Silverjet are the new British Airways

ba-sydney-adsilverjet-website

I love what Silverjet are doing. They are stealing British Airways’ natural brand positioning, with a well thought out experience , and a large slice of cheek. Let me explain how I think they can do this.

British Airways’ heritage means that their natural brand proposition is ‘civilised flying’. But they can’t use it because their business model won’t let them.

While their experience is defined by longhaul travel, most of their routes are shorthaul. While they don’t make any money from shorthaul routes, they can’t just stop flying them because there’d be a political uproar, and because they’re essential to feed their longhaul business. But since the low cost carriers changed the rules of the game, BA haven’t worked out how to deliver their brand experience in shorthaul – today shorthaul travel is all about modern efficiency, not civilised service.

In addition to that, BA have the dual blessing and curse of Heathrow slots. These are still regarded as valuable as, for some reason, Heathrow still clings on to its position as Europe’s gateway to the world. But anyone who has flown from there in the last 10 years knows that it’s an awful experience – getting there, the facilities, the poor punctuality. In fact, no matter how good the flight is, passing through Heathrow is the most defining part of the experience. And it defines the experience as terrible. So poor BA can hardly claim to be ‘civilised’ there either.

So this leaves them floundering, trapped in the middle of the market, being squeezed by the extremes. Ryanair are so cheap they make their staff pay to charge their mobiles! Singapore have double beds (with petals and champagne) on their new A380!

So they end up making an ad about… the fact they serve drinks on board…? (And an un-funny ‘viral’.)

ba-sydney-ad

Meanwhile Silverjet are a startup. They’ve learnt lessons about simplicity, focus and efficiency from the low cost carriers. But they’ve applied them to longhaul travel. So you get:

  • A private terminal at Luton. Luton is London’s least congested airport. You can park easily within 60 seconds walk of the terminal.
  • Business class-only 767s, with the fully flat bed that is expected these days.*
  • The great customer service that can come with an energised start-up, free of years of bitter employer-union relations.
  • Nice, simple website with transparent pricing (that can only come from having few routes).
  • A brand identity that isn’t brave, but is just right for their market. Visually they use modern interpretations of classic British cues, like flock. Verbally, they wittily reference Britishness – “We may be British, but we don’t believe in queues.”

Basically, they’ve created the experience BA would love to be able to offer, but can’t. (* I haven’t actually flown Silverjet yet, so I don’t know if their product and service design lives up to the promise.)

But then Silverjet have got cheeky. They’ve hired M&C Saatchi, the ad agency BA dumped a couple of years ago, ending a long-standing relationship. And together, they’ve remade BA’s classic ‘global’ ad (more commonly known as the ‘face’ ad). But with a twist.

silverjet-ad

ba-ad

Whereas the original featured lots of people – to demonstrate BA’s globality – the remake has just a few – to demonstrate Silverjet’s exclusivity. At a stroke they nick the best of BA’s past, and de-position them as old fashioned. It says ‘this is the way things are done these days’. For me, it says ‘we are the spiritual heirs to that legacy’. It says ‘we’re the new British airline’.

Only one thing is wrong:

sj_logo_on_white

Silvilised? Come one, that’s a really bad pun, and surely underestimates their audience?

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