Marketing has become a difficult matter: A multitude of similar offers compete for customers, while these customers, more media-savvy and economically-literate than never before, have lost trust in traditional message-oriented forms of marketing. At the same time, the experiences provided by most brands provide hardly differ from each other. Against this background we wanted to show that it is possible to brand the “regular” experience customers have with a company and its offerings and thus provide alternatives ways of preference-building. For this, we chose the airline industry.
Together with Martin Jordan, an expert in service design, we evaluated the brand experience of Europe’s top airlines. We examined eight of these airlines closely by conducting in-depth interviews with passengers, running cultural probes, and flying more than 40,000 miles ourselves. Based on our research we created an experience journey map for the prototypical flight experience, and identified many passenger pain points across the whole journey – from searching for flights to opening one’s suitcase at the final destination. Additionally, we were able to pinpoint brand promises as seen through the eyes of the users.
Based on these insights, we created solutions for relevant pain points with two goals in mind: to improve the passenger experience in a useful way, and to reinforce the respective brand promise. Thus we were able to create two compelling yet very distinct brand experiences for both Lufthansa and easyJet.
We have since presented the resulting insights and concepts at various conferences, inspiring the work of marketers and service designers alike. We were able to demonstrate that the differentiating power of brands is not limited to marketing messages but in fact can be embedded directly into the service experience by brand-fitting or brand-building encounters. Such encounters at the same time strengthen the brand-customer relationship through experiences that better server passengers’ needs. This principle works not only for the airline industry but for all service brands at risk of becoming a mere commodity.