Mentor Marketing Strategy for Airline losing market shareCP Air Orient

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How a major International Airline combated competition using Direct Marketing.

Case Study #31: Consumer Air Travel - International

Canadian Airlines, with a service-matching problem from an excellent competitor, Cathay Pacific

Background
Canadian Airlines (CP Air) is a billion dollar Airline, which gets much of its revenue from  its International Routes. As a result, Canadian Canadian Airlines chooses to maintain great sensitivity to the cultures in the countries to which it flies. For example, Canadian flies to Germany and maintains a profile that is suitable to its German Travelers.  And so on, around the world. To most destinations, Canadian is the preferred "classy airline", with the best food, best service and best times. And Canadian can simply repeat its quality message and it will benefit from that upscale business.

This is a campaign to specifically combat an equally good competitor, Cathay Pacific, on the routes to Hong Kong and Japan.

Here's the Problem
Canadian Airlines (called CP Air in those days), is a quality airline, and is normally the quality choice for travel from most destinations.
Normally, if a traveler wants great in-flight service, and will pay a hefty premium, he will fly CP Air. Except to Asia. In Asia, Cathay Pacific, was regarded very highly by Asian travelers. In fact, Cathay Pacific, correctly highly regarded throughout Asia, was actually gaining Market Share over CP Air. Not a good thing at all, if you're CP Air. So CP Air asked us to find a way to convince Asian travelers that CP Air was every bit as good as Cathay Pacific. Which is not an easy task, because Cathay is such a good airline. And, competitively, Cathay could match any CP offers dollar for dollar, sushi roll for sushi roll. Pause for a minute, and think of the difficulty of this task.

Solution
We figured that Asian travelers, who are perceived as having a strong sensitivity to Art, would like to receive some nice Asian Art Prints. So we obtained reproduction rights to four original Art Pieces from two respected Asian artists. We reprinted them on high-quality paper, so that they looked like they were high quality and substantial weight. Sizes and styles were chosen to enable the four prints to make a nice set of four when framed. Considering the cost was only $2.00 for all four, they looked surprisingly nice.

Strategy
We figured that if we interested the Asian travelers in Art, then they'd follow along with our sales pitch about how terrific CP Air was.  Especially, we wanted to have the Asian travelers feel that CP Air was sensitive to their specific Asian needs. CP Air already had great sushi and other Asian foods being served onboard the aircraft that flew to Asia. Also, the flight crews were all bi-lingual. So all we had to do was tell the travelers that.

The Finished Mailer:

Outer Envelope
This is a large 9"x12" envelope. A somewhat Asian-styled look was chosen for the envelope. We tested this with Asian users to see if it was appropriate to their culture.  It would have been suicide if we had not understood their culture for this mailing.  After all... this was to show how sensitive Canadian was to the needs of the Asian community.  They liked it.

Don't peek yet. See how the envelope, right up front, tells you about the valuable Fine Art prints enclosed.

Click to Enlarge

Inside, the Brochure
Note the first words.... Oriental Fine Art Prints - Suitable for Framing. Next we show a print, framed, in a style that is suitable to an Asian esthetic. And a brief pitch saying how CP Air has the appropriate sensitivity, and a new CLASS of service to the Orient.

"Each of these fine Art Prints have been selected by CP Air to reflect the flavour of the Orient and to celebrate the introduction of Royal Canadian Class"

Click to Enlarge

A close-up of the actual print, now framed
Because we could not afford the high cost of framing, at least we could show how it would look once it was framed. We actually did not expect anyone would really spend the $200.00 necessary to frame the prints. But we wanted to show them how great if would look IF they did frame them.

Click to Enlarge

Artist's Biographies
Finally, we included detailed biographies of the two well-known artists.
We put together a biography about each artist, including details that might not be well known.This was intended to be for both for those who were knowledgeable about these artists and those who were not. One artist is Chinese, the other is Japanese. This balance seemed necessary, so as not to favor one destination over the other.

We focused upon the Asian Art, not on our Airline
Note that very little has been said about the Airline. And lots has been said about Asia and these Asian Artists. There was also a separate brochure included that outlined the details of the new Royal Canadian Class Service.

Click to Enlarge

And the results?
We were not expecting that this campaign would do much more than give every recipient "warm fuzzies" about CP Air.  In fact, we were astonished to find that several other clients of ours, not connected with CP Air, who had coincidentally been on the list, had actually spent about $200.00 each to have the four prints framed, and then had hung them in their private offices - prominently. Who would have expected that $2.00 in prints would have encouraged executives to spend $200.00 to have them framed and then shown so prominently?  Now, every time that this executive sees these prints on his office wall, he will think positively about Canadian Airlines. And importantly - make the conscious association of Canadian Airlines and Asian-positiveness.

And it worked spectacularly well 
The client was also very pleased with the back-end results.  In other words, Cathay Pacific was no longer taking market share away from Canadian Airlines. We never had to repeat this campaign, it was so successful. Additionally - how could Cathay Pacific ever mount any response to this mailer? We call this pre-emptive marketing - where you calculate, as best you can, the possible reactions by the competition, and take that into account with your mailer.

How can you use this idea for your business?
Your company may need to communicate a message. Your chosen audience, your lists, are interested in something of benefit to them.  Customers are seldom interested in features. Try to find a way to do both, or integrate both together somehow. Naturally every business is unique, and will have a unique solution. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that this needs to be expensive.  If it's a good idea, it can often be done very inexpensively.  If you're starting to like expensive ideas, it probably means you haven't found the right idea - YET.

How can we help you with this?
We can work with your existing staff or independently, and suggest a number of possible ideas to you. Then, it's your option to adopt all, some or none of these ideas. We can
contact us help implement them, or allow your existing staff to do the job. You can contact us directly by phone at 778-435-2120, ask for Doug White, or email us using this button: 

See this mailer in detail
We have samples of this campaign that we can show you in person.

CP Air Cargo 26 ways B2B White PaperTo see another Direct Mail idea done for Canadian Airlines, for their Air Cargo division, click this link: 
Our happy clientsSee a list of our Clients who have used Direct Mail Marketing:  Click:   
DHL Courier - Launch - B2B White PaperSee a Case Study of a B2B Direct Mail Campaign we did for DHL Worldwide Express: Click  
Loyalty Program Marketing - White PaperSee a Case Study of a B2B Direct Mail Campaign and Loyalty Program that we did for Canadian Airlines International: Click  
Overland Freight B2B White PaperSee a Case Study of a B2B Direct Mail Campaign we did for Overland Freight Lines: Click

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