Brands in the News

A Disappointing Campaign from American Airlines

31 Aug 2016  

Every once in a while, you come across a truly lackluster bit of advertising, the kind of marketing that makes you wonder who signed off on it. The new campaign from American Airlines falls into this unfortunate category.

The New Campaign

American’s new advertising effort kicked off this week. The core message: “The world’s greatest flyers fly American.” The campaign poses the question, “What does it mean to be a great flyer?” The advertising then observes about great flyers, “They love babies, but bring noise-canceling headphones” and “They love the view, but they always ask before opening or closing the window shade.”

You can watch the :30 spot here:

I suspect the people behind this advertising did their homework and uncovered some interesting customer insights. They learned that frequent travelers, presumably American’s target audience, think of themselves as a bit different, and a bit superior, when it comes to navigating the world. These people know how to make the most of a trip. They are savvy and experienced. They travel often and know the routines.

The Problem

The problem is that American doesn’t turn the insight work into a differentiating benefit.

Begin with the campaign theme: “The world’s greatest flyers fly American.” Do they really? Why should we believe this statement? Is there any evidence to suggest that people who fly on American are savvier than the people on United, Delta or Emirates? The line simply isn’t credible.

If the campaign idea actually is true, why is it the case? What is it about American Airlines that resonates with these savvy people? Is the service better? Are the hubs superior?

In a competitive market like air travel, the challenge is differentiation. You want people to focus on something other than price. You need to give them a reason to pick one airline over another.

American’s new campaign provides no differentiation. The effort communicates an insight but fails to turn it into a compelling value proposition.

Perhaps American will follow this first advertising with some specifics. That would be a positive. The current effort won’t do much.

The best thing one can say about the new campaign is that it isn’t likely to do any damage. It won’t offend people or turn travelers away. It could be worse.

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