British Airways Takes Risks & Reaps Rewards - Insights

British Airways Takes Risks & Reaps Rewards


5 minute read

This year, British Airways (BA) topped the Superbrands list for the first time in its history. And it’s no wonder, considering how amazing the airline’s marketing efforts have been over the past few years. Things have been going so well, in fact, that one might forget how badly the brand was hit in 2010, reporting its biggest loss ever that year due to the recession, snow, strikes, falling passenger numbers and, to top it all off, volcanic ash – thanks, Eyjafjallajökull.

Things have certainly turned around since then. BA is back, and in a big way. Through continuous innovation, the brand has succeeded to create one extraordinary campaign after another, and to deeply engage its expansive customer base.

Let’s take a look at the steps BA has taken to earn itself the title of the UK’s most-trusted airline, and to produce a series of stunning content marketing campaigns.

New Talent

In 2011, right on the heels its more than £500 million loss, BA brought on Frank van der Post as Managing Director of Brands & Customer Experience. A brand specialist with 25 years of experience in hospitality, van der Post was just what the company needed: a professional with a new pair of eyes, asking new questions and pushing the team towards innovation.

Within less than two years of his hiring, BA had risen from the bottom of the YouGov BrandIndex to second place among airlines. Look around – it might be time to bring in someone new to shake things up.

Don’t Fly

When a brand takes risks, people notice. BA has been fearless is this regard. As a Tier One sponsor in the London 2012 Olympic Games, the airline knew it had to go big or go home. The edgy “Don’t Fly” campaign urged Brits to stay put and support its athletes, and was tremendously successful despite effectively telling customers not to buy plane tickets.

The campaign was brought to life with a brilliant TV ad in which a BA jet makes its way through the streets of London, alongside an awesome Google Street View powered #HomeAdvantage Facebook app. The fun add-on enabled users to enter their postcodes to alter the ad and see the plane coming down the streets of their own neighborhoods.

That August, BA announced an operating profit of £8.1 million in the first six months of 2012. The app had a reported 210,000 monthly users at the time and the ad has 1,117,125 views on YouTube to date (with 1,762 likes). BA proved high risk, high reward. How many risks have you taken recently?


Not everything you do is going to be wildly successful, but if it’s inspired and well-executed, that has a merit of its own. Aimed at an American audience, BA’s “Yourope” campaign consists of several YouTube videos that play on nostalgia, letting the viewer choose his or her own adventure by clicking on one of four European cities, followed by different ways of seeing each one – punk or posh, day or night, old or new, classic or curious.

It’s a fun campaign that shows BA’s audience that the brand doesn’t take itself too seriously – a key step to broadening its consumer base. And although the main video has accumulated just over 21,000 views in the four months since it was posted, it’s still a prime example of creative content marketing and a willingness to try new things.


A more successful example, in terms of numbers, was the company’s parallel – and extraordinary – #LookUp campaign. Using technology that was developed especially for the project, BA was able to produce a digital billboard featuring a child who would point to each British Airways plane that passed overhead, alongside a display of information about the flight.

One of the two billboards that went up in London was placed in Piccadilly Circus, so there’s really no telling how many millions of people saw the ad in the flesh. A YouTube video of the billboard in action, however, has a definite 1,242,792 views and 3,190 likes. Look around – are there any opportunities for digital innovation where you work?

Big Picture Thinking

BA is a brand that understands how important it is to deepen its understanding of its markets and the needs of its customers. In a recent article for Marketing Magazine, Paul Rogers, the company’s marketing manager for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, revealed how BA is going about this as it looks towards its future and growing audience in China.

Rogers writes: “We need to adapt and adopt. At BA, the mantra “Made for China” not “Made in China” has characterized our approach to penetrating the market – recognising that China requires a fundamentally different programme to how we communicate with and respond to consumers.”

So far, the airline has identified the power and prevalence of mobile technology, as well as the Chinese audience’s attraction to the British-ness of the brand. BA has already garnered a following of over 350,000 people on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular social network, and to celebrate this January’s Chinese New Year, it unveiled its new presence on WeChat, another highly used platform.

In a move that exemplified cultural awareness and marketing savvy, the team sent 2014 custom-made red envelopes to the first 2014 followers of the new account. Each envelope contained a new year greeting from BA’s regional CEO and a promotional coupon worth $50, an homage to the Chinese tradition of sending monetary gifts in red envelopes during the holidays and special occasions. The result? 10,000 new followers within the first 10 days of launch.

Given the amount and range of remarkable activity going on, the airline seems to be unstoppable. With its eye on innovation and its foot on the pedal, it looks like it’s full steam ahead for BA – and we’d all do well to pay close attention.

By Anastasia Dyakovskaya, NewsCred Contributor