The tails of Air France planes. Picture: REUTERS
The tails of Air France planes. Picture: REUTERS

As people are inundated with messages and information, brands need to be more innovative than ever before, not only to get the attention of possible customers, but to gain their trust and turn them into long-term loyal advocates of the brand. When marketing an international airline to SA consumers, this is particularly important in terms of ensuring the brand’s relevance to local consumers.

Tracy Armitage, who works on communication and campaign management for Air France and KLM Southern Africa, says that because people are constantly on the move, the effective use of digital media, including artificial intelligence, has become imperative when reaching customers at the right time through the right medium for them.

When it comes to digital trends, Armitage says two-way one-on-one digital conversation through messaging apps is a key way to engage consumers in unique and creative ways. “KLM recently became the world’s first airline to offer an inspirational service via the Amazon Alexa smart speaker. In conversation with the KLM bot, users are advised on suitable destinations, using a combination of images and spoken text. Users are also immediately informed of the ticket price.”

She adds: “Also crucial for us when marketing two iconic yet different brands like KLM and Air France is positioning each brand correctly, placing ourselves in the right places and ensuring we’re talking to the specific target market we want to attract.”

When it comes to brands and target markets, customer experience is key in this industry and Armitage believes the journey begins and ends with the brand. “The brand promise is vital when communicating with consumers about the type of experience they can expect. Following on that, the customer journey must deliver on these expectations through consistent on-brand service and product. Our products are designed with customer value, feasibility and sustainability in mind,” she says.

The big take-out

When it comes to marketing two iconic international airlines to an SA market, it is key to position the brands in such a way that they resonate with SA consumers, and reach them through the right channels at the right times.

Armitage admits that the business climate is one where cutting costs is an everyday occurrence, and this can pose challenges when marketing a brand. “It’s about having a clear path around what your main campaigns and messages are going to be for the coming year and cutting your cloth accordingly,” she says.

A further challenge presents itself when it comes to localising global marketing material. “It can be difficult adapting what is done in Paris or Amsterdam so that it is relevant to the SA market, but we generally find a way.” She says both Air France and KLM make use of global brand messages.

“Regardless of where you are operating, the focus is the same – informing customers about products, networks, ancillary services and the like. Where we adapt to local needs is the flight routes and destinations we promote and the visuals we use, which obviously need to resonate with the SA market,” she says.

In 2019 – KLM’s 100th birthday – the brand will launch a campaign themed around children, sustainability and the next 100 years, Armitage says.