How to build a brand that cruises above the rest

British Airways, as a world brand, is second only to Apple among businesses with a base in the UK, and beats all its airline peers according to Business and Consumer Superbrands.

Meanwhile as a consumer brand, BA makes it to number four in a list topped by Rolex, Apple and Microsoft, in that order – and scores ahead of Coca Cola, Google and Hilton.

Quite an achievement. But how?

A brand may be an idea in people’s heads, but reality has to play a part in it.

So BA must be doing at least something right simply as an airline delivering a travel product, or the image wouldn’t be sustainable. 

Although BA is well known for working hard to promote its First and Club Classes, it has avoided doing so at the expense of its economy image. The airline has successfully sold the idea that all its passengers are buying a difference: something at least a little bit special. 

In a marketplace now dominated by the demand for cheap travel, success in promoting this “difference” idea without pricing one’s product out of the game was never guaranteed. But BA kept the faith and is reaping the reward.

Meanwhile Ryanair, with the expansion of its cheap, ruthlessly efficient short-haul passenger processing system – has made BA’s marketing job easier by creating an aviation version of economic austerity fatigue. It has heightened the distinction BA strove for.

BA’s television advertisement last year was a masterstroke. Far from pushing hackneyed images of smiling stewardesses handing champagne to business travellers in a premium cabin, the airline went out on a limb. 

Instead it presented itself as a real, flying business, with a long, pioneering aviation heritage. It successfully generated the feeling of excitement, adventure and glamour that used to be associated with air travel.

Most people still want to think of travel as an adventure. BA has just tapped into their dreams.

Well done.

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