Virgin Australia CMO Inese Kingsmill reveals how agencies can win the airline’s account

Customer experience is at the core of Virgin Australia’s new creative brief to prospective ad agencies, Inese Kingsmill, the brand’s chief marketing officer has revealed.

Kingsmill: “We want to be famous for creating the world’s most rewarding travel experiences”

Speaking at Mumbrella’s Travel Marketing Summit, Kingsmill, who joined Virgin Australia in November last year, said in order to achieve the brand’s new vision – becoming “famous for creating the world’s most rewarding travel experiences” – ad agencies will need to put customer experience at the centre.

The comments follow the news Virgin Australia is hunting for a new creative agency, just months after the brand brought the bulk of their creative in-house, hiring Michael Dole as executive creative director on a contract basis. 

“This is a heartfelt brand. It’s a brand people need to feel,” Kingsmill said.

“An appreciation and the ability to tap into those sensibilities and what it means to be Virgin and Virgin Australia is first and foremost.

“Secondly, the ability to be able to create impactful loveable and consistent brand platforms. No brand stands still; it needs to build and evolve and remain relevant to achieve sustainable and profitable growth,” she said. 

“The final thing is whilst there are a small number of agencies that you would call advertising agencies we’re chatting with, the centre of this brief is not advertising.

“The centre of this brief is bringing the vision to life in line with the Virgin Australia brand values, and putting the customer experience at the centre,” Kingsmill told the audience.

Kingsmill said the newly appointed agency would need to look at how they could create new customer experiences before talking about how to market to them.

“You need to have the substance of something that you can really anchor onto then talk about and promote.

“It has to come from finding the solution that’s going to create the value for the customer, in whatever form that might take and then take it to the right customer in the right way at the right time.”

When asked her views on agency rosters versus a more consolidated approach, Kingsmill added: “My perspective as the CMO of Virgin Australia is that for us it makes sense to consolidate as much as we can to one place.

“Every time you add an agency you are adding cost. It also detracts from being able to have a single view of the brand and that consistency and the impact,” she said.

“Put as much as we can into one place, and if the one place, or network, can’t deliver any particular component of what we require, only then will we have a look outside of that.”

Commenting on how Virgin Australia will differentiate themselves from competitors in the market, like Qantas, Kingsmill said flexibility and Virgin’s “wheels up” approach were the brand’s key points of difference.

“We’ve got some wonderful points of difference in the flexibility and choice that we offer our guests. It’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition that we take to market.

“The other thing is the spirit and attitude of the Virgin brand as compared with the Qantas brand. We are very much ‘wheels up’ and possibilities and where are we going, let’s go,” she explained.

“Qantas is a rather sentimental brand, and if you think about the way they may position their brand, it’s more around the sentimentality of feeling secure and coming home.

“That’s a fundamental difference.”

Despite the heated competition, Kingsmill also said global partnerships were part of the brand’s core value proposition, and competitors were vital, particularly with the disruption caused by Cyclone Debbie last week.

“They form a core part of our value proposition because we understand that without them we couldn’t do that and it’s mutual, there’s reciprocity there,” she said.

“Collaboration in the best interests of doing what the right thing – to help guests who were stranded and wanted to get home – was really pretty awesome.”


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