Tuesday, May 12, 2009

AirAsia's forward-thinking marketing strategies key to success

It sponsors reality game show The Amazing Race Asia and F1 team AT&T Williams, recruits pilots through a blogging contest and stays in touch with customers via Facebook, Twitter and blog accounts.

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.


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."


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."


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)."

Malaysia flex their muscles

MALAYSIA enjoyed a good warm-up for today's AirAsia Asia Cup Group A battle with Japan by routing Bangladesh 7-1 in Kuantan yesterday.

Victory was easily achieved but Japan won't be as easy though all Malaysia need is a draw to secure their semi-final place.

Historically, Malaysia have never had it easy against Japan and the scenario is not expected to change in this crucial match.

Japan, after their 3-2 defeat to South Korea yesterday, need a win to make the last four and they can be expected to come out charging against Malaysia.

Malaysia coach Tai Beng Hai said he is expecting a tough match against the Japan side.
"They are a very disciplined side and based on ranking, we will start as underdogs in this match. Though we only need a draw, it will be wrong to play for it as it could backfire," said Beng Hai in Kuantan yesterday.

"We are going for a win tomorrow (today). The match today (yesterday) was a good warm-up and we managed to get the goals we wanted."

The Malaysians, after scoring seven goals in the opening 50 minutes, played at a lower gear after that to conserve energy for the Japan clash.

"I instructed my players to slow down their game as I did not want them to tire themselves.

"Overall, all of my players did well and I'm especially happy with the performance of Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin (Tengku Jalil) and Engku Malek Engku Mohd, who have just recovered from injuries."

Malaysia started aggressively and it took them only four minutes to open accounts through Mohd Shahrun Nabil's reverse stick attempt from the top of the D.

Azlan Misron added the second with a well taken field goal in the 13th minute before Chua Boon Huat followed up with a third, two minutes later.

The Malaysians were in full control and it was just a matter of time before they added more goals. Amin Rahim then increased the goal count with his trademark penalty corner flick in the 19th minute.

In the second half, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, who did not play against South Korea on Saturday, added two quick goals in the 39th and 43rd minutes.

Ismail Abu completed the rout in the 50th minute.

Bangladesh replied through Islam Zahidul, off a penalty corner setpiece, in the 28th minute, for his team's first international goal in a Class A match in two years.

Singapore Amex Card Holders Can Now Purchase AirAsia Tickets

11 May 2009

SINGAPORE -- From Monday onwards, American Express card members in Singapore can use their card to purchase the low-cost carrier AirAsia's tickets to enjoy its popular low fares.

AirAsia said the airline now accepted American Express cards for bookings both online and through its call centres and sales counters here.

The two companies announced here their partnership to offer consumer and corporate travellers more choices and value.

The announcement of the alliance was made by American Express Regional Vice President for Merchant Services, Peter Kapoor, and AirAsia Commercial Regional Head Kathleen Tan.

In line with the launch, American Express card members can enjoy flights from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Pulau Pinang, Langkawi and Kuching at a price as low as S$40, and S$68 for Bangkok, which are valid for bookings made from May 11 to May 17, and for travel from this June 1 to Jan 31 next year.

Malaysian holders of the card have benefited from similar arrangement when American Express and AirAsia announced their collaboration in Kuala Lumpur last month.

AirAsia wants to expand in Singapore

11 May 2009

AIRASIA is now the biggest low-cost carrier here operating 48 daily flights in and out of Singapore, says its group chief executive officer, Mr Tony Fernandes.

He wants to increase these to 60 by the end of this year when he expects to have more flights between Singapore and Penang.

New destinations in East Malaysia and the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula are also in the plan for AirAsia to continues its rapid growth in Singapore since last year, he says.

Mr Fernandes cites the integrated resorts in SIngapore as an example of the huge business potential for AirAsia and other budget airlines.

"But I think there must be more long-term planning for Changi Airport to cater to budget carriers," he says.

These carriers need more support from the airport to cut costs and solve other operational issues, he adds.

"There is no reason why we cannot do 100 flights per day. It is a volume game for us, but need low costs to offer low fares.

"We have a business model that is different from the model for full service airlines. You cannot treat all airlines the same way."

AirAsia recently won Skytrax's 2009 best low-cost airline award.

On May 7, it held the official launching ceremony for the Singapore-Langkawi daily flight from June 1, when it will also start a daily Singapore-Penang service and the daily eighth flight between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

To start the new service, it is offering a S$1 and a RM1 fare for flights from Singapore to Langkawi.

AirAsia's GoHoliday division is also offering its guests free rooms in its partner hotels in Langkawi. Go to goholiday.airasia.com to check out the special offer.

You can make bookings from May 7 till May 12.

The promotional first-come-first served airfare and free hotels rooms are subject to availability.