American Airlines Boasts of Understanding Customers in Online Brand Effort

American Airlines has unveiled a new brand campaign with a strong online component that focuses on service and an understanding of customer needs. The effort also bears a new tagline: “We know why you fly.”

The campaign, developed by American’s longtime agency of record TM Advertising, will span local and national television, national newspapers and magazines, with both English and Spanish-language ads. The online component is made up of 30-second “TV-like objects” delivered via PointRoll’s rich media technology to 40 sites, including Forbes.com, CBS Marketwatch, Weather.com, Sports Illustrated’s CNNsi.com and the NYTimes.com, according to James Hering, senior VP at TM Advertising.

“Online is an important component of this campaign. There’s really not a campaign we’ve launched that doesn’t have online as a part of it. We believe in online as much for branding purposes as for revenue generation,” Hering said.

The branding campaign is designed to build demand for American Airlines, and to strengthen American’s long-term relationship with its customers. The ads feature both customers and employees, underscoring American’s focus on its customers and its understanding of why people fly.

“In the advertising, at every point of contact with the customer, we demonstrate our employees’ understanding of why people fly,” said Roger Frizzell, American’s VP of advertising. “This campaign builds on our core strengths yet is very contemporary in style.”

In one ad, shot in a style reminiscent of a home video, a small child attempts to throw a water balloon while holding it over his head, and instead the balloon bursts and drenches him. the word “grandkids” flashes across the screen, and then the child is reunited with his long-distance grandmother. Then we’re told that American offers “3,900 flights — including the one to the apple of your eye.”

The campaign illustrates the linkage between the knowledge American employees possess and how that knowledge aligns with what customers value, he said.

Along with the ads, American is launching a new Web site next week, www.whyyoufly.com, where customers will be able to read customer-submitted stories describing why they fly, and rate those stories with a star-rating system.

Another feature of the site is a global database of events and unique destinations, which will be searchable by event or location, Hering said. The site will link to AA.com, where customers can access features like online flight check-in, flight status notification and online reservations.

It’s definitely a strategic initiative for American to get more customers to do more of their business online, and the company offers several incentives for customers to do so. For instance, the company doesn’t charge online users the booking fee that offline customers would pay. Also, when customers redeem frequent flyer miles online, they earn 1,000 bonus miles back into their account.

Overall, the “We know why you fly” campaign will make up about 75 percent of American’s advertising budget, with the online portion making up about 15 percent of that. This is the first major rebranding effort undertaken by American since 1984’s “Something Special in the Air” tagline. The company has recently shifted along with the rest of the industry to price-focused competition, but this campaign is a step away from that, Dan Garton, American’s executive VP of marketing.

“At American Airlines, while we’re very focused on offering competitive prices, we also believe it is important to understand why travelers fly in the first place,” Garton said. “With that understanding, we’re fiercely committed to offering products, features and customer service that our customers value, while still remaining very competitive on price.”

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