Can the emotion of ‘home’ save Qantas?

Can the emotion of ‘home’ save Qantas?

Tue, 11 Nov 2014

On Sunday night Qantas launched its new TV campaign across all the major Australian TV networks. You can view the TV commercial, ‘Welcome Home’, here:

http://youtu.be/16RhgfA662k

And you can watch Channel 7’s take on it here, where BrandMatters was also asked to comment:

The TV-led campaign is an attempt to get Australians to reconnect emotionally with the embattled brand. With its strong narrative, quality production values and the lilting melodies of Australian singer Martha Marlow singing Randy Newman’s ‘Feels Like Home’, it is unquestionably a beautiful piece of advertising.  But will it be enough to overcome the brand’s challenges of the past three years and increase flagging revenue on Qantas’ international routes?

At BrandMatters, we don’t think it’s enough. There is a succinct saying that neatly sums up the Qantas brand challenge: brand is a promise delivered. Unfortunately for Qantas, advertising alone can’t rebuild a broken brand – especially a brand that is perceived as not delivering on its promise to passengers, its employees or the Australian public more broadly.

Although advertising alone is insufficient to be the entire answer, there are three actions that Qantas can take to begin to rebuild its brand in the mind of its audience:

Rebuild trust:

When many Australians think of Qantas today they call to mind the 2011 global fleet grounding, the replacement of Qantas routes with budget partner Jetstar flights, sending maintenance jobs offshore, safety scares and recent rounds of large scale redundancies. The erosion of trust is having both an emotional and economic effect on the former national carrier. Trusted brands have committed customers who are not only willing to recommend them to friends and family, but display a willingness to pay higher prices: a ‘trust’ premium. David Horsager, C-suite leadership expert and author of The Trust Edge suggests that trust is made up of eight key factors: clarity, compassion, character, contribution, competency, connection, commitment and consistency. It is the result of long term investment and commitment and, unfortunately for Qantas, cannot be rebuilt in a day. You can learn more about how trust can be rebuilt here. 

Reconnect with employees:

We would argue that the advertising as presented captures the emotion of when Qantas had proud and passionate employees – be they call centre operators, check in staff, cabin crew and even captains. There was something quintessentially Australian about that experience then, that made it ‘our airline’, especially when heading home, as the ads insight taps into. It was a perfect balance of Aussie genuineness, good humour, and relaxed and friendly service, all underpinned by a safety record that was the envy of every other airline worldwide.  So what happened? After multiple rounds of redundancies, Qantas employees are doubtlessly fearing an uncertain future and, as a result, suffering from a lack of trust and feeling disengaged from their employer. Yet employees in a service business are an airline’s most valuable assets – a living example of the Qantas brand promise – and the impact of a disengaged workforce on a company’s bottom line can’t be overstated. Engaged workers feel valued and connected, and approach their work with far more passion than those who don’t. Two of the keys to building a strong employee brand are demonstrating inspired, committed leadership and communicating a sense of vision; and offering employees the tools and knowledge to deliver on the brand promise. If Qantas’ leadership can begin to rebuild trust and invest in repairing its relationship with its employees, it will once again be able to build a cohesive, inspired workforce that delivers passionately on the Qantas brand promise. You can learn more about building a strong employee brand here.

Repair the customer experience:

If social media sentiment is anything to go by, the impact of the ‘Welcome Home’ advertisement has been polarising. There are many viewers who have connected with the ad emotionally, but equally many for whom the ad simply serves as a reminder of a recent negative Qantas customer experience. Who remembers the power of ‘word of mouth’ in its ability to persuade compared to mainstream advertising – read more here…Qantas needs to invest in ensuring that the rational experience of its service aligns with the emotional connection it is attempting to repair. As challenger Virgin Australia attempts to steal market share in the lucrative business travel market, Qantas needs to reassess what it is about its customer experience that makes it different, and use its reengaged employees to deliver on this unique experience on each and every flight.

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Unfortunately for Qantas there is no simple advertising solution for repairing its reputation with its Australia audience, no matter how emotional and beautiful to watch. Alas, brands aren’t built or repaired by advertising alone. That said, when done well, advertising can act brilliantly to create awareness about your product or service proposition in a way that has your target audience consider or re-consider you and, in turn, view, read, listen, phone, click, or seek, to learn more. We hope (and in fairness, expect) that Qantas understands this.

As a business under pressure however, the natural inclination might be to outsource its brand repair work to its ad agency. Let’s face it, it’s much easier than what we’re suggesting. However appealing that might be, we would strongly caution against this. To create an airline brand that has its chosen audience disinterested in alternatives means it must start with its leadership, its culture and its people. It must start inside, out.  By doing this, it will  rebuild its relationship with its employees first and instil the pride of the Qantas brand in them.  In our view it’s this strengthened relationship with its employees is the only sustainable way to improve and create its desired customer experience.

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