AirAsia's quirky means of promotion has certainly helped make the airline a household name. Yet, barely eight years ago when it began operations, AirAsia had just two planes and a host of obstacles - Sars and the Sept 11 terrorist attacks included - preventing it from taking off.
Today, the Malaysia-based budget airline boasts a fleet of 80 aircraft that ply over 122 routes, with 480 flights to more than 65 destinations daily.
Group CEO Tony Fernandes has been instrumental in building the AirAsia brand. Known for its strong marketing and branding culture, AirAsia was recognised as one of Malaysia's 30 Most Valuable Brands in 2008, and also made it to US-based business magazine Fast Company's top 50 list of most innovative companies in the world last year.
THE BOLD AND THE CREATIVE
Explaining the reason behind AirAsia's strong marketing culture, Kathleen Tan, its regional head of commercial, said: "Marketing reflects brand attitude and personality. We're bold, inspired and we encourage out-of-the-box thinking. We do things differently and do not submit to mediocrity."
She revealed that AirAsia's creative marketing input comes not only from its marketing team, but from staff, including pilots, engineers and ground crew.
She said: "When somebody comes up with a pioneering idea, we don't shoot it down and say: 'Oh, that's unconventional.' Instead, we play with the idea and find the best way to employ it to advance our brand or introduce new products and services."
CONQUERING THE WORLD
In 2007, the new low-cost, long-haul affiliate of AirAsia was launched. Called AirAsia X, the first flight was from Kuala Lumpur to Gold Coast, Australia. In March this year, AirAsia X made its first flight to London, with the one-way fare as low as US$218 (RM784.4) .
Flights to Langkawi and Penang were announced recently, while plans are underway to fly to Taiwan.
To promote its brand and services to these locales, one marketing strategy AirAsia uses is brand association.
Tie-ups with some of the biggest global organisations - such as Manchester United Football Club - allow AirAsia to be associated with other brands "which add personality and ups the airline's cool factor", according to Ms Tan.
She added: "We're building our brand into the international market and brand association with the best global names help us. Such a branding strategy will instill trust and confidence in AirAsia as a leading player in the industry."
BUILDING A BRAND TAKES YOU A LONG WAY
Last September, after Mr Fernandes attended three business conferences, he wrote on his blog: "The value of a brand is hard to quantify and investment in a brand is always hard to justify, but the last few weeks showed me how important it is and how our investment over the last six years has paid off handsomely."
He explained that after attending these conferences, he realised that AirAsia has since become synonymous with low cost travel.
"When we need to make new contacts, look for finances and build new relationships, it's much easier because everyone knows AirAsia. So, the extra revenue, time and cost savings can arise by promoting your brand," he wrote.
And that is why AirAsia has no plans to cut its marketing budget despite the downturn. On the contrary, Ms Tan says AirAsia sees the recession "as an opportunity for us to pull ahead of other airlines".As Mr Fernandes said in the same blog post: "Don't worry about (the) economic slowdown. The best time to build a brand is when everyone else is cutting (their marketing budgets)."