Magazine article Marketing

Easy Does It

Magazine article Marketing

Easy Does It

Article excerpt

In the first of a monthly series of Brand master interviews, Stelios Haji-loannou tells Danny Rogers about his back-to-basics philosophy and future plans for the Easy Empire

It was easy to spot Stelios when he walked into the throbbing EasyEverything cafe, because he looked like he owned the place. He stood proudly in the middle of his new venture, quietly observing the dozens of web suffers staring at their terminals.

Expecting the usual PR 'minder' and quiet office for the interview, I was surprised when he sat down at a small table among a melee of customers. He proceeded to clear away the mess of half-full coffee cups, clearly impatient to begin.

This down-to-earth, basic style is the Easy brand. Stelios may have homes in some of the most glamorous spots in the world, a yacht and sports car but as a businessman he walks it as he talks it-with no frills.

This year will be a turning point for Stelios. EasyJet, soon to be five years old and recently awarded Super-brand status, is due to float this year. He will accelerate diversification. Having launched EasyRentaCar earlier this month, he will shortly launch EasyMoney.com, a financial services site, and is planning Easy.com -- a portal site for bargains on the net.

Indeed, whatever your sector, it's advisable to keep an eye out for that garish orange glow. If your business is in any way complacent or inefficient, Stelios is ready to pounce.

Marketing posed the following questions:

Sum up your marketing philosophy

The no-bullshit approach!

Do you have a set marketing model for each business you launch?

You have to understand that I'm not a trained marketing professional. The shipping business was about big ugly oil tankers and there was little interaction with the consumer. So I'm a self-taught marketer if you like. I'm not sure that the philosophy and brand values of EasyJet are actually part of a philosophy and strategy that I laid down when I started.

Some people become successful because they identify with their target audience but that's a very limiting factor. The successful marketer is, say, one from Generation X who can sell to 60-year-olds. Travelling made me aware of the proliferation of no-nonsense brands.

Do you believe in market research?

Good market research can help you avoid pitfalls but I'm highly sceptical of focus groups because the answers are dependent on what you ask people in the first place. Consumers may not be able to visualise what you have in mind. For example: 'Do you want to be in a giant internet shop?' Answer: 'What is a giant internet shop?'

Does your marketing rely on the price message?

Quality is the most abused term in marketing. You should define what your customer expectations are and you do not compromise that. Beyond that it's price, price, price. It's pointless to say that people will pay more because my plane is orange. I couldn't claim that EasyJet was the most comfortable, most punctual airline or a 'new concept in flying' because you have to earn those stripes.

Whether something is added value -- whether people are prepared to pay more for it or not -- is a never-ending question. But what most companies do is bundle things. Your flight may offer a mint before landing, a hot towel and more leg room, but what value do people really put on these things? It's a difficult judgement call.

I wanted to establish EasyJet as a price leader in the John Lewis sense - 'never knowingly undersold' -- because people would trust the brand not to rip them off. There comes a time when people stop comparing prices. They just go back to the same company again and again because they know it's going to be the cheapest.

With the new proliferation of net-based ventures, isn't your price advantage now under serious threat?

Reducing your cost base is a never-ending process. …

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