Air New Zealand makes a fascinating company anniversary case study. A brand that has reinvented itself several times over the course of its seventy-five years, it recently turned in an all-star corporate anniversary marketing campaign that spoke deeply to their brand purpose and stayed true to their core audiences.
Air New Zealand identifies its core brand purpose as “liberating travellers from the ordinary”. Much of their business is long-haul travel, with 70% of travellers using the airline for that purpose. As a company, they work hard to root their culture in an experience that is uniquely Kiwi. Due to their own corporate history, the airline approached its 75th anniversary having done a lot of deep thinking about their brand and brand story.
The early 2000s had been a difficult time for the airline. The airline was in financial troubles due to their ownership of Ansett, an Australian airline. Severe business problems forced the liquidation of Ansett, resulting in Air New Zealand announcing losses of approximately $1 billion USD. The New Zealand government nationalized the airline and attempted to rebrand as a low-cost carrier. Unfortunately, the economics of a budget carrier didn’t mesh well with the core business of long-haul travel; Air New Zealand needed to radically rethink their services. Key to the reboot? Moving from a concept of services or product to an ethos of delivering an experience unique to not only the airline, but the country of New Zealand. It revolutionized their thinking.
In essence, the goal was to deliver this ‘experience’ before actually arriving in New Zealand. The carrier realised they were no longer selling tickets, but were acting as a gateway to one of the world’s most inspiring destinations and, with this goal came the understanding that – as gatekeeper to the New Zealand brand – they could hold a competitive advantage that couldn’t be copied or matched by any other operator in its territory.
– Better By Design
Any company anniversary marketing must be congruent with the company’s brand story. A corporate anniversary is a key opportunity to develop the company brand story. Air New Zealand recognized that their core brand story was bigger than just a plane ride. It was about the whole experience of visiting New Zealand. This concept played into all of their company anniversary marketing.
The company developed a high-quality, hardcover book that combined contemporary design with a visual feast of archival photography. The book was targeted towards an external audience, with copies available at bookshops and tourist destinations throughout the island. The target market? People who wanted a souvenir of their trip.
The Flash Sale
The company celebrated their anniversary by hosting in-person events in targeted cities. Heavily discounted tickets were made available to 75 visitors to selected travel agents amidst a party atmosphere of entertainment and games. Participants were invited to drive the conversation online using the hashtag #AirNZ75.
The Museum Exhibit
The Auckland Museum is one of New Zealand’s premiere cultural centres, acting as a war memorial as well as a repository of Kiwi heritage and history. Air New Zealand sponsored a year-long retrospective exhibit, which was eventually extended, dedicated to an experiential telling of the Air New Zealand story. Featuring archival images, objects and interviews, the exhibit dug into Air New Zealand as a unique representative of its country.
All three aspects of their corporate anniversary marketing work to focus on the experience of flying Air New Zealand and how it is a representation of Kiwi culture. The campaign was also laser-focused on passengers. Each aspect worked to build brand loyalty to Air New Zealand and underlined their brand promise of “liberating travellers from the ordinary”. This is the key to successful anniversary marketing. A company must fundamentally understand their story and create experiences that engage with their key audiences. When designing your campaign, think about where your audience is – and start there.
Images courtesy of Air New Zealand and their archives.