Emirates Airline is one of the most popular brands in the aviation sector not only in the Middle East but also in the international market. The airline was founded in 1985 following the withdrawal of Gulf Air from active operations in Dubai. The Dubai government was concerned that the reduced number of flights that Gulf Air made to the city was detrimental to its growth as a tourism and business hub in the region. It was this concern that forced the government to introduce its own airline in this local market to protect the interests of the locals.
According to Adi, the success of Emirates Airline was exhibited in its first financial year of operation (28). By the end of 1986, the Gulf Airline-which was its leading competitor- made a 56% reduction in its profits because a section of its clients were taken by the Emirates Airline (Adi 44). The following year, Gulf Airline made a net loss in its operations because of the growing popularity of Emirates Airline as a regional carrier.
The new company was taken the region by storm and its high-quality services attracted many people. Its brand grew in popularity in the regional market. The airline had established 11 destinations within the Middle East by the end of 1987. The rapid expansion program employed by the management saw the number of destinations increase drastically, to include Far East destinations such as Singapore, Bangkok, and Manila in 1991. The first ten years of operations saw this airline grow at an average rate of 30%.
The popularity of its brand grew almost at the same rate as the growth of Dubai as a global tourist and business hub. Currently, Emirates Airline is one of the leading airline companies in the world. It has one of the strongest brands in the aviation sector especially because of its sponsorship of the major regional and international sports. In this paper, the researcher will conduct a critical analysis of this brand and the current strategies that its management is using to promote its popularity among the target market.
The aviation sector is one of the most volatile industries in the world, especially due to its overreliance on the cost of jet fuel. An increase in the price of jet fuel directly increases the cost of operations, which may greatly harm the profits of the firm. This volatility in the market explains why airline companies are trying to use various strategies to gain a competitive edge over market rivals. Emirates Airline finds itself in a very complex market where care must be taken to protect one’s market share. In this section, it will be necessary to look at the scope of the market for this brand and its global attributes that make it one of the most preferred carriers in the world.
Scope of the market
According to Fabbi, analyzing the scope of the market may help in determining the market forces that a given brand has to deal with in its effort to achieve growth and development (76). The forces that a firm may encounter at a local level are very different from the forces it may be forced to deal with at an international level. Emirates Airline is a global brand that has over 161 destinations. The airline makes regular trips to North and South America, Europe, Middle East, Far East, Australia, Africa, and other Asian countries. This means that this local Emirati brand has a global image in the aviation sector. Since the local market remains very important, its ability to remain competitive in its current markets largely depends on its capacity to ensure that the brand remains attractive to the global customers.
Trends in the external environment in the aviation sector have a significant impact on the attributes that a firm exhibits as a way of strengthening its brands. Firms in the aviation sector have been struggling to find ways of making their products unique and their brands superior to that of their rivals. Emirates Airline is one of the industry leaders and it has come up with several additional values to its product offerings in order to improve customer satisfaction. It was one of the first airlines in the world to introduce personalized entertainment systems to the aviation sector.
It introduced music systems and small screens that an individual client could control as per their wishes. Instead of having a universal entertainment system, the firm created an environment where every passenger could choose the most appropriate song and videos that best suit their taste without interfering with their immediate neighbors. The firm also introduced cuisines that met the needs of a wide variety of clients. Its market research revealed that its clients came from a wide background, hence the firm needed to offer a wide variety of food to meet their needs.
As competition stiffened in the global market, Emirates Airline was forced to find further ways of attaining unique attributes that distinguish its brand from that of the rivals. It introduced an onboard bar in its business class Airbus A 380-800 (Adi 51). This is one of the most unique attributes of this brand in the current market as it tries to distinguish its brand from that of the rivals. One of the strategies that this firm has avoided in its marketing strategies is the use of price wars. Most of the airline companies have preferred the use of additional value instead of cutting the price because of the catastrophic consequences it may have to the firms’ existence.
Current Marketing Strategy
According to Gelder, the aviation industry is increasingly becoming one of the most competitive industries in the global market (58). Firms in this industry are forced to come up with effective marketing strategies to help them remain profitable and protect their market share. Most of the countries around the world have their own national carriers, and to beat a national carrier in its own country, Emirates Airline will have to prove that it offers the best value among the rest. That is why the firm’s marketing strategies have always been focused on popularizing its brand image in various sectors such as sports and entertainment among others. In this section, the researcher will critically analyze the current marketing strategies used by this firm and how this has helped it remain one of the leading airline companies in the global market.
Emirates Airline’s mission has changed from what it was in the 1980s when it was new in the market. Currently, it is one of the dominant forces in the international market. The firm has intertwined its mission to achieve economic success with the need to protect the environment and help the needy in the society. Some of the most popularized strategic moves by this firm are geared towards helping people achieve their talents in various fields such as sports, academics, and creative arts. It has also given elaborate plans on how it seeks to protect the environment as part of its mission. This is a unique strategy.
The firm has deliberately avoided mentioning its desire to achieve economic success in its mission statement. Instead, it has stated how it seeks to transform the world where it operates into a better place by improving the livelihood of the poor, promoting interests of the youths, and protecting the environment. This means that it shares its brand with the society by making the society own it. For instance, Arsenal Football Club players and supporters all over the world feel that they are part of the Emirates Group because the firm sponsors the activities of the club. This makes the brand appealing to a wide global market. Its generous contributions towards programs meant to protect the environment also endear it to environmentalists in the global market.
Goals and Objectives
The primary goal of Emirates Airline as a firm and a brand is to become the leading airline company in the global market and to participate in programs that will ensure that the world becomes a better place socially, ecologically, politically, and socially. It has been making major contributions in promoting these pillars of development not only in the home country in the United Arab Emirates but also in the international sphere. The following are some of the objectives that come out clearly from the firm’s website and other publications it has been making.
- To promote environmental protection in the United Arab Emirates and in the global society.
- To promote the welfare of the youths through sports, academics, and creative arts.
- To help in improving the health and welfare of the less fortunate across the world.
- To achieve economic growth in the global aviation market.
STP + 4 P
Segmentation, targeting, and positioning are some of the most critical marketing strategies that help in differentiating a firm from the rest of its competitors. This is an area that Emirates Airlines has been successful, making it one of the leading companies in the world.
Targeting the entire market is always uneconomical and sometimes may fail to achieve the desired success. That is why segmentation is very important, especially in a highly sensitive market such as the aviation sector. Emirates Airline as segmented the market and defined each segment based on their financial capabilities. There is the Economy Class that caters for the needs of the low-income earners who use the flights not for leisure but as a necessity. This segment targets first time travelers, especially those from developing economies in Asia and Africa.
The second segment is the business class which is designed to meet the needs of people who make regular air travels and need some comfort without having to pay premium prices. Their purchasing power is slightly above those who use economy class, but they are sensitive to the amounts of money they hand to spend on air tickets. The next segment is the First Class which is designed for the rich who need comfort and leisure when traveling. They need more than just traveling services while onboard. That is why they are provided with onboard bars, privacy, and a host of other additional services. The firm also launched Emirates Executive in 2013 for the very rich to cater for private and corporate charters.
Each of the segments mentioned above target different groups of clients. According to Begemann, segmenting the market makes it easy to develop strategies that target each of the market segments (16). For the economy class customers, this firm has been using its friendly pricing policies to attract them as the most viable option they can use when making their air travels. For the business class, the firm is using additional value it offers us a unique factor that attracts these travelers. For the first class and Emirates Executive category, the firm uses the luxury and comfort offered as its main selling points.
Emirates Airline positions its brand differently based on the market segment that it targets. For the economy class, the brand is positioned as a conveniently cheap alternative to the clients. For the business class, the brand is positioned as a sensitive carrier who understands the unique needs of its regular customers and willing to provide them in the best way possible. For the first class and the executives, it is positioned as a luxury brand that offers more than just a travel from one destination to the other.
It is important to note the unique difference in each of the segment’s positioning strategies. As Gelder says, in the modern world, customers know what they want, and will always demand for it whenever they are making purchases (92). A firm has the responsibility to understand the needs of each segment and provide it in the best way possible. When making promises to the customers about what they should expect, care should be taken to ensure that they are told what they want to hear.
The lavish luxury-focused client must be promised luxury. The keen spender who only needs travel services at the lowest prices possible should be promised that his or her needs will be met. The middle class who wants some little comfort but at relatively bearable prices should also have his or her interests fully taken care of at the firm. This is the marketing strategy that Emirates Airline has been using in the market. It has been able to appeal to the rich and the middle class in equal measure because of its ability to meet their varying needs.
The researcher considered it necessary to conduct a study about this firm to determine its brand in the local market in the United Arab Emirates. Since it is operating in the international market, this is an Emirati firm that depends on the local market to achieve growth and development. In this section, the researcher looked at the strength of the firm’s brand in the eyes of the local consumers.
Creating consumer awareness about a given brand in the modern market is relatively easy because of the advancements in the field of telecommunication. However, ensuring that customers appreciate the brand as the best option is the challenge because many other firms are using the same channels to woe customers. Emirates Airline has been trying to create consumer awareness by using a multi-channel strategy. It has been using social and mass media platforms to reach out to its target clients. The brand is relatively popular locally because of its constant presence in popular sports, entertainment arena, environmental protection programs, and in creative arts. The popularity of its brand in the local market has been one of the driving forces towards its success in the local and international markets.
Knowledge and brand identification
Knowledge and brand identification goes beyond consumer awareness. Consumers may be aware of the existing brand, but lack critical knowledge about what it offers and its characteristics that make it unique from what its competitors offer. When consumers have detailed knowledge of the brand, then they will be able to tell how it is unique from other existing market rivals. This airline has been keen on enlightening their clients about the services they offer which are unique to this firm. It has a highly dedicated team of customer service assistants who are always ready to answer any of the client’s question, including what is available at the rival firms. This gives them a clear image and an understanding of the additional value they can get from the firm.
Brand identity refers to how a given business would want its consumers to perceive it in the market. In Begemann’s words, “Effective brand identity is achieved through consistent use of particular visual elements to help create distinction, such as specific colors, fonts, and graphic elements” (21). The logo or brand mark is always at the core of brand identity. The figure below shows the brand identity of Emirates Airline, including its logo.
As shown below, the company has chosen a simple logo, but with a very strong message to accompany it. It promises its clients the sophistication of tomorrow in today’s product offering.
The brand is positioned to meet the needs of different clients based on their social status in the society. This is so because Emirates Airline targets both the rich who looks for leisure and lavishness in their travels and those who are using air travel as the only alternative to move from one place to another. To the rich, this brand is positioned as the hub of leisure lavishness, and unique comfort, as shown in the image below.
The value that a firm promises its clients must be equal or even exceeded by the actual value offered. Newton warns that when what a firm promises is below what it delivers, then there is the risk of creating dissatisfaction among clients (82). Emirates Airline knows that value proposition always define the ability to attract customers. Customers tend to purchase products that promise very high value. However, when they realize that what was promised is not what they are offered then they tend to be dissatisfied, and that may make them consider other alternatives in the market next time they are making similar purchases. The airline companies heavily rely on repeat purchases, hence they have to ensure that their clients are satisfied at all times. Emirates of forced to promise and deliver very high-quality services in all the different market segments discussed above.
Unique selling position
Having a unique selling position in the airline industry is the first step towards achieving sustainable growth. Numerous airline companies in the global market offer similar products to their customers. The only way of emerging on top of the rest is to create a unique selling position that will be appealing to the target market. Emirates Airline has developed this unique selling position in the three major market segments discussed in the section above. To the rich, the firm’s selling position is the additional value available for the clients such as the onboard bar, 23-inch LED screen, flatbed, custom-made meals, and other onboard services on demand. They are offered luxury. To the economy class clients, the selling point is comfort and friendly ticket pricing because these are their main concerns. To the business class, there is a balance between lavishness and pricing of the tickets. They are always willing to pay a small additional fee to get additional value. This is what the airline offers to them.
When a brand is well known in the market, there is a value premium a company generates from its products because of the trust it has earned in the market. Emirates Airline is one of the widely known brands in the market, and this explains why it is the third-largest carrier in the world in terms of the number of passenger-kilometers flown.
Using the Customer-Based Brand Equity Model may help in understanding how the popularity of Emirates Airline’s brand has enabled it to achieve success in the regional and global markets. The figure below shows the model.
At the base of the pyramid is a self-identification process done through the creation of brand awareness. This should be followed y high performance and creation of imagery that enables the firm to be compared and differentiated from its market rivals. The next step up the ladder is the judgment and feelings from the customers based on what they have obtained from the product offered. The judgment will involve either positive or negative feelings based on the value offered to the customers concerning the value proposition. At the pinnacle of the pyramid is the resonance, where Emirates Airline currently is in the regional and local markets. At this point, the firm has strong brand equity and enjoys unparalleled loyalty in the market. Repeat-purchases, which are critical in the aviation sector, is very high at this point.
Extent to which the brand has succeeded in the steps of identity, meaning, response, relationships
Emirates Airline has registered tremendous success in the four steps of identity, meaning, response, and relationship. It has set out its identity in the market as a firm that understands the varying needs of its customers irrespective of their social status. It has developed a meaning for its different products to meet the expectations of local, regional, and global clients. This strategy has earned it a positive response from the customers who trust and believe in its product offerings. This trust has enabled it to develop a strong and lasting relationship with its clients, making it one of the most successful firms in the world’s aviation industry.
Adi, Mohamed. Airlines of the United Arab Emirates: Emirates, Etihad Airways, Emirates Skycargo, Air Arabia. New York: University-Press Org, 2013. Print.
Begemann, Frédéric. Co-branding As a Brand Strategy: An Analysis from the Resource-Based View. Norderstedt: Grin Verlag, 2006. Print.
Fabbi, Matteo. Jack Daniel’s Brand Activity Analysis. London: Grin Verlag, 2013. Print.
Gelder, Sicco. Global Brand Strategy: Unlocking Brand Potential Across Countries, Cultures & Markets. London: Kogan Page, 2005. Print.
Newton, Ashley. Internal Branding Analysis: Are Companies Currently Using Internal Branding Methods and How Do They Affect Employees. Hoboken: Wiley, 2012. Print.
Siegert, Gabriele, Kati Förster, and Mart Ots. Handbook of Media Branding. New York: Cengage, 2015. Print.