National and regional origins always played a part in the marketing and brand identity of legacy airlines. Whether it’s the understated professionalism of British Airways or the gracious Asian hospitality of Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines.
However, a balance has to be struck. If it’s forced too hard it can be overwhelming for international passengers. And for local passengers it can feel contrived, or plain cringe-worthy.
Air France has taken the concept of national carrier branding a step further with the strapline “France Is In The Air”.
Following a print campaign last year, Air France has launched a new TV advertisement which will be shown in France as well as Italy, Brazil, the United States, China and Japan:
In the light, expansive and almost dream like environment, the advertisement aims to show the best of contemporary France: the Tour de France; fashion; gastronomy and romance. There are only the briefiest of glimpses of the actual Air France product, such as its first class seat.
The image projected by the advertisement is chic, clean and contemporary and does not rely on either French, or aviation, cliche. The message of the advertisement is Air France can take you wherever you want to be in the world with a uniquely French touch.
It is noteworthy how Air France, part of Air France KLM, is strongly emphasising its French identity.
The concept of the multi-brand airline group is not new. However, airline brands have tended to be distinguished by customer segment or geographic market. See the low cost off-shoots such as Qantas Group’s Jetstar, or International Airlines Group’s Vueling for example.
Air France KLM seems to be pursuing a different strategy – distinguishing Air France and KLM from each other by brand identity. This is something that International Airlines Group does to an extent with British Airways, Iberia and Vueling. It is arguably something Lufthansa Group, which has an ever-increasing list of aviation brands, needs to do.
Compared to other consumer industries, aviation is relatively inexperienced at marketing multiple brands so it will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next few years (see Starwood Hotels’ portfolio of upscale/luxury brands such as the W, Westin and Merdien hotels).
It would of course be remiss not to point out that the campaign has been launched against a difficult operating environment for Air France. Its parent company reported an operating loss of €129m for 2014 (which was triggered by prolonged industrial action by pilots), whereas Lufthansa and IAG both reported operating profits. It’s much easier for airline to market itself from a position of confidence rather than defensiveness and Air France now seems ready to market itself with confidence.
The advertisement is supported by a microsite and a behind the scenes video: