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Aviation Marketing:
Building a strong brand for your business.


Stop for a moment to consider the complex engineering of a modern business jet- or the sophisticated transaction required to buy or sell one. It only seems appropriate that aviation businesses should take an equally sophisticated approach to their brands.

In today’s ultra-competitive aircraft market- companies with clear and compelling brands can fare substantially better than their less well-branded competitors. That’s because well-crafted brands create a wide range of business advantages.

A strong brand:
• Provides an edge when pitching new business;
• Allows a company to command premium pricing;
• Gives employees a belief system through which to filter decisions- attitudes and behaviors;
• Makes it easier to launch new services and products;
• Makes it easier for satisfied customers to make referrals;
• Aids customer loyalty and retention.

These six advantages—potentially worth millions of dollars in eventual outcomes— make it well worth the effort to go through a conscious branding or re-branding process.

All other marketing tactics—advertising- websites- social media- direct marketing— must be filtered through this crucial branding effort in order to yield the maximum return on investment.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE LOGO
Brands are not logos or taglines. Those are the outward results of the effort to present a brand to the marketplace- but they are not the brand itself.

Brands—simply stated—are belief systems. In a recessionary economy- people are looking for products- services and companies they can believe in. A well-articulated brand will suggest the staying power that people are looking for in major purchasing decisions.

Thus- brand development is not the soft stuff of wild brainstorming by marketing gurus sipping their lattes. Rather- it’s a rigorous- creative process that enables a company to wring additional profit out of every transaction and every customer relationship. Get your brand right- and everything else begins to fall into place.

A QUICK SELF-EVALUATION
Ask yourself- “When a prospective customer hears my company’s name- what’s the first thing they think of?” That’s your brand. If they can’t think of anything truly unique- that’s a problem.

Another way to look at this is to ask: “What would employees- customers and even competitors say with conviction about our organization?” That’s your brand- too. The problem for many sales-driven aviation companies is that it’s hard for them to take the time out to discover and develop a brand. Emphasis is on the next deal- and then the next one. But for the companies that take the time to thoughtfully engage the brand development process- the results can be substantial. Ultimately- the financial impact of branding is realized when it comes time for your exit strategy.

That’s because a strong brand transfers value from individuals (company founders) to the company as a whole. How many times have you seen a successful business lose value when passed to the next generation or to a new owner? But a well-defined- well-supported brand transfers equity from the entrepreneur to the company itself. That means it commands a higher price when it comes time to sell- or it can mean passing on a more valuable asset to your business partners or children. The difference in company valuation will far exceed the cost of professional brand development.

THE POWER OF THE NICHE
One of the keys to branding is staking out a claim to some sort of specialization and rigorously defending that turf. The temptation of trying to appeal to everyone can water down a brand so that it is compelling to no one. Good brands claim a particular value proposition- and then leave the rest of the territory to others.

A company can be the value brand- the premium luxury brand- or perhaps the specialist in a certain type of aircraft- but it can’t be all those things. A company can be known for providing the newest technology or delivering the best customer experience—but not both.

You can- of course- be good at many things; but you can only build a brand around one of them. As with so many other things in life- when it comes to branding- less is more. Claiming to be great at everything only makes you sound like another unremarkable company.

THE FORMULA
Building a strong brand is the product of a rather simple formula:

UNIQUENESS + FREQUENCY + CONSISTENCY = BRAND IDENTITY

UNIQUENESS involves finding that one key point of differentiation from competitors and creatively leveraging it to stand out from the crowd. FREQUENCY is how your brand gets reinforced. Advertising- direct marketing- public relations all serve to bring your brand to the consciousness of your target audience. And CONSISTENCY— that’s the discipline to stay focused on reinforcing your brand once you’ve spent the time discovering and revitalizing it.

Changing things too frequently only serves to confuse your audience.

APPEALING TO BOTH HEAD AND HEART
It is important to recognize that brands have both cognitive and emotional components. Despite the rational due diligence in the purchase of a new aircraft- a major refurbishment- or the selection of a management company- most buying decisions have a highly emotional component to them as well. A strong brand will thus appeal to both the head and the heart.

In this sense- a business-to-business (B2B) brand is very similar to a consumer brand. People make both types of purchases for emotional as well as rational reasons. A B2B brand differs from a consumer brand- however- in two significant ways. First- the decision-maker who interacts with an aviation brand is normally not making the decision by himself/herself. There likely are board members- colleagues and analysts whose opinions must be consulted.

The other major difference is that the stakes are so much higher in a B2B purchasing decision.

Thousands of employees- millions of shareholders and the attention of the media could be impacted by the decision. All the more reason to build a powerful- confidence-instilling brand that reassures the decision-maker that he/she is making the best possible choice.

Whatever the size of your organization- it is worth taking the time to 1) discover— maybe rediscover—your brand- 2) translate it into meaningful messages and images that connect with your audience- and 3) find creative ways to get that story out in front of your target audience. It’s an investment with big dividends now and in the future.

David Heitman is the president of The Creative Alliance- a branding and public relations firm serving general aviation companies and organizations. He can be reached at david@thecreativealliance.com

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