Magazine article Marketing

No-Frills Airline No Frills Culture

Magazine article Marketing

No-Frills Airline No Frills Culture

Article excerpt

Easy Jet prides itself on its no-nonsense values. We put it to the test, by going to see the airline in action.

Six weeks ago, seven people from Easy Jet dressed in orange boiler suits and boarded the inaugural flight of Go, British Airways' new budget airline. Fearful that the EasyJet team would be the corporate equivalent of having Liam Gallagher, Gazza and Chris Evans on board, Go staff nervously ushered them to the back of the aircraft. In the end, the group, which included company founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou and marketing director Tony Anderson, limited their sabotage to handing out 148 free EasyJet flights to grateful Go passengers.

A Bransonesque PR stunt? Undoubtedly. But that doesn't mean it was an empty gesture. In fact, it said a lot about how EasyJet thinks and operates - a very different type of company sitting at a crucial juncture in its three-year life.

Not only is EasyJet embroiled in a court action against BA - accusing it of illegally subsidising Go - but it is also expanding rapidly, and has spent [pounds]500m on 12 new aircraft. The airline plans to triple in size by the end of next year, taking it from a small airline with 450 staff and ten routes (an 11th, Belfast, is about to be launched), to a much weightier player. It also has plans for flotation.

All this is happening at a time when the budget airline concept is still relatively new in the UK and when the long-term impact of Go on competitors EasyJet, Debonair and Ryanair is still anybody's guess.

From the start, EasyJet has set out to reflect the no-nonsense transparent values of its brand in its internal culture. One of the principal challenges facing the company is going to be maintaining this culture as it gets bigger, when the hierarchies and power bases of larger companies tend to creep into even the most committed anti-establishment businesses.

Through the keyhole

To see how EasyJet lives up to its brand values, Marketing decided to go and have a look for itself. To make the exercise more scientific, we enlisted the help of Siamack Salari of ad agency BMP DDB - who is fast gaining a reputation for being the David Attenborough of the marketing world, In the same way as Attenborough studies gorillas from behind a banana tree, Salari lurks in the corners of shops, supermarkets and offices to observe Homo sapiens in his natural habitat.

BMP has formed a new division, called Culture Lab, from which Salari can do this, and blue-chip Clients ranging from B&Q and Esso to WH Smith are using his findings to improve their customer-facing strategies, from store design to staff training. His work is also proving popular outside the marketing community, with Channel 4 using his fly-on-the-supermarket-wall material in two series of the TV programme Shop Til You Drop.

For this project we sent him and his camera to EasyJet's Luton HQ - called Easy Land - for a week. He man-marked marketing director Tony Anderson, even driving into work with him and accompanying him on a business trip to Amsterdam. The result? A unique study of a company striving to keep its very different positioning and values consistent while going through periods of great change.

Down-to-earth culture

Anderson, who worked for BA before helping to found EasyJet in 1995, has set out to create a culture as diametrically opposed to BA's as possible. The emphasis is on making the company live up to its no-nonsense values by cutting out as much bureaucracy and internal hierarchies as possible.

Luckily for Anderson, his boss Haji-Ioannou, like many other energetic entrepreneurs, has a natural affinity with marketing and, from the outset, he wanted EasyJet's no-nonsense values reflected in the way it worked. The value of internal marketing is being widely recognised, and EasyJet has fully embraced it.

This has created a system of working which is brutally transparent in the way that information is shared between employees in all departments. …

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