Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


AirTran Airways took to the skies in 1997 following the merger of AirTran, a small carrier serving 11 cities from its base in Orlando, Florida, and ValuJet, a discount carrier struggling to rebuild after the crash of one of its planes. Within two years AirTran was emerging as a strong competitor in the discount airline market, and the trouble-plagued ValuJet was fading into memory. By 1999 AirTran served 30 cities with 280 daily flights, and plans were under way to replace its entire fleet of planes with newer aircraft. AirTran’s revenues were also steadily increasing, as passengers came back to the carrier. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which involving the hijackings of four commercial aircraft, AirTran was one of the few U.S. airlines to report rising income, with revenues of $733 million in 2002. To help with the transition from ValuJet to AirTran, the airline hired the Milwaukee office of Cramer-Krasselt to create a rebranding campaign. The initial effort, ‘‘It’s Something Else,’’ was launched in 1997. As the success of the rebranding effort became apparent, Cramer-Krasselt replaced ‘‘It’s Something Else’’ in 2000 with a new campaign, ‘‘Your Airline Has Arrived.’’ To increase consumer awareness of AirTran’s low prices and services, promoted as helping to make travel easy and affordable, the $23 million ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ campaign was launched in 2003.

The humorous ads that formed the ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ campaign were a hit with consumers and industry watchdogs alike. Included were television and radio spots, as well as print, outdoor, and Internet ads. The campaign received a 2004 Gold EFFIE Award and in the month after its launch was recognized by Boards Magazine as one of the top spots.

In June 1993 ValuJet joined the ranks of discount airline carriers when its first flight took off, traveling between Atlanta, Georgia, and Tampa, Florida. With its low fares and reliable service, the airline quickly grew in popularity with consumers. But ValuJet was plagued with problems, including planes that slid off runways and a fire on one flight. Then, in May 1996, tragedy struck ValuJet when one of its airliners crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing all 110 people onboard. Following the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded ValuJet while the airline’s maintenance and safety procedures were investigated. The airline’s operating license was returned in September 1996, but travelers deserted ValuJet amid ongoing fears of safety problems. Soon after its license was restored, ValuJet announced plans to merge with AirTran, a small carrier based in Orlando. The ValuJet name was dropped, and the carrier began operation in 1997 as AirTran Airways.

The Milwaukee office of Cramer-Krasselt was hired to help reshape the airline and win back wary travelers. The agency replaced ValuJet’s agency, Atlanta-based Hughes Advertising. Cramer-Krasselt’s initial campaign included references to the ValuJet name. ‘‘It would have been disastrous if we had tried to cover up the connection and then had it leak out that AirTran was flying ValuJet planes,’’ Peter Krivkovich, president of Cramer-Krasselt, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The initial campaign, ‘‘It’s Something Else,’’ had such taglines as ‘‘By the time we’re through reinventing ValuJet, you won’t even recognize it . . . New Management. New thinking. New airline.’’ The effort helped put the airline back on track, but by October 1998 its flights were still taking off only slightly more than half full.
Undaunted, AirTran pushed ahead. In 2000

Cramer-Krasselt created a new campaign to replace ‘‘It’s Something Else.’’ This $8 million campaign, under the title ‘‘Your Airline Has Arrived,’’ sent the message that AirTran could stand up against the major carriers, while offering affordable fares. Taglines included ‘‘We’re the David vs. Goliath.’’ The campaign seemed to work. Customers came back, and AirTran’s revenues steadily increased, rising from $439 million in 1998 to $733 million in 2002. In 2003 Cramer-Krasselt created a campaign to replace ‘‘Your Airline Has Arrived.’’ This new campaign, ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You,’’ promoted AirTran’s low business fares.

Although AirTran’s revenues were climbing and passengers were slowly rediscovering the carrier, the airline was still trying to convince consumers to think of AirTran first when they scheduled trips. The campaign was aimed particularly at business travelers, who were considered to make up one of the industry’s most lucrative sectors. Thus, the campaign was designed to appeal both to leisure travelers planning quick getaways and to frequent business fliers. But more than anything, the campaign was aimed at any consumer looking for a low airfare. ‘‘Now more than ever consumers are looking for hassle-free, affordable travel options,’’ said Tad Hutcheson, AirTran’s director of marketing.
He added that the new campaign showed how AirTran could give consumers what they wanted, including affordable ticket prices and flights to major destinations.

In 2003, according to Deutsche Bank, the international financial services provider, the top five U.S. airlines—American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, and United—reported combined losses estimated at almost $6.5 billion. As the big airlines were floundering, they also were thumbing their noses at the discount carriers. They should have been paying attention, however. The investment banking firm Lehman Brothers reported that by the end of 2002 discount airlines had captured 28 percent of the domestic market, up from 9 percent in 1991. In addition, discount airlines were affecting fares in markets that accounted for 56 percent of the larger airlines’ revenue. With the promise of reliable, inexpensive flights, even without frills, airlines like AirTran, Southwest, and JetBlue were making money and attracting passengers away from the big five.

The concept of no-frills, low-cost air travel had been introduced by Texas-based Southwest Airlines in 1971 when its first flight, between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, took off. Building on the innovative idea of providing passengers on-time flights at the lowest possible fares, the airline helped redefine air travel. Within three years Southwest had carried its millionth passenger, and by 2003 it had grown to become the number four carrier in the United States, with almost 2,800 daily departures that carried 65 million passengers to cities in 30 states. Besides helping to set the standard for future low-cost carriers, Southwest’s innovative thinking was reflected in its marketing. In 2000 the airline launched a television campaign designed to encourage people to book flights on its website. The spots used humor to show people how they could leave uncomfortable daily situations behind by booking a quick vacation getaway on In an attempt to reach its target audience—25- to 54-year-old men who made frequent business trips—the airline also signed a sponsorship agreement with the National Hockey League. In 2003 Southwest took another unique approach to marketing when it partnered with the Arts & Entertainment Television Network (A&E) for a new reality show titled Airline. The program, which in effect starred Southwest Airlines and which debuted in early 2004, provided a behind-the-scenes look at the airline industry. It followed both passengers traveling to various U.S. locations as well as the airline staff, from ticket agents to pilots, who helped them on their way.

While Southwest was promoting itself with a reality television show, Delta Air Lines, one of the big five carriers in the United States, was preparing to compete with the discount carriers. In February 2003, in the hopes of winning back passengers, Delta launched Song, the airline’s updated version of a discount carrier to replace its low-frills sibling, Delta Express. Described as an ‘‘airline within an airline,’’ Song provided video screens at each seat and planned to include video games, live television programming, and music in its 36 planes. Song also announced plans to charge lower fares than the competition. As part of its marketing strategy, the airline opened Song retail shops, modeled after the inside of a airplane cabin. The first store opened in 2003 in New York’s SoHo area, and a second store opened in 2004 in Boston’s Prudential Center. Merchandise included video games and other entertainment options available on Song flights. For people who could not seem to get enough airline food, a selection of the items included on the Song menu could be purchased in the shops. And for those travelers anxious to book their next trip on Song, the stores had computers at the ready for customers to buy tickets. Although the airline reportedly planned to launch a television marketing campaign promoting Song, the retail shops were meant to enable consumers to enjoy the full Song experience without traveling to an airport. It was not clear, however, that the retail project was successful in selling tickets for flights on the airline, and in October 2005, as part of its restructuring plans under bankruptcy protection, Delta announced that Song would be phased out.

Cramer-Krasselt designed ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You,’’ AirTran’s new 2003 advertising campaign, to send a clear message about the carrier’s low fares and the ways in which its services could help consumers avoid various travel difficulties. The $23 million campaign was launched in February 2003 with five television spots. Also included were radio, print, outdoor, and Internet advertising. The television spots were limited to the larger markets served by AirTran, including Atlanta, Baltimore, and Milwaukee. The print and outdoor portions of the campaign appeared in all of the airline’s markets.

Humor was the driving force in the ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ campaign. Television spots targeting business travelers portrayed office situations with a twist. For example, the spot titled ‘‘Shipping’’ showed business people sent to a meeting in packing crates. The people climbed out of the crates with packing peanuts stuck in their hair before convening in a boardroom. One unfortunate employee missed the meeting, however, when his packing crate fell off the back of the delivery truck. A voice-over asked, ‘‘Is the cost of getting there getting in the way of business?’’ Another spot targeting business travelers, titled ‘‘Client Dinner,’’ showed two businessmen entertaining a new client. At the end of the meal the businessmen walked out without paying the restaurant check. The spot ended with the question ‘‘Business trips getting too expensive?’’

Among the TV spots aimed at leisure travelers was ‘‘Babysitters.’’ This commercial showed grandparents arriving at their daughter’s house for a visit. The parents quickly handed their small children to the grandparents before tossing luggage into a cab and driving off, with the grandfather running after the cab as he shouted, ‘‘Don’t leave us with the babies.’’ Another spot targeting leisure travelers, titled ‘‘Mouthwash,’’ showed a family whose members shared a bottle of mouthwash. After each person rinsed, he or she spit the mouthwash back into the bottle, before passing it on to the next person. The voiceover asked, ‘‘Does the cost of travel have you cutting back in other areas?’’

Print ads followed themes similar to the television spots. For example, one ad pictured a sleeping man in a business suit stretched out on a park bench, with his suitcase stashed underneath. The lights of a big city twinkled in the background. Another showed a business meeting taking place around a boardroom table that was made of plywood supported by stacks of plastic milk crates. The text in all of the print ads asked the question ‘‘Does the cost of flying have you cutting back in other areas?’’

According to Hutcheson of AirTran Airways, both the consumer and industry response to the ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ campaign was overwhelmingly positive. In the months following the campaign’s launch in February 2003, the airline reported a steady increase in passenger traffic. By the end of 2003 the carrier’s passenger traffic had jumped nearly 30 percent, to about 607 million travelers, compared to 466 million over the same period in 2002. In March 2003 Boards Magazine named the campaign one of its top spots. The campaign also received a 2004 Gold EFFIE Award for, among other things, reaching consumers, especially business travelers, and increasing ticket sales, which allowed AirTran plant to fly with full passenger loads, well above the break-even point. In 2005, as further evidence of the campaign’s success, Cramer-Krasselt introduced additional advertising under the ‘‘Go. There’s Nothing Stopping You’’ banner. Included were five new television spots, which followed the same humorous formats that had been used in the originals. Other supporting efforts included new radio, print, outdoor, and Internet advertising.

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