Insights in action: To market. To improve

August 26, 2019

The context

25th August is the 100-year anniversary of the first daily scheduled international flight. It was launched by Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), a forerunner company of today’s British Airways (BA). To commemorate, we revisit the insights behind one of BA’s most successful campaigns – ‘To Fly. To Serve’.

In 2010 BA posted a £500mn loss and had engaged in an 18-month dispute with cabin crew which cost £150mn. Resultantly, BA invested in a campaign to reignite confidence in the brand.

The insight

Two insights were central to BA’s campaign:

  • Using BA’s motto ‘To Fly. To Serve’ as the campaign’s tagline
  • Placing staff at the campaign’s core – both as campaign stars and a communications audience

The insight activation

Insights were activated across four stages:

  1. Engagement with BA’s staff – those who’d deliver BA’s brand promise to customers. It was important that all campaign assets appealed to both staff and customers. BA then engaged with brand loyalists who would help launch their campaign
  2. A media strategy that aimed to: a) be seen everywhere, then b) continue the conversation via earned and owned media. It was the continuation of the employee and customer conversation that would demonstrate BA’s commitment to these relationships
  3. A campaign that aligned staff and customer audiences. Central to this was a 90sec commercial which followed the history of BA’s aviators and planes. This was cut into seven separate films, each aimed at a specific customer segment and supported by dedicated blog content
  4. The campaign then continued. It focused on avoiding category cliches in its communication by showing BA’s excellent service through staff-lead brand messages

The impact

Two years post-launch, ‘To Fly. To Serve’ delivered measurable returns in three areas:

Staff Perception

  • 91% of staff were ‘proud to work for BA’
  • 87% of staff said ‘working for BA made them want to do the best they could’
  • 71% of staff would recommend BA as ‘a great place to work’

Brand Measures

  • Continual improvement on BA’s key measure of ‘desire’ over two years
  • YOY increase on BA’s key measure of ‘bonding’
  • This includes a 5% rise in a single year

Financial Performance

  • Month-on-month revenue increases 2010-2012

The learnings

‘To Fly. To Serve’ has three key learnings for insight professionals:

Always look at existing assets

Central to ‘To Fly. To Serve’ were two assets BA already owned – their tagline and their staff. Too often research and marketing seeks to extract value from new sources when the value of a brand’s existing assets hasn’t yet been fully utilised. In this instance doing so paid dividends for BA.

VOS is as valuable as VOC

Often researchers obsess about the voice-of-the-customer. Consequently, the voice-of-the-staff can be forgotten. Staff – present and past – are a key part of a brand’s sphere of reputational influence. I.e. – staff are key in driving a brand’s overall reputational equity. This coupled with staff’s knowledge of customer and operational realities means they’re an insightful feedback loop.

Real impact isn’t always instant

Research aims to achieve a demonstrable business impact. However, the awards programs our industry has in-place often suggests this return should be relatively instant – within 12 months. However, recent work by Binet & Field emphasises the need for brand communications to invest in long-term brand building. ‘To Fly. To Serve’ demonstrates this – showing a demonstrable return over a long-term period rather vs. a short-term sales improvement post-campaign.

This post was originally published on Research World

By Jack Miles, Senior Research Director

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