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How Air New Zealand is Delivering on Brand X-factor in the Age of Sustainability
Creating a brand X-factor is something that puts an airline in a league of its own and creates a halo around the brand. These are often the nuances that ensure that the airline stands apart from the competition and often lead to a cult status among its customers.
Examples from other industries would be Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Apple products. Those who buy them swear by them. In the airline world, AirAsia, Singapore Airlines, and Southwest are outstanding examples of brands that have created an X-factor.
The common denominator in all of these examples is the creation of a brand icon, such as Tony Fernandes at AirAsia, the Singapore Girl at SIA, and safety videos at Air New Zealand. Such icons often defy logic and create a magical attraction toward the brand.
Better still, these icons can be leveraged to project the brand in ways generally difficult to articulate through traditional means. An ever-smiling Tony Fernandes can be seen at all AirAsia events, SIA’s advertisements show more elegantly uniformed Singapore Girls than actual planes. Every airline doing a funny safety video is compared to Air New Zealand’s latest edition.
Something else that great airlines do to create a warm feeling among their customers is to emphasise their net social impact by proactively managing their social and ethical stance.
Great examples of this include AirAsia’s free service to carry relief aid to Myanmar immediately after the cyclone Nargis ravaged the country or the work being done by the AirAsia foundation. Finnair’s Helena Kaartinen put smiles on the faces of slum-dwelling children in Mumbai by teaching them a dance and taking them on a flight to Delhi. Both of these initiatives reflect the dexterity and ingeniousness on the airlines’ part to go beyond their everyday operations and make a positive impact on the society. It is efforts like these, which help gain the respect of current and future customers.
The X-factors add a personality to the brand. After all, personality inspires trust; and trust builds loyalty.
Case Study - Air New Zealand’s Flight NZ0
Brand X-Factors put an airline brand in a leadership position, making it virtually impossible for other airlines to replicate the initiatives.
Air New Zealand has launched a project to become a true-zero airline, not just net zero.
First, the airline started off by setting 2030 interim science-based targets to reduce carbon intensity by 28.9% from a 2019 baseline. Now, Air New Zealand has aspirations to acquire novel propulsion and zero emissions aircraft with the fleet scaling to reach all domestic destinations from 2030.
In 2021, the airline released a Product Requirements Document – a guide for businesses and innovators to help build, launch, or market the provision of zero emissions or novel propulsion aircraft in New Zealand. It provided an overview of Air New Zealand requirements based on its network and fleet and was intended to kickstart discussion for ongoing collaboration.
The “Mission Next Gen Aircraft”, dubbed Flight NZ0 has two ambitious goals:
Fly the first commercial demonstrator flight from 2026
Begin replacing the Q300 domestic fleet with a more sustainable aircraft – likely green hydrogen or battery hybrid systems from 2030
In early 2022, the airline announced five shortlisted aircraft technologies from around the world to help it accomplish its mission. Additionally, Air New Zealand and Airbus launched a joint research initiative to understand the opportunities and challenges of flying hydrogen-powered aircraft.
From a brand perspective, this is visionary storytelling. Very few airlines globally have undertaken so many initiatives to build a sustainable future at the same time.
Most are investing in sustainable aviation fuel or carbon offsetting programmes. Some are piloting eVTOLs in a few years.
However, Air New Zealand has a cohesive strategy that allows the airline to stand apart. At the same time, the results of the experiments the Kiwi airline runs will benefit the entire industry. It’s one of the best examples of an airline building a Brand X-Factor while pursuing a sustainable future.
This is an extract from our “6X+S Airline Brand Model” whitepaper which presents a new framework for airlines to build lasting brands in the age of sustainability. Download the full report here.