Over 200,000 passengers pass through Heathrow Airport on any given day.

Other large airports, including Atlanta International and Beijing Capital, welcome even more.

When you think about it from a brand perspective, that’s a lot of potential eyes to capture. Also taking into consideration the fact that the majority of travellers arrive at the airport in a spending mind-set - ready and willing to eat, drink, and shop whilst there – it’s not surprising more and more brands are considering how they can target people in this unique environment.

Here’s a run-down of how brands are using airports, and how these kinds of campaigns can create a big impact, even long after passengers leave the space.

Made.com’s Schiphol lounge

Airport waiting areas are notoriously uncomfortable – a fact which certainly doesn’t help when flights are delayed. For interior design brand, Made.com, this scenario has offered up a unique opportunity to promote its own (much comfier) furniture.

It launched a unique campaign in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, setting up lounge spaces in strategic areas where passengers are likely to linger. Not only does the furniture serve a functional purpose for travellers looking for in-the-moment comfort, but it also offers the unique opportunity to try out Made.com products – which would otherwise only happen if they were to visit brand’s showroom. 

As a largely online retailer, with just a few select physical locations, this type of customer interaction is invaluable for Made.com. It instils desire for the products as well as fulfils the need to test furniture in real life, taking away the associated worry about buying furniture online.

For Schiphol, of course, the campaign also has its benefits, allowing the airport to modernise and refresh its space to enhance the experience for travellers. 

Virgin Atlantic’s experiential igloo

While many airlines use airport lounges to further existing loyalty of first class travellers, others use them for marketing purposes, with flashy and shareable experiential elements designed to target new potential customers. 

Take Virgin Atlantic’s clubhouse lounge, for example, which boasts an outdoor deck and rooftop. This is not necessarily desirable during the winter months, of course, which is why Virgin collaborated with London’s Coppa Club restaurant to install one of their famous igloos on it last December.

Virgin’s press release read: “Customers will now be amongst the lucky few to experience the fashionable pop up for a highly shareable selfie in this unique location.” Up to eight guests could enjoy food and drink in the heated igloo before their flight, complete with a view of the runway.

Undeniably then, part of the aim was to generate social media noise, with the airline clearly hoping that the experience would be ‘Insta-worthy’ enough to go viral – and pique the interest of travellers looking for a luxury experience before they even take off. 

As well as increased exposure, the campaign also aimed to enhance loyalty for existing customers who visited, leaving them with a memorable experience (and a greater connection to the brand) as a result.

UnionPay's Chinese New Year campaign

Luxury retail is thriving, and according to data from McKinsey, Chinese consumers are driving this trend. This group accounted for nearly one third of all luxury purchases in 2016.

However, language can still be a big barrier for global brands attempting to target this group, with English perhaps less likely to resonate if used in brand communication.

A partnership between payment processing company Union Pay and Schiphol airport shows the benefits of marketing to travellers in their native language. In celebration of Chinese New Year, UnionPay erected large digital screens in the airport to welcome travellers (in their own language) arriving from China. The campaign also involved mobile, in-flight, and lounge promotions.

 

According to Schiphol, sales per day during the campaign period rose by 46% compared to 2016, and the average spend per passenger increased by 15%. By the end of the campaign, UnionPay’s transaction turnover had also improved by over 177%. 

By tailoring their campaign to a specific consumer group (in accordance with a big event), Union Pay managed to create a highly personal campaign. It would be interesting to know whether sales would have been much lower if the brand communication was indeed in English, as well as other factors like brand recall and sentiment. Regardless, as the resulting uplift shows, the campaign certainly hit the spot for Chinese travellers.

HSBC’s ‘Together We Thrive’ refresh

HSBC is a familiar sight for many UK travellers. It was the very first brand to make use of ad space along jet bridges in Heathrow airport, having launched its first ad campaign back in 2001. 

Recently, HSBC announced that it is to refresh its presence in 17 different airports around the world, re-launching its ‘Together We Thrive’ campaign with new and globally-focused creative ads. It has also announced that the campaign will target passengers in moments other than their walks to and from the plane.

The new ads will focus on HSBC’s business priorities, including trade, education, diversity and sustainability. Ads are selected to go in specific airports (and routes) based on what type of passengers are likely to see them - e.g. business travellers or holidaymakers - as well as to be in keeping with what’s relevant to local markets. 

According to HSBC, the ads will be seen by approximately 900 million people this summer alone.

But do people really take notice of ads like this, especially in moments where their attention is more likely to be on getting to the gate or passport control? 

To some extent, it seems they do, but in order to increase impact and recall, HSBC has also decided to expand the campaign elsewhere in airports, recognising the opportunity to engage travellers at multiple touchpoints. It will use digital ads in main airport terminals to reach people as they eat and shop, and these screens will also point travellers to the HSBC app, as well as travel-related content including destination guides.

With airport advertising space predicted to increase in value in the next few years, it looks to be even more intrinsic to HSBC's global strategy going forward.

For more on brand and creative, check out 2018's Festival of Marketing, October 10-11 in London.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 19 July, 2018 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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