The UK Airline Market
It’s just over 20 years since low-cost airlines transformed UK air travel. Long-standing brands, once synonymous with air travel’s glamour and prestige, found their positions under attack from carriers who stripped back the frills and battled on price.
In 2016, budget brand Easyjet carried far more passengers than any other UK airline, flying over 63 million people to their destinations. Second placed British Airways flew around 42 million. However, their operating revenues tell a different story. In 2013/14, BA’s operating revenues were more than double those of EasyJet.
While both these companies run airlines, they clearly take a very different approach. What role does brand equity play in the way that they, and other airlines, reach their market?
How to Measure Brand Equity
It’s no secret that there’s more to a brand than its logo. Each time we encounter a brand – by seeing it, hearing about it or experiencing it – we build up a sense of what that brand is about. Some brands make us feel good. Others… don’t. But our perception matters because it affects our readiness to buy. We call this Brand Equity.At Vision One, we know that understanding brand equity is only half the story. The other half is knowing how to improve it. But you can’t do one without the other, and that means measuring brand equity in order to take the next step.In this case study, we look at how British Airways’ brand equity shapes up using Vision One’s Brand Equity Wheel. We all know it’s one of the world’s leading airlines, but by measuring its brand equity, we can start to see where future opportunities lie.
The Brand Equity Wheel
The Brand Wheel is at the hub of Brand Equity measurement and comprises of four key themes:
- The Brand Pyramid (or brand funnel) reflects the theoretical journey towards building a strong brand relationship & brand loyalty.
- Brand Stature reflect the uniqueness and leadership within the market.
- Brand Delivery reflects the ability to satisfy customers and generate brand recommendations.
- Brand Utility is arguably the most important and identifies the rational and emotional needs in the market and how brands perform in terms of adding value.
British Airways achieves a strong Brand Equity rating of 63pts. This is largely due to a strong performance on Brand Pyramid and it’s ability to command a price premium. Despite it’s brand strength British Airways is surpassed by both Emirates and Virgin Atlantic because it’s lack of a unique brand identity and a weakness in terms of delivering against customers’ needs and values.
The Brand Pyramid
The Brand Pyramid is often seen as one of the most important measures of Brand Equity. It is made up of 5 key metrics:
- Brand Awareness
- Brand Consideration
- Usage (Purchase Behaviour)
- Customer Satisfaction
- Customer Loyalty
Every brand has a unique brand structure. Comparisons with key competitors will help identify future opportunities. British Airways has a strong Brand Pyramid. Compared with other leading brands (Emirates, Virgin), Satisfaction is lower than expected.
Meeting Rational And Emotional Needs
For any brand to be successful and carve a name for itself within any market it needs to meet customer needs and deliver against customer needs. Vision One have identified the 26 most important needs. In most markets, brands needs to deliver against the top 5 needs….
Customer values and needs are dominated by rational needs for airlines – Saving time, Value and Convenience topping the table.
EasyJet (62) is the airline which best delivers customer value – particularly strong on (good) value and the emotional need of belonging Ryanair although known for offering good value, fails to deliver any real brand value to passengers In contrast, British Airways (51) delivers Long-lasting, Appeal, Quality and Variety values.
Added Value (£)
Most brand owners believe strong brands can command a price premium. Our Added Value metric uniquely adds a monetary aspect to our Brand Equity evaluations. This is a KPI that helps identify the ability of a brand to command a premium price – i.e. a brand customers would potentially be happy to pay more for.
The Emirates, one of the world’s most profitable airlines appears to be the brand that most people would pay more. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are some distance behind but as expected well above the budget airlines of EasyJet and Ryanair.
Brand Stature comprises of two key components. Brand Differentiation which is universally regarded by brands as a fundamental component of any brand and reflect the ability of the brand to standout from the crowd. Leadership is key and reflects the stature of the brand – as many shoppers will tend to follow conventional wisdom and buy ‘big’ brands.
Emirates and Virgin Atlantic achieve high levels of brand differentiation – but British Airways lags and fails to strongly differentiate itself in a highly competitive market (although it is clearly seen as a leading brand.