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But, Will More Passengers Fly?

This article from MediaPost brilliantly questions the credibility of the Cathay Pacific “People. They Make an Airline.” campaign. More than that, it raises an important question: is there anything airlines can say in the current atmosphere of squeezing paying passengers into every inch and squeezing every dollar from every paying “guest”. The answer, of course, is an emphatic “NO.” And the solution might be for airlines (legacy airlines, that is — the new, groovy Porter and JetBlue airlines are of course exempt from any criticism) to simply not try — take the money that would be spent on brand advertising and spend it on, for instance, a second mini-pack of mini-pretzels. While not likely to generate viral buzz about the elaborate generosity of the airline, it might just make a few “guests” a little less testy. Which would be good for everybody.

But, it’s clear from looking at the Cathay Pacific website that the campaign has nothing to do with building the airline brand or getting bums on seats. The campaign is an example of the latest and greatest marketing fad: “internal branding,” or, as HR people call it, motivating demotivated people without actually addressing their needs.

Annie, Carmine, Christine, Darminee and the rest of the gang are sure to feel special having their pics and bios on the website (and the expensive photography is a testament to creative boondoggling, as well). But is this really going to make a difference to how they truly behave toward the public and their internal associates? Probably not — in fact, the reverse may be true: as specially selected examples of people making an airline they will surely feel more special than their larger, less photogenic, older, peers.

Which brings me to the next and final point: it is disingenuous and quite frankly offensive that Cathay Pacific have only young, attractive, clear skinned, slender employees (except for senior pilots who are older, distinguished, attractive, clear skinned men). Rather than humanize the airline, this stuff actually makes the airline seem Stepford Wife-like, superficial…you know, all that stuff.

MediaPost Publications Cathay Pacific Campaign Humanizes Its Employees. Will More Passengers Fly? 01/05/2012.

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