Today’s globalized environment has changed the airline industry and has turned air travel in a commodity, where airlines are forced to compete with each other in price because of offering a similar product. Customer engagement, however, is activated through experiences that connect on an emotional level. Designing a branded customer experience, is what differentiates a brand from others, by creating a experiences that are iconic to the brand that add value to the customer proposition, therefore involvement of the customers is crucial to cater to their expectations. (Crawford-Browne, 2013).
The first key element is to establish a brand vision that are based on the core values of the airline. In other words translate what the airline stands for to make a strong brand identity. It is the customers who define brands through their perceptions based on feeling and emotions associated with their past experiences with the airline (Straker & Wrigley, 2016). The brand vision allows the firm to lay out brand promises. The brand promises are delivered through customer experience by exceeding their expectations. To design the experience it is of importance that it is consistent and coherent throughout all the communication channels from beginning to end. The customer journey should be mapped out and the most important experience points should be determined, because these are the prime interaction opportunities. When designing a blueprint of the customer experience, it is at these experience points a brand should develop brand cues and signatures that will strengthen the brand promises (Crawford-Browne, 2013).
Singapore Airline (SIA) is an airline that has a clear branded customer experience, because of the clarity and commitment to their brand vision and promises, which consists of delivering excellent world class service. The Singapore Girl is probably the most significant brand cue that has been implemented and has become the icon of SIA and it represents the hospitality and service the customers are guaranteed to receive. SIA passengers expect to see the iconic Singapore Girl boarding the aircraft. Small things such as the hot towels provided before take-off have become signatures of the customer experience, passengers associate these signatures with the airline. SIA shows that designing and carefully choreographing a branded customer experience creates a strong identity differentiating themselves from competitors (Martin Roll, 2014).
SIA is a staple of the airline industry and has set examples for many others, however, even the low cost carrier Ryanair has been successful at designing a branded experience, the so-called no frills experience. The airline is aware of its passengers’ need wanting an affordable flight with unnecessary features. They have communicated this through their simplified websites and not promising personal on board services, the standard rate for a flight just includes the flight and no extra services that would add on extra costs. Ryanair passengers do have same high expectations as SIA passengers have, which allowed the airline to focus on punctuality instead, something what the “No Frills Flyer” highly value (Serusi, 2014).
These two airlines are stark opposites of each other, but both have proven to be successful because of having a designed customer branded experience that clearly communicates their promises to the customers.
Crawford-Browne, S. (2013). Designing a branded customer experience. GfK, March 2013.
Martin Roll. (2014). Singapore Airlines – An excellent, iconic Asian brand. Retrieved from http://martinroll.com/resources/articles/asia/singapore-airlines-an-excellent-asian-brand/
Serusi, M. (2014, October 22). Ryanair has a Great Brand. What is the Secret to its Success? Retrieved September 24, 2016, from SimpliFlying: http://simpliflying.com/2014/ryanair-branding-success-customer-perception/
Straker, K., & Wrigley, C. (2016). Designing an emotional strategy: Strengthening digital channel engagements. Business Horizons, Volume 59, Issue 3, Pages 339-346.