When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

Ryanair's CMO on how the airline is communicating the 'new' Ryanair

Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs joined the often-criticised airline just eight weeks ago, charged with improving marketing at the company and communicating the new face of the brand, which is now focused around better customer service and experience. Jacobs discusses how Ryanair will improve brand perceptions using data, digital, CRM and, for the first time, TV advertising.

Ryanair Press ads

Ryanair press ads on display at the airline’s ‘experience event’ on 26 March.

Marketing Week: Why did you want to join Ryanair? 

Kenny Jacobs: Three things. First and foremost, the category is really interesting. People are generally interested in food, fashion, cars, technology and travel - and air travel in particular, it’s one of those sexier categories.
 
The second reason: when you wear your marketing goggles, you look at Ryanair and think ‘wow’. This is a brand that has a poor website, doesn’t really do email marketing or digital marketing, doesn’t really capture and use data, doesn’t do advertising, yet still has a strong brand. Imagine the blank canvas and what you could do with that when you apply marketing.
 
The third reason is that Michael O’Leary is a really interesting and inspiring guy who is very driven. He has made it a great business.
 
MW: Ryanair is launching its first TV campaign soon. What is the message?
 
KJ: We are a pretty functional and straightforward brand, so the style of the advertising will be functional and straightforward. We are a challenger brand and you can see we’re not afraid to take the piss out of ourselves; the advertising plays to that.

In our upcoming campaign the narrator is imagining old Ryanair, while the customer is experiencing new Ryanair. But it will be more functional than emotional to begin with, with three ads getting across the bigger changes that we’ve made: the second carry-on bag, the new website and then the allocated seating.
 
MW: Who did you work with on the campaign?
 
KJ: On a project basis on creative with Dare and the media has been done through Mediacom. Over the course of the summer we will be looking to appoint a full-time lead creative agency, a media agency, a digital agency and a CRM agency.
 
MW: What are the opportunities in loyalty for Ryanair?
 
KJ: It’s the data opportunity. When you look at the amount of people travelling in Europe, the fact we’re the biggest in Europe, the things we could want to know and how we could use it, the potential is absolutely limitless. I know Tesco uses their data to shape a lot of what they do, where they put stores, what those stores look like, pricing, promotions, and so on. When you have the customer data how you can use it to make Ryanair better, the website better and more personalised, to change the app, where we fly to and from, it’s pretty much like drinking from a faucet in terms of how we can make the airline better for customers.
 
We can also partner with some other companies. Already lots of the big retailers in Europe are interested in data partnerships and joint promotions. Look at how Tesco has evolved Clubcard with its deals programme - there is a lot we can do.
 
We could have a piece of plastic that people swipe to get points, but I think that works for some people and not others. Aldi in the UK is the fastest growing retailer and it doesn’t have a loyalty scheme. I think people introduced cards they could swipe so they could get your till data, but we already have that.

I think a loyalty scheme does not equal loyal customers. First and foremost we need to get loyal customers and then incentivise customers in a really targeted and personalised way, rather than launching a Ryanair loyalty programme that everybody gets. There are smarter ways to do that driven by digital and that is the way we’ll do it.
 
MW: What role will content play in the new website?
 
KJ: Starting in June with destination guides. I’m really excited by user generated content. So if you’re travelling to Lanzarote, I would love to provide a platform where you tell us about your experience and share that with other customers, whether they’re Ryanair customers or not.

I think that makes it more engaging. You can indicate what type of content you’re interested in and we can serve that up on the website and in CRM. Content is really powerful, people like to consume it, they like to create it themselves and they like to share it. That is one of the trends that we’ll follow.

MW:What part will social play?

KJ: We’re pretty good on Twitter in the UK and Ireland and we need to expand that into all the markets where we operate. We’re not where I’d like us to be on Facebook, Google+ and YouTube and that is on my list of things we’ll introduce.

MW:Are people hearing the message that Ryanair is changing?

KJ: People are hearing it because we see that in the forward bookings. I fly up to eight times a week so I see it in the faces of passengers and the faces of crew because the changes just make it a lot easier. If you follow us on Twitter, a lot of customers are talking about it being a lot better.

We won’t be sitting on our laurels. We’ll launch the next phase of our website [in April] but then we’ll keep making it better and making the service better.

Ryanair’s five steps to ‘Always getting better’

  1. - Fix the things that people don’t like: listen quickly and act quickly.
  2. - Improve the travel experience: introduced quiet flights and a second carry-on bag.
  3. - Improve the digital experience: introduce MyRyanair and Google flight search, launch a new website in April and mobile boarding passes in May.
  4. - Develop the Ryanair offer: through GDS distribution and upcoming family and business products.
  5. - Improve marketing: by making owned, paid and earned media work together to create a consistent brand message.

Readers' comments (3)

  • About time.

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  • It's great the changes are being made, though when it comes to travelling again - after such a bad experience 6 years ago when travelling with a new born - I haven't flown Ryanair since. I've probably recalled the story and heard many other family horror stories since. I might reconsider once I hear those I know saying how a great experience was had

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  • Positive changes that is for. One piece that sticks is 'a second carry on bag' - the fact remains there is not enough room in the cabin for one carry on bag. Why not free/discounted checked baggage? Less clutter in the cabin...

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