In an intensely competitive market dominated by heavyweights but facing decline, a relatively young regional brand was not only able to establish its awareness and preference as a premium airline but also propelled itself to the top of the category with a campaign that effectively leveraged the intrinsic strength that the brand possessed.
New kid on the block
Qatar Airways is a young brand with only a 10-year history that was competing in an intensely competitive environment against players like Singapore Airlines and Emirates which have a more well-established presence. In spite of having a product offering that has always been best of class, the brand lacked a credible presence in the premium airline category.
The objective of the campaign was to increase brand awareness for Qatar Airways as a world class premium brand and increase brand preference as one of the most preferred airlines globally.
Identifying the core strength that lies within the brand
The strategy focused on identifying a core brand strength that can be leveraged upon. The brand’s intrinsic strength lies in its fine tradition of hospitality. At the heart of the Bedouin culture is the core belief that gracious hosts treat their guests with courtesy and generosity. Drawing on this proud aspect of its Arabic heritage, Qatar Airways saw itself as being in the business of providing luxury accommodation and fine hospitality, not merely air transportation.
The targeting strategy focused on skillfully segmenting the market – both geographically and according to consumer type.
The insight into the core brand strength led to the development of the key message for the campaign that could connect with the target audience – the ‘World’s 5-Star Airline’.
An eye for detail
To substantiate the ‘World’s 5-Star Airline’ claim, the campaign leveraged upon the key brand assets – outstanding in-flight service, superior food and beverage, a rapidly expanding global network and a luxurious Premium Terminal in Doha.
The campaign used Print, Online and Television media.
The creative execution focused on the finer details that create a truly ‘5-Star’ experience. The approach helped find resonance with the target audience who are discerning of even the smallest aspect of a luxury experience.
The three 30-sec television commercials were developed in a style that was tonally intimate and creatively elegant. A consistent brand signature featuring a ‘smiling eye’ of the stewardess in the end frame provided a visual mnemonic of the brand’s 5-star experience.
In addition, 10-second ‘idents’ linked to weather/business news sponsorship was also used on channels like BBC and CNN. This placement helped the brand stand out in the category clutter.
For print, to enable instant brand recognition, a consistent Arabic-culture inspired motif and a distinctive font was used. The motif is a geometric repetitive pattern borrowed from Islamic artistic tradition. This design aesthetic was extended to the online sphere as well.
Reversing market trends with sales boost
At the end of 2008, there was an over 30.5% increase in Premium cabin (First and Business Class) sales and an over 29% increase in Economy class seat sales. This is particularly impressive considering that on an average, the entire industry has been experiencing a 13.3% year-on-year decline.
Some of the other results:
• Levels of awareness for the campaign in Europe and Middle East were at an impressive 75% and an estimated 60% had a more favorable impression of the brand following the advertising campaign.
• In Asia, according to a fieldwork undertaken by Time magazine, the growth in awareness for Qatar Airways was the strongest among the total competitive set.
• In Europe, Qatar Airways earned brand awareness even higher than Singapore Airlines in Spain and Italy, according to a Euronews fieldwork.
• In the UK, Qatar Airways was the most recalled airline brand among viewers of Sky News in spontaneous and prompted awareness tests.