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Not how you fly, but how you serve

By Andrew Dalglish -

Many years ago now, whilst I was working at, newly privatised, British Airways, our research team was challenged to understand what it meant to be “branded British”.  What does the power of national identification bring to the airline in each market it serves, and how could that knowledge be leveraged to help position the airline and its service to best effect?

It was a great project and I’ve written about it elsewhere (read the original conference paper here:  branding and national stereotypes.  The gist is that we were able to identify the best of British in a service context and then aspire to match – or even better it – in all important markets.

And now BA is reminding us that it has always been in the service business.  (How long, I wonder, before we first see “To fry to serve” above a chip shop door in one of those backhanded nods to a strong strapline).  Waxed moustaches, intrepid aviators and wickerwork seats segue into fly-by-wire and Concorde in the advertiser’s portrayal of the airline’s service history – as seen from the flight deck.

An interesting advertising tack!  Doubtless BA’s flight crew offer the highest standards of professionalism, but is flightdeck excellence not a given amongst established carriers?  Is this the most compelling service message for BA’s passengers?  Unless confident of peerless delivery in the cabin, is it not a high risk strategy to talk service, and yet not show it as it affects the paying guest?  Does this advertising not expose us to the hordes of nay-sayers; full of the latest service lapse to befall them on last Friday’s Barcelona flight?

BA service has always been strong and product development has been at the forefront historically.  However, whilst Biggles jackets and Dakotas are lovely to behold and bring on a real frisson of warm nostalgia, there are those for whom peerless cabin service, punctuality and product pre-eminence will always carry more weight.  Perhaps we should suggest that any sequel to the current advertising might shift the focus more in this direction.

Find out more about Circle Research’s B2B branding research here.

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