Today’s leading airlines use original content to inform, entertain, build connections to passengers beyond their journeys, define and refine their brands, and generate a reliable revenue stream in what some propose could become a standalone business. Beyond this, leading airlines have developed platforms built on passengers’ own content through social shares and gaming, making their customers the most vibrant content producers and converting that content into a strong—and free—media asset.
For many years, rich airline content was confined to the cabin, with advertisers benefiting from what was perceived to be a captive audience. This is a characterization which one of the experts we spoke to disputes, calling it a misnomer. The reasons for his objection reveal a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics at play in passengers’ minds when they are entertained on the journey. Whatever the semantics on this, it is indisputable that there is now nothing captive about airline content consumers. The traditional content model has changed, escaping the confines of the jet. Airlines today experiment with a variety of content platforms and media, and using content to engage loyal customers and potential customers in the air and on the ground.
Content cross-over helps merge the airlines’ traditional print magazines, digital editions, airline blogs, content for apps, and content shared on social media platforms into a holistic assortment of media properties which grab and hold the interest of an active, adventurous mobile audience eager to go places. Airlines have tapped into new opportunities with special events, which generate still more content, and forge more brand partnerships, further refining the brand. Some are now getting their passengers actively involved, encouraging them to produce, develop and share their own content which is free, enriches the airline, provides valuable feedback and data, and, again, gives partners an opportunity to reach the airline’s fan base. It is no wonder that some tell us that these divisions of the airline could easily become stand-alone businesses, even more successful as stand-alone businesses than loyalty programs have been, with none of the drawbacks. If indeed content is king on the ground, in the air it is an effective way to build a brand empire.