While this is not a big news out and about, but one of India’s most reputed aviation journalist reports in the Mint today, that Air Vistara is all set to get Deepika Padukone as their first brand ambassador.
Err, weren’t the days of using celebrities dead for advertising airlines? I know Etihad has Nicole Kidman, Emirates has Jennifer Aniston, Turkish has Messi. Etihad in fact had Katrina Kaif before, Deepika herself was a brand ambassador for Kingfisher Airlines before, Shahrukh Khan was holding the pom-poms for Jet Airways, and so on. But I ran out of examples counting on one hand about the number of times Brand Ambassadors have been signed on for airlines.
A friend argued this morning, on Facebook, and I’ll reproduce the discussion for you (highlighting the important point for you):
Him: But Etihad does this all the time and no one complains. They have or have had Katrina Kaif, Nicole Kidman, Danii Minogue, Patrick Vieira, etc.
Me: Etihad is not operating in the price sensitive category/market. They are trying to sell their premium products which are genuinely groundbreaking. Decisions in economy are made with network/loyalty/convenience/price in mind (all factors may not work for all people). Vistara grossly overestimated the premium market in India, and now having to downsize the premium fleet. Also, Etihad has no limitations on resources. Vistara is burning through capital by making through these investments and also still keeping fares low.
The key point I’m trying to make is that a brand ambassador perhaps does not matter in the domestic market. My parents, my wife, everyone wanted to try out Vistara and they did. But no one asked me for Vistara ever after that. They could not see the difference at the back of the plane. And I have similar feedback from other flyers. A friend and a frequent flyer on Vistara once commented a few weeks ago, “They are just another airline.” The curiosity about Vistara is fading, and by now, a lot of frequent flyers have decided if they like the product or not. In face, the wow factor seems to have gone down already.
What do we look in India for air travel? I attempt to put a list, and where Vistara works and where it does not:
- Product: I forgot this when I was scribbling back for my friend on Facebook, but different people can do with different kind of products. It is all about the value they see in the product, which is also a function of price. For most people in India, they look at Price, and this is a mentality Jet Airways is trying to refocus with the #getmore focus of their campaign.
- Network: Vistara, at this moment, works for Delhi NCR residents. Period. No one else can use them as their primary carrier, for a simple reason, India is a point to point market, and most flights would be within the 3 hour timespan. So people don’t want to really jump around flights, especially when Indian airports don’t allow you to stay within the Secure Holding Area and you need to do a security check after every flight to get on the next one. Can I depend on them for my frequent flights to Bangalore from Mumbai or to Goa, no. Hence, they need to expand their network ASAP before they can spend the marketing dollars to get the message out for people.
- Convenience: Why don’t I fly Vistara between Mumbai and Bangalore? Eh, simple. My flights are usually decided at 5 pm the night before I need to fly to Bangalore and it goes late evening the same evening. On the return, it comes back into Mumbai in the morning. Heck, I can’t get a business day in Bangalore when I fly the night before and I come back two days later (assuming I need a full day in Bangalore). This is increased cost, and reduced convenience. So, a lot of people similarly won’t go out of their way to fly Vistara just because Deepika Padukone is their ambassador. They’d fly them if it fits their schedule, which it does not for anyone who isn’t based in Delhi. Mumbai is slot constrained right now, and can’t be developed as a hub for Vistara, while they might get some more slots in Bangalore.
- Price: Remember the day Vistara launched? A Delhi – Mumbai ticket in Economy on the launch flight was selling for approximately INR 12K a few minutes after they went live. They hoped people would pay for their premium experience. Now, they sell more or less in line with the market to be able to fill the planes. It is not uncommon to find sub INR 4K fares from Mumbai to Delhi on most carriers, Vistara included. And this is less than a week out right now.
- Loyalty: Loyalty entrenches. But the reason I put it last on the list is because Price is the loyalty for Indian flyers. The business travellers however pay to stick with a carrier most of the times, and in those cases, they need to be able to see uses of those miles or points they accrue. Right now, I don’t love the Vistara loyalty program a lot, like I’ve explained before.
I don’t think that having Deepika as a brand ambassador would help them much. Airlines are a matter of habit, and some are a bigger habit over the others. For most people, Indigo is their favourite carrier because they don’t expect much, and their expectations are managed with usually on time performance and clean planes. However, they position themselves as a low-cost carrier, while they charge the same as a full-service carrier, and people still fill up their planes every day. Indigo never had a brand ambassador. They only inculcated a belief, which helps them being India’s largest carrier at the moment.
Do you think you’d be pulled to fly Vistara more often due to Deepika Padukone? Answer the poll below:
Would you fly Vistara if Deepika Padukone was their brand ambassador
- No (77%, 27 Votes)
- Yes (23%, 8 Votes)
Total Voters: 35