Emirates Airlines, formed in 1985 by the Dubai government with an initial capital of $10 million and only two aircrafts, which were leased1. The Emirates Airlines is based in Dubai and is one of the major airlines in the Middle East. It provides services to over 100 destinations around the world. It is part of the Emirates Group, which comprises of Dnata apart from Emirates Airlines. Other ventures of the group are into the following: Emirates Holidays, Emirates Sky Cargo, Skywards, Arabian Adventures, Emirates Hotels and Resorts, and Congress Solutions International (Datamonitor, 2008).
The emirates group has a turnover of $11.2 billion (AED 41.2 billion). The group posted a profit of $1.45 billion (AED 5.3 billion) where the contribution of Emirates Airline is $1.37 billion (AED 5.02 billion) in 2007-08 (Datamonitor, 2008). Thus, the share of Emirates Airlines in the group profit is of 94 percent. This indicates that Emirates Airline’s share in revenue and profit is high in the group’s overall earnings.
The following figure shows the brand hierarchy of Emirates Group, which has number of divisions and Emirates Airline is the most profitable amongst them.
The paper provides a summary of the brand audit conducted in Term Paper 1, which will provide a clear understanding of the company’s brand equity and how far it is being leveraged. Based on the findings of the brand audit the paper will provide recommendations into developing and leveraging the brand equity. In this context, the paper discusses the Brand Elements, Marketing Mix and leveraging secondary brand association.
This section presents a summary of the brand audit conducted in Term Paper 1. The summary will provide the key findings of the previous brand audit in the following sections.
According to SKYTRAX ratings, Emirates scored below average on both the class category average as well as in augmented benefits average. The ratings show that when customer opinion is taken for Emirate’s services, their service is not considered better than the industry average.
Brand inventory of Emirates Airlines are in its brand name, color, logo, and slogan. The brand name of Emirates is written in both English and Arabic. This provides a distinct Oriental feel to the airlines’ brand name, which can be associated with luxury. Further using both the languages for the brand name emphasizes on the airline’s Arabic origin and connection. The name also depicts the main idea of emirates is to understand the connection to royalty of the Middle East which indicates luxury.
Further, the use of the “airlines” provides credibility to the airline for being national in character. Further, the name has a memo ability quality due to its close connection to Arab world and the royalty. This immediately denotes the customers will enjoy a royal treatment when on board with Emirates.
The brand color of the airline is red. The color catches the attention of the customers and has a strong recall value. It is a color of warmth and coziness, which is extended to the customers. Further when combined with gold enhances the feel of comfort and luxury. The golden color of the website enhances the customer’s feeling of luxury and comfort. Red also makes the airline look peppy and modern as it reflects joyousness and gay mood. The color reflects the feeling of dynamism and excitement through and youthfulness. Red and gold is also the color of royalty and comfort. In addition, it also resembles courage and sacrifice, which are related to some of the Arabs’ characteristics.
The logo of Emirates reflects the Arabic heritages of the airline through usage of Arabic calligraphy in it writing. The main point here in the logo is the absence of image, which is usually seen in other brand logos like the Nike’s swoosh or Qatar Airline’s deer. The main stress is on the Arabic writing of the name of the airlines, which serves two purposes: (a) makes the logo different from other airlines from Asia making the logo memorable, and (b) makes the brand name and logo merge together into one single entity so that there is greater association between the two. The color of the logo again is red reflecting the color of the airline sending a common message. The Arabic calligraphy also makes the logo unique and eye catching.
The slogan of Emirates is “Fly emirates. Keep discovering”. This emphasizes the airline’s commitment to continuous improvement and good service. Service innovation is also stressed through the slogan. High quality service and excellent guest experience in reflected in the slogan indicating that the customers will experiences new surprises and better service every time they travel in Emirates. The idea is to leverage on the experience of the frequent travelers. An advertisement shows the luxury travel in Emirates with the narrator deriving a comparison with the travels of Magellan, the Orient Express, the QE2, and Emirates new A380 airplane stressing on the luxury of the ancient and the orient being intact.
In order to promote these brand elements Emirates has undertaken promotional activities through traditional media like newspaper, television, radio, etc. Apart from that, Emirate is using new age promotional medium like the internet. A detailed analysis of the TV advertisements along with their ads in the internet and their website is done in this section in order to understand the depth of their communication and its coordination with the brand elements. Television advertisements try to depict the luxury of Emirates, the diversity in its employees that helps them serve people from all regions more and emirates’ far-reaching destinations are depicted in the advertisements. The stress in always on warmth and elements of luxury in Emirates travel experience.
The airline stresses its Arabic origin and focus through its promotion based around Dubai. A television advertisement shows scenes from luxurious lifestyle, fun, adventure, and comfort in Dubai and a narrator advises that the Emirates fly to Dubai from six continents (Emirates Airline – Fly to Dubai from 6 Continents with Emirates, 2009). Another advertisement stresses on the “feel at home” concept with Emirates, which stresses on the multicultural staff and environment that Emirates creates which is welcoming to all from every region. Further through the slogan and the campaign around it is aimed at Business travelers. The idea is to attract open minded and curious business travelers. This is depicted through the “Keep Discovering” advertisement of Emirates, which shows a few businesspeople leaving work and coming out in the snow to enjoy the first snowfall. In addition, the advertisement runs with the caption “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” and the advertisement ends with the slogan “Keep Discovering” (Emirates – Keep Discovering: Snow, 2009).
The website of the airline is done in a simplistic style with option for internet booking. The airline site provides friendly looking airhostesses and war golden color, which enhances the feeling of luxury and comfort. The logo and the brand name are present as the sole object in red, which attracts the visitor’s attention. Further, the promotional offers presented through travelling schemes shows that the airline values loyal customers who are provided an extra advantage.
The promotions also depict the same with Emirates providing the maximum miles points to frequent travelers. Thus, the promotions and advertisements are aligned with the brand elements being projected in case of Emirates Airlines. For this reason, the pricing of Emirates is directed to business travelers with the business class prices being lower than that of competitors Qatar Airlines and Singapore Airlines. Thus, the brand audit shows that the target of the brand is clear and all the brand promotions and pricing strategy are directed towards the strategic target of the airline.
How a brand is perceived by customers are the most significant factors that define a brand. A survey of 15 participants formed a part of the primary data collection of a brand exploratory study. The study showed that brand awareness and recall for Emirates Airlines was strong among the respondents. The traditional media and other non-conventional means of promotion were reasons for the exposure that Emirates enjoyed. The survey showed that Emirates was closely associated with Dubai and vice versa. From the secondary research of the brand exploratory, Emirates was found to be the top airline in the region, based on brand awareness, customer satisfaction level, and customer need.
The primary research showed that the brand image of Emirates according to the customers was associated with the following: ‘luxury’, ‘prestige’, ‘class’, ‘comfort’, ‘reliability’ among many others, as portrayed in the figure below.
Thus, the research showed that Emirate’s brand image was positive. The brand image also showed that Emirates was considered an expensive airline. The overall image that the consumers have of Emirates is that it is a high-end, luxury airline.
The brand exploratory showed that the source of brand equity was customer-based equity from on flight experience from extraordinary service and entertainment, and luxury. However, the expensive image of Emirates has two effects on the brand equity, both positive and negative. Negative as people may avoid the airline feeling it is out of their affordability and positive as it upholds its image of exquisite luxury.
Recommendations to build and manage Brand Equity
The brand elements of Emirates fail to create the connection that is desired by the airline with that of the perception of the customers. Emirate airlines is directly associated with Dubai through the promotions as well as through the consumer research conducted in term paper 1.
The primary research findings show that customers associate Emirates with Dubai. However, the survey also shows that the non-users of Emirates hold it at higher esteem than users who feel the customers’ expectations set through the promotions are not met through the in-flight experience. Thus, these factors show that there is a major disconnect between the brand elements projected through the airline promotions and the customer expectations.
The primary research suggests that respondents who have travelled in the airline have rated the airline lower than those who have to travel in the airline. This finding indicates that the travelling experience in Emirates is not as good as the customer expectations set through integrated marketing communication. Thus, there are certain aspects of the marketing communication of the airline need to be altered or the internal branding and service need to be improved to meet the customer expectation set through branding.
As the brand exploratory showed that, the brand image of the airline was clear to the customers, even to those who have not travelled in Emirates. The image that is portrayed is that Emirates is a high-end luxury airline and thus the brand elements are clear to the target market.
Marketing Mix Program Recommendations
The service of Emirates Airline reflects luxury and novelty. The airline promises to provide “more” even in its economy class travel. The airline boasts of a high staff to passenger ratio implying higher attention to passengers. Further, with the new communication, the brand emphasizes with new experiences with every flight, which actually increases the customer’s expectation largely.
Customers feel that traveling with Emirates will be like a new experience every time they travel. When the customer expectations are raised too high, there arises extra stress on the brand to live up to its expectations. Further, there is also a price expectation. Emirates projects itself as an airline, which provides tickets at reasonable prices. However, the journey from Dubai to London is placed at premium prices, while that of the economy at the parity prices. The brand audit of Emirates shows that customers feel that Emirates is an expensive airline.
Further, the promotions of the airline project luxury and different experience every time again portraying luxury but one that comes with price. These are not for the economy class passengers but targeted at the business class and the first class passengers. But it also sets the expectation of the economy class passengers who are disappointed with the services (even if it is better than many airlines’ economy class service) as they feel that they did not experience the grandeur projected through television advertisements. Thus, disconnect arises in customer expectation and the brand promotions making the customers dissatisfied.
The promotions should project the right experience for the right class. Hence, the pricing should also be standardized according to the brand communications. As for the pricing strategy present, it is appropriate, as Emirates has attached the luxury tag to its first class and business-class travel experience, which is set at premium prices.
Emirates airlines provide direct and indirect channel strategy. The direct channel is the distribution of the airline travel booking facility online, which allows travelers book their tickets online directly from the airline’s website. This enhances the accessibility and the convenience of the customer and serves the customers directly.
Indirect channel of distribution is also available where the customers can get their bookings done through travel agents and retail ticketing counters. However, the direct channel is more efficient and less time consuming as it helps the customers access the booking facilities and helps the airline interact with the customers directly. Therefore, Emirates uses a multiple channel strategy for distribution of their booking services. This increases the brand visibility.
Emirates have advertised their brand through television advertisements and the internet. Television being a widely viewed medium provides a sight and sound experience of the airlines, which helps in sending the message of the airline more effectively. Television Ads involve both pictures and sounds and its known that seeing and hearing are the most senses that effect the way we feel toward things, so using In addition, through Television Ads airlines often used association strategy where they associate their brand with luxury and high quality service. Using Prints (Magazines, newspaper, other) are effective because many people read magazines and newspapers which means reaching to more potential customers.
In addition, all four of them are using Internet for promotion strategy such as by posting their advertisement on YouTube. Airlines use Internet because in these days, many people send large portion of their time on internet and posting Ads on Internet will help to reach those people. In addition, using internet cost less money, time, and spread very fast. Emirates uses the both the strategies in order to target its customers. Further, they stress on international sponsorship. Emirates arranged for celebrities to fly in the maiden flight of A380, which gathered a lot of media coverage.
Further, due to their targeted business travelers and frequent travelers, Emirates promotes Q-mile card, which helps them target their loyal customers, and people who are ready to pay premium price. The points, which differentiate Emirates from its identified competitors, are Luxury and Novelty, which are manifested in the new ‘on board’ product attributes for First and Business Class.
The introduction of Shower Spa, Lounge, and a Bar are innovations in the aviation industry and clearly set Emirates apart from its competition. The image of Emirate airline is that passengers can discover new places and experience new things with Emirates. This projection is supported through Emirates flying to destinations where other flights d o not fly to like the Mauritius island.
The target market for their economy class is people who are willing to pay extra for premium services and travel quality. The target set is right, but they could even target the middle class travelers as the travel prices in the economy class are at par with Qatar or Singapore Airlines and much less than British Airways.
For the business class and the First Class, the airline has a premium-pricing strategy. This is in alignment with the airline’s stress on the luxury and novelty of travel experience, with in-flight communication, extra luxurious seating arrangement, etc. However, with the economic recession, more business class travelers are moving towards economy or premium economy travels (ATW, 2008). With Emirates trying to rely on business travelers and frequent fliers, the recession has changed the travel policy of many companies, leading to cost cutting measures. Thus, the airline should revamp its pricing and frequent traveler scheme to attract business travelers.
The promotions that depict new experience are unclear where they target more daring and unconventional business travelers. Nevertheless, positioning is not very clear. Further, these advertisements are not very clear as to their targeted customers.
The positioning of the airline is as a premium airline. Emirates have positioned itself as a transit hub location, with a network that serves more than 100 destinations in 61 countries and a very high frequency of flights to certain countries. Direct flights coupled with higher flight frequency means those who travel on Emirates would have a short transit time at Dubai Airport and can take another Emirates flight to their final destination. Thus, Emirates is connecting destination those passengers who otherwise would take multiple airlines and many transits to reach their final destination can now do so with just one airline and one transit stop.2
According to Brand Finance Middle East, “Emirates Airlines is the most valuable brand within not only the UAE but in the whole Gulf Region. Emirates Airlines has a brand value of AED 26.1 billion and a brand strength rating of AA+, which is the highest brand score achieved in 2008.” Brand value is defined by BrandFinance as “The net present value of the estimated future cash flows attributable to the brand portfolio” and Brand Strength Rating is defined as a “summary opinion, similar to a credit rating, on a brand based on its strength as measured by Brand Finance’s Brand Strength Index.”3
The objective of the communication program is to show the excellent travel experience in Emirates, which is demonstrated through the various areas of the advertisement. Further, the price competitiveness is demonstrated through the promotional fares and schemes. The business travelling facilities show the luxuries that the airline promises which are depicted through the advertisements. However, the advertisement does not depict one key element that is Emirate’s forte of long-distance direct flights to different directs. This will definitely attract more business travelers as they want to same time of changing flights.
Leveraging Secondary Brand Associations
Emirates is co-branded along with Dubai as a city and the Emirates Group which provides allied services like travel arrangements, hotels and resorts, etc. Further Dubai itself provides an excellent advantage for Emirates, which promotes itself with Dubai as its hub. Further, the primary research also showed that the airline is associated with the city, thus co-branding Dubai and Emirates and leveraging the equity of both the brands is a profitable option.
Emirates Group also has a high degree of advantage for the brand, as it helps Emirates Airlines to provide travel assistance, hotel booking facilities and other facilities like chauffer driven cars or exclusive lounges. Emirates also provide a royal feel due to its association with the royal family as the CEO of the company, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum is the nephew of the royalty. This association provides a feeling of royal treatment to be provided in the airline.
The channels of distribution are same for all the airlines and need not be changed. Other brands like Dnata, Emirates Hotels & Resorts, or Skywards helps in branding the Emirates airlines.
Emirate is well known for the events it organizes in Dubai. Further Emirates relies heavily on the Dubai shopping festival. It also sponsors events like Arabian Race Day – Newbury (2008)4 or BMW International Open (2008)5. Thus, Emirates is well known for the events that to which helps them leverage their brand to show class and upper class feel.
Brand advantage should be gained through the brand’s association with its employees. Emirates employees are from around the world and not just Middle East. Therefore, brand promotions should reflect this. Already Emirates airlines advertisements has reflected on its multi cultural on-board crew, which reflects on the diversity and at home, feel for the passengers. In another instance, Emirates had launched a video of its employees enjoying music in the internet. This reflected the true spirit of the airline, which leveraged the brand6. Emirates should continue leveraging their brand through employee motivation and employee branding.
Further emirates need to be more associated with sponsorship programs. Presently Emirate is associated with FIFA and other sporting events (Choueke, 2006). As in case of Emirate’s sponsorship of FIFA, the airline got exclusive rights to broadcast the matches in their in-flight entertainment for 2010-2014 matches. This will strengthen Emirate’s strategy to become a “global brand”. Therefore, sponsorship of sporting events and association with other sports-brands like Arsenal will leverage the brand appeal of Emirates.
Further airline alliances are another mode of leveraging brand. Emirates specialize in long-haul air-travel. For instance in the regional airspace of Middle East, airline travel industry is fragmented (Tomlinson, 2007). This strategy will reduce operating costs as well as increase their branding activity. Collaboration between regional airlines like Eithad, Qatar and Emirates will leverage their brands and help in integrating the gulf airspace.
Emirates airlines should follow a simple strategy to attract as much customers as possible for the airline industry is hit due to the impending recession. Therefore, for this reason the branding strategy should be in-line to provide cost advantage to travelers along with uncompromised premium air travel feel. Therefore, for the next 2-3 years Emirates should follow the following strategy:
- The airline is closely associated with Dubai and vice versa. Therefore, the airline in the next three years needs to maintain that image and be sponsors of all events or festivals taking place in Dubai. This strategy will increase the association of the company with the city and will increase brand recall.
- As the brand image of the airline is that of a luxury airline, the image should be built upon and the higher end market should be targeted. In the near future, the airline must meet the service standards of the international luxury airlines. This is possible only through excellent service to the passengers.
- Other airlines in this segment have launched the premium economy segment to attract the cost conscious business class. This should be introduced in order to attract more business customers. This strategy will also go in-line with the present strategy to target more business travelers. Thus, the airline should continue with this strategy.
- The airline must maintain its service deliverable and standardization of service delivery in order to maintain parity as well as serve all customers equally. Services provided on board are the key to the satisfaction of the customers apart from quick check-in and checkout facility. For this, the airline must do internal branding so that the service delivery is of higher quality.
- ATW. (2008). World Airline Report. ATW , p. 60.
- Choueke, M. (2006). Emirates to become FIFA Partner in £112m tie-up. Marketing Week Vol. 29 No. 16 , p. 3.
- Datamonitor. (2008). Emirates Group. Company Profile, Datamonitor.
- Emirates – Keep Discovering: Snow. (2009). Web.
- Emirates. (2009). Web.
- Emirates Airline – Fly to Dubai from 6 Continents with Emirates. (2009).
- Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2006). Marketing Management 12th Edition. Singapore: Pearson Prentice Hall.
- Tomlinson, H. (2007). Emirates chief urges rival Gulf airlines to collaborate. Middle East Economic Digest Vol. 51 No. 46 , p. 11.