With news this week that Ryanair are considering making some of its passengers stand during flights in a bid to squeeze as many as 30% more people on board, I couldn’t help but think that Ryanair must be getting a little bit confused.
On the one hand they are trying to make more money. Well, you can’t have a go at them for that. That’s what all businesses are trying to do. And, in this current climate, the airlines are having a tough old time. But on the other, each action they take to bring them closer to the money is moving them away from the long term win; a brand that inspires loyalty and trust. That is where the real money is.
There appear to be two forces at play here so let me introduce you to the terrible twins; Branding and Marketing. Twins because they are often confused for one another.
But first, let’s just go back to basics for a moment. What is Marketing anyway?
The Chartered Institute of Marketing, which is the world’s largest marketing body, defines marketing as “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” Notice that last word, “profitably“. Also, notice the word “satisfying“. Mmmm.
So, in the name of profit, Ryanair have come up with a load of ideas to generate more money;
• Charge to use toilets on board
• Get passengers to carry all of their own luggage onto planes
• Abolish check-in facilities and demand that all passengers check in online at a cost of £5.
Our favourite is the 2-in-1 sick-bag cum send-your-film-off-for-development envelope. Genius!
But what about the other twin, Branding? Well, a company invests in branding because of the benefits that come with a good brand. A good brand:
• Delivers your brand message clearly
• Gets your audience to think that you are the ONLY solution to their problem
• Confirms your credibility
• Connects to your target audience emotionally
• Motivates your buyer into action
• Builds loyalty over the long-term so buyers keep coming back
So, in the name of marketing, O’Leary is doing everything he can to squeeze more profit out of his operation. And he’s being quite innovative with it. The trouble is, it’s not the sort of innovation that wins brownie points (a.k.a. happy paying customers). It seems that when Ryanair had their brainstorming away day, the branding team weren’t invited. If they were, someone would have been standing up for the poor paying customers. Someone would have been asking some tough questions about why the customer experience is being destroyed. Destroyed so much, that there are now masses of travellers that will do anything they can to AVOID travelling with them. One angry blogger has even gone as far as setting up www.ihateryanair.co.uk.
It seems as though Ryanair just don’t get it. The whole branding thing I mean. If they could successfully engage their customers on an emotional level (preferably nice positive emotions like love and delighted, not emotions like anger and hate), then customers would choose to travel with them. Some might even pay a little bit more. Imagine that Mr O’Leary?
So, we thought we’d come up with a few ideas of our own. After all, it looks like he needs all the help he can get.
• Ryanair Express store selling over-priced packed lunch ingredients and sandwich fillings for customers to make their own lunch before coming on board. Advise customers that if they require a preparation surface they can use the baby-changing facilities.
• Sell customers oxygen masks and a choice of getaway devices, from slides to parachutes
• Charge customers a monthly subscription to access the website
• Oblige customers to undergo steward training, in preparation for the no-staff service.
• Sell customers Ryanair uniforms in Duty Free, in case the staff are free of duty and absent
• £100 soiling charge if you wet your seat from not paying the £5 toilet charge