When a value proposition takes flight

Posted on by Guy Cookson

As a creative agency one of the most important things we must do for our clients is to clearly define and communicate their customer value proposition.

If we can explain what makes the brands we work with special and unique, if we can show what they stand for, and convey that through all the materials we design, and marketing campaigns we produce, then we have a pretty good chance of convincing their potential customers that they are the right choice for their needs.

But a value proposition has to be more than skin deep. It has to be representative of the actual customer experience.

Because if it does not, then there will be trouble.

In the airline industry Ryanair had for a long time quite a simple value proposition as expressed in their original slogan: “the low fares airline.”

Everything they did was about reinforcing this message – including PR stunts about plans to introduce standing seats or to charge for using the onboard loos.

They wanted people to think they were relentlessly looking at ways to cut costs, even if the ideas were controversial, because this kept people talking.

And it worked because their value proposition matched the customer experience on the ground – or in the air.

People knew what to expect – no frills – and so they would tolerate discomfort so long as the flights were punctual and reasonably priced.

And it worked. Ryanair has grown to become Europe’s largest low cost airline, carrying over 130 million passengers a year on more than 2,000 daily flights.

British Airways, meanwhile, has struggled. They can no longer claim to be the World’s Favourite Airline at a time when others, like Qatar Airways and Emirates, are perceived to offer a more premium service.

And their attempts to compete with low cost airlines are hampered by their legacy as a high end carrier. When they announced they would not offer inclusive in-flight meals on short-haul flights it created a kind of cognitive dissonance amongst their customers and there was uproar.

Research shows that people rate an experience based not on how good it was overall, but how closely it matched their expectations.

This helps explain why on TripAdvisor budget hotels often receive higher ratings than their luxury counterparts.

Not because they are better – objectively they are not – but because they have managed their customer expectations more effectively.

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post.

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