Virgin Australia puts staff at centre stage as it takes brand battle to Qantas

Virgin Australia has taken the brand battle to Qantas in the next phase of a marketing drive that puts its staff at the centre of a strategy to build an emotional connection with travellers.

The campaign is Virgin Australia’s third high profile brand push since the airline rebranded from Virgin Blue in 2011, all of which have been the work of Clemenger BBDO. Qantas is tipped to follow suit with a brand crusade of its own later this year.

Virgin’s TV campaign is being supported by print, digital, outdoor, social channels as well as being driven to its Velocity frequent flyer database. It will run until the end of October with a second wave of the campaign to follow.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said the brand push, its first since 2012, is designed to showcase the “soul” of the airline – its staff.

“The strategy with the new campaign is to highlight what we believe to be our greatest asset and our key point of difference in delivering the service we are known for; our people,” she said.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 12.57.59 PMThe 30 and 60 second ads, which follow cabin crew on their way to work against the musical backdrop of Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me, will run on Seven, Nine and Foxtel.

“Our media strategy has been to select channels that maximise reach and create impact, with a strong TV‐led schedule that aligns our brand with relevant sponsorship properties,” the spokeswoman said.

Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell, quoted in the Australian Financial Review, said the airline has succeeded in creating “indifference” in the market since the 2011 rebrand in that passengers are prepared to fly Qantas or Virgin. The campaign aims to sway travellers and make Virgin their airline of choice.

“When we do a brand ad we want to ensure it amplifies the business as a quality brand, a premium airline and highlights the service we can offer,” he said. “The first campaign in 2011 showed a new corporate identity, what this new business was and what customers could expect.

“It was very much heralding that something exciting and different was happening; we were bringing choice back for business, corporate and government travel and were offering an alternative in the Australian domestic market. By the second ad in September 2012, we felt we had promised to do those things and we had achieved them; we created a ‘stage’ of services and now it was about showing the exceptional ‘performers’ on that stage — our staff. This new ad campaign is taking that a step further.”

Qantas is expected to hit back  in the brand battle by launching a high profile, multi million campaign of its own. While the flag carrier has focused on retail marketing, Qantas Group executive manager for brand, marketing and corporate affairs Olivia Wirth told Mumbrella in July there remains a “time and place” for brand marketing.

“Our advertising focus has been predominantly on tactical and product, but we believe there is a time and place for brand advertising and we’ll continue to invest in that over the next 12 months,” she said.

Industry observers suggested any high profile brand messaging during the past 12 months would have been wasted as Qantas battled the unions over job losses before becoming embroiled in a debate over its ownership structure.

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia posted dismal financial results last month which has piled further pressure on the airlines and heightened the need to win the marketing battle. The carriers are also both ramping up their loyalty programs in a bid to woo customers.


Steve Jones


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