlessly.

This post is inspired by ‘Being Brand Social‘, a recent column I wrote for BusinessToday, a leading business publication in the Sultanate of Oman. The article introduces social media, discusses what’s in it for brands and explains why many brands struggle with social media marketing. Click here to read.

Happy social media 2010 to you!

Image source: Future or Bust. Vermin Inc on Flickr.

A few thoughts on Brand Oman January 26, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Branding, Conversations, Digital, Oman, Social Media.
14 comments

brand oman logo

Yesterday, national brand mark of the Sultanate of Oman was unveiled. This logo is an initiative from the Oman Brand Management Unit (OBMU).

Firstly, why is the need for Oman to go into national branding?

It’s important to project a favorable image of the country, especially after understanding how the country is presently viewed within its borders and overseas. There’s a heightened interest about Oman globally, considering its unique tourism appeal and its relative resilience in the current economic situation.

In the words of His Highness Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al Said, who heads OBMU:

“We’re a relatively small country and generally little known.”

“Now is the time to identify what unique qualities Oman has to offer and balance this with what consumers actually want from us.

“Understand our compelling truth and look at what we have — natural resources, beauty, minerals, culture, infrastructure, education, technology — and then match these deliverables to what is really wanted from a global audience.

Here’s an explanation of the logo mark on Times of Oman.

From what I have seen of the Oman Air corporate rebranding exercise last year, I know that whenever a new logo is unveiled, you have two sides of opinion. Some like it. Some don’t.

A lot of local people do not get that the logo mark is calligraphy that reads ‘OMAN’. (I just did a small dipstick survey). People get it when I tell them it is calligraphy and ask them to read for a word. The hues are very refreshing. However, it’s only when you read the rationale that you understand the mighty burdens resting on the humble logo. Some have said the colors are similar to those in the logos of Oman Oil Marketing Co., Nawras and Renaissance Services in Oman. Read some comments in Sangeetha Sridhar’s post in the Digital Oman blog.

My point is: there’s no going back to the drawing board. From now on, it’s about how effectively you get the message across different touch points about what Oman means as an international brand.

Oman Tourism Logo

This is the current OMAN logo that is used by the country’s Ministry of Tourism, mostly used for promoting destination Oman. It’s likely the new ‘Brand Oman’ logo will take its place. How do both the logos compare?

Also, the new Brand Oman logo will not only be used to promote the tourism aspect of Oman, but also the national, international, commercial, industrial, economic, cultural, sports facets of the nation. I expect this logo to be present on any banner to do with Oman with a national or international purview… from summits, events, activities, campaigns, tournaments, festivals… you get the big picture.

It’s very disheartening that the Brand Oman website is not up and running. Please note that it’s www.brandoman.om and NOT www.brandoman.com.

In this age of social media, there’s no better medium that digital to reach out your message in a more compelling and conversational manner. I will recommend a URL that does not have ‘brand’ in it. To an end user, the word brand does not mean anything i.e. convey a positive, impressionable attitude. It’s more about ‘OMAN’ than the ‘BRAND’.

Try this: http://www.brandoman.om vs. http://www.amazingoman.om or just http://www.oman.om

Assuming you haven’t visited the website, which URL gives you a better image of the country?

A new print campaign has appeared in the local newspapers unveiling the logo with a message ‘Our universities are our legacy’. It’s too early to comment before knowing how it will unfold.

The challenge in the coming days is how interestingly OBMU will tell the story of Oman to the world. How various communication activities pertaining to Oman that happen across diverse touch points will be synergized to convey a single message, both locally and internationally? How will you bring in the voices of the amazing mix of people that make up this country?

All the best, ‘Brand Oman’!