BRANDING: LISTEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES
Leadership can take many forms and it may well be that your front-line staff have the clearest vision about your organisation’s brand and what it represents. By Annie Gray.
Leadership can take many forms and it may well be that your front-line staff have the clearest vision about your organisation’s brand and what it represents.
Hawaiian Airlines is a challenger brand in almost every market it operates in. It is less than half the size of its next smallest competitor and it faces tough competition in almost every market it flies to. It has built its brand strength around offering authentic and unique Hawaiian hospitality which helps it to stand out even when outspent on advertising by bigger competitors.
Avi Mannis, senior vice president of marketing for Hawaiian Airlines, told Management the airline is a premium destination airline, with “the privilege and responsibility of being the flagship carrier of the state”. He says while lots of airline brands are doing great things, Hawaiian sees itself as ambassadors of Hawaiian culture and they take that responsibility very seriously.
Hawai‘i is a premium leisure destination and leisure travel is an emotional journey as much as it is a physical one and for passengers on Hawaiian Airlines, their holiday in Hawai‘i begins the moment they board the aircraft. The airline aims to embed Hawaiian culture and values throughout the cabin design and service experience.
Mannis says the product they sell is not transportation, it is a change of mindset. “Anyone can fly a plane from A to B – the difference is the state of mind they create.
“We are very conscious of the fact that Hawai’i is our name and we represent a place. We have to be authentic.” Mannis points to the airline’s “terrific culture of hospitality” amongst employees.
“A lot of what we do with the brand is trying to express what our staff are thinking. What makes us different from the competition is our people.
“We are a reflection of the people who work for us and that is what we aspire to. The genuine connection our flight staff form with our guests is really important. They get hugs when they get off. That is a lot of do with the culture of Hawai’i and sharing aloha with guests.”
Mannis says Hawaiian is a “phenomenal” brand. Ten years ago it went through financial and organisational turbulence, but had, at its core, terrific people. They have since doubled the size of the business and been able to grow organically.
The airline is now in its 88th year of continuous service and flies to Hawai‘i
from 11 USA gateway cities and from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, China, American Samoa and Tahiti. It provides approximately 170 jet flights daily between the Hawaiian Islands, with a total of more than 250 daily flights system-wide.
It’s well represented on social media channels with more than one million Facebook and Twitter followers and Mannis sees social media as a great feedback mechanism that keeps brands honest about delivering on what they promise consumers. It’s also a platform for delivering responsive customer service. “When we can solve a guest’s issue over social media, quickly and with warmth and empathy, we reinforce our credibility with the entire community.”
As to the main risks to a brand and how can they be mitigated Mannis believes the biggest risk is promising something and not delivering it. Whatever level of service you offer, consumers want to engage with brands that have authentic voices and are true to themselves.
“It is front-line employees who deliver the brand, and it’s really critical for companies to listen to what the frontline thinks the brand is. It’s a lot easier to channel the beliefs and passion of the front-line into a truer expression of the brand than to convince thousands of people the brand is something different from what they believe.”
The airline has recently unveiled a refreshed brand and freshly painted livery updating Pualani (Flower of the Sky), the icon of Hawaiian’s brand for more than four decades.
“Our new livery embodies a stronger, more contemporary representation of Hawaiian Airlines’ culture of service and hospitality, which is the bedrock of our guest experience,” said president and CEO Mark Dunkerley in the airline’s publicity. “It acknowledges our place as Hawaii’s airline and underscores the commitment our employees make every day to provide our guests with a gracious and genuine island welcome.”
Painting of all aircraft and ground service equipment is scheduled to be complete by 2020.
Mannis says the aim was to “retain the essence of our brand and arrive at a bolder, truer expression of our unique Hawaiian hospitality”.
The new visual identity preludes the next chapter in Hawaiian’s history with the arrival of the medium-haul, single-aisle A321neo fleet later this year. It is the next step in a series of major investments Hawaiian has made to aircraft cabins, lounges, and other aspects of the customer experience over the past five years.
Hawaiian Airlines has also just celebrated its fourth anniversary of Auckland service and in that time more than 120,000 passengers have travelled on more than 500 flights from Auckland to Honolulu.
Dunkerley said in Auckland recently that prior to Hawaiian’s launch of threetimes weekly service, fewer than 26,000 New Zealand travellers visited Hawai‘i in 2012, according to Hawai‘i Tourism Authority figures. Following Hawaiian’s entry, visitor arrivals from Auckland nearly doubled to more than 50,000 in 2013 and topped 60,000 for the third straight year in 2016.
In December, Hawaiian introduced a Premium Cabin featuring 18 lie-flat seats in its A330 aircraft. These lie-flat leather seats fold into 180-degree beds. Aligned in a 2-2-2 configuration, the seats are tailored to leisure travellers such as couples, families and honeymooners, while also offering functionality for business travellers.
Passengers enjoy luxury amenities, world-class island cuisine prepared by Hawai‘i’s top chefs and access to movies and TV on a 13-inch widescreen tablet. The airline also increased ‘extra comfort’ seats to 68 from 40 to meet growing demand for its premium economy product. Premium cabin amenities were developed in collaboration with wellknown Hawaiian designer Sig Zane. Annie Gray travelled to Hawaii courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines.