Magazine article Marketing

Do Free Flights Really Build Brands?

Magazine article Marketing

Do Free Flights Really Build Brands?

Article excerpt

Retailers and manufacturers are rushing into joint promotions with the travel trade. Do the partners share common brand values?

BA and Sainsbury, Boots and British Rail, Thomas Cook and Sony, Bird's Eye Menumaster and National Express. It seems you can't buy anything these days without the retailers or manufacturers trying to pack you off on holiday.

Retailers and manufacturers are using one of sales promotion's staples (like cars and money, travel is guaranteed to promote interest) to push sales in dismal markets. And the travel trade is using every trick it can to mop up excess capacity and stimulate demand.

Put the two together and you get a dizzying array of travel promotions. But does the free travel bonanza really make good marketing? Or is it just a lazy way of generating short-term sales and using up excess travel industry capacity?

In the third week of their "Buy and Fly" promotion, BA and Sainsbury are all smiles.

"We're delighted. There's a discernible increase in our trade," says Sainsbury director of marketing Anthony Rees.

"Exceeded all expectations," says Robert Ayling, director of marketing and operations at BA.

Customers need spend only |pounds~20 each week for the ten weeks of the promotion's duration. With |pounds~200 worth of receipts they can claim a 30% discount on any published fare to Europe in economy class. With |pounds~800 worth of receipts they can get 30% off an economy fare to any one of BA's 138 destinations worldwide.

The big promotion sticks to all the fundamentals of third party deals and collection schemes: make it easy on the customer, give them tangible added value, stick with a brand that's your equal, ensure that the staff are onside.

Except one. Keep a link between the promotion and the brand. Pedigree Chum and Guide Dogs for the Blind, Fuji Film and Air Miles. Partner promotions with a clear thematic link, goes the theory, are the ones that make a firm contribution to long-term brand values. International air travel and food shopping? Fundamentally linked? Hardly.

First, a look at the positives. The promotion works, says Sainsbury, because the two brands share a common status. "It's the World's Favourite Airline and Britain's favourite supermarket," says Rees.

He won't say how much it has increased spending by established customers, nor how much it has stolen customers from rival supermarkets, "but it's demonstrably both. …

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