BUSINESS TRAVELLERS ARE NORMALLY VERY, VERY, VERY LOYAL TO THEIR EXISTING AIRLINES.
Etihad was an airline in a hurry. It was launching lots of new routes and needed passengers to fill the highly profitable business and premium economy seats. With new routes from Abu Dhabi in the UAE to Bangalore India and Washington in the US, Etihad’s primary targets were business travellers based in these locations. However, as a relatively unknown carrier in these markets, attracting new customers would be tough.
Mediacom knew that airline selection directly correlates with brand awareness and familiarity – and Etihad was not top of their mind. Established Western brands such as Lufthansa, American Airlines, and United Airlines, as well as local providers like Emirates scored far higher on both scores. Awareness was only half the battle.
As research revealed, business travelers usually remain loyal to one airline for three key reasons:
• Firstly, they are often tied to loyalty schemes and are reluctant to lose their benefits
• Secondly, they often book their trips at the last minute and don’t have time to research new routes and providers
• Lastly, they usually use travel agents who stick with their existing preferences and rarely offer new option.
To break this triple-strength loyalty, Mediacom had to demonstrate that Etihad really understood business travel and the needs of business travelers.
BUSINESS TRAVELLERS LOVE NETWORKING. ETIHAD WOULD HELP THEM SET UP MEETINGS ON THE FLY.
The world’s biggest concentration of business travellers was on LinkedIn, which connected professionals from all around the world.
Research into its users highlighted two key insights:
• Business people try to meet as many relevant people as possible when travelling – but as business travel is often booked at the last minute, they don’t have time to set up appointments.
• Business travellers see executive travel as a statement of their status and like to tell others what they’re doing. Applications such as TripIt, with over 1.5m users on mobile, give them limited capability to book additional meetings and communicate their travel plans on the go.
Etihad realised that it could make the target’s business trips more valuable – as well as more visible – by helping them discover easily and quickly who else was in town. It needed to automate the process and make it as easy as possible for business travellers to locate their contacts on any given day. The strategy would create business connections and deliver business benefits by linking the target with their most useful associates. This would give a platform to highlight Etihad’s global network and demonstrate how the Abu Dhabi HQ-ed airline could help them win business.
THE MAPPED OUT APP HELPED TURN TRAVEL PLANS INTO POTENTIALLY PROFITABLE BUSINESS MEETINGS
Using LinkedIn’s API, to create “Mapped Out” – an app that allowed business travellers to map their LinkedIn contacts to their upcoming travel schedules (and cross reference them by industry and sector). Mapped Out would allow the target to turn their forthcoming travel plans into business opportunities – by leveraging their existing contacts – arrange meetings and highlight their executive travel. It allowed travellers to see who would be where on any given day and provided easy access to the information our target needed to make the most of their business trips.
Initially, Mapped Out was promoted via LinkedIn to travellers heading to Abu Dhabi, India and Washington – Etihad’s exciting new routes. Hugely positive feedback from the business community however, encouraged Etihad to roll it out across the globe. But with a tight budget it simply couldn’t afford to use premium business media to actively promote it to a wider audience.
Instead, in a media first use of advertising technology, cookies were placed on all LinkedIn users of Mapped Out and created behavioural profiles that identified valuable “lookalike” business targets Using this data, Linkedin was able to create a significant pool of targets who were the mirror image of travellers who had actually booked to fly on Eithad and/or carried out research into the airline’s key destinations, broadening the reach of our message and ensuring Mapped Out was communicated to the most valuable targets.
Etihad has reached new heights. Brand awareness is sky high and the airline is starting to take seats from its competitors. The totally relevant Mapped Out app, combined with clever lookalike profiling, has enabled Etihad to reach more 100,000 business travellers, putting the brand – and a useful tool – in front of a hard to reach, time-poor audience at 20% of the CPM of regular business media.
Return-on-investment has increased by 300%. Etihad also now has a cookie pool of 30,000 LinkedIn business travellers and a potential audience of 100,000 via behavioural profiling. Etihad is now on a par with Lufthansa in terms of both awareness and persuasion metrics. Business travellers who are due to book flights in the near future now have a 10% better impression of Etihad and are now 9.3% more likely to fly with the airline compared to a control group.