Report: Emirates digital brand challenges top European airlines

August 27, 2014 1:08 pm

Emirates Airline ranks alongside top European competitors in a new Connected Brand Index of airlines released this month by global digital marketing agency iCrossing and its partner in the Middle East Sekari, a leading provider of search optimised content marketing. Emirates ranked fourth in the index of 10 major airlines in Europe and the Middle East.

The Index measured the digital performance of airline brands across a range of critical digital performance categories including brand visibility, engagement and service usability.

The top five best performing digital brands in the Index were Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM, Emirates and Turkish Airlines, with Qatar Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, Oman Air, Etihad Airways and Air France following in sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth place respectively.

Richard Dimitriou, Director, Strategy, iCrossing said: “There was little to choose among the top five brands, with all performing solidly across most categories. Lufthansa performed the most consistently across all five categories measured, while KLM was the clear leader for ‘Engagement’. The best performing brands overall were Lufthansa, British Airways and KLM with 6.9 points followed by the top contender from the Middle East, Emirates with 6.6 points.”

The Connected Brand Index analysed the activity and impact of each brand across Paid, Owned and Earned media, including websites and social networks. It measured 700 data points in five metrics intended to measure the brands success from a digital user’s perspective: Visibility, Usefulness, Usability, Desirability and Engagement. ?

“Emirates Airline performed well across most categories of the Index and ranked among the top three airline brands in Usefulness, Desirability and Engagement, but it was outranked significantly by the top three leaders in ‘Visibility’,” said Lee Mancini, managing director of Sekari. “This is absolutely not reflective of Emirates’ global brand visibility, but shows how the competition for eyeballs online goes beyond traditional offline big-hitting marketing plays such as sports sponsorships. Emirates has a clear opportunity to take its big brand status and do more to translate that to the global online audience.”

Overall, the top brands scored the highest in Usefulness, which evaluates how well a brand’s website caters to the needs of a customer throughout the customer lifecycle; and generally scored the lowest in Visibility, which reflects the brand’s competitiveness in Google and across social media platforms, and Usability, which measures how user-friendly a website is.

“The airline sector was one of the earliest investors in digital marketing and so it is no surprise that airlines are generally doing a good job at marketing their brands online,” said Dimitriou.

“However, there is room for airlines to improve the cohesion between their different online platforms and develop a unified, 360° strategy that focuses on brand touchpoints throughout the customer journey in both the offline and online world ”

iCrossing’s Connected Brand Index also identified an opportunity for European airlines to engage better with Arabic customers by appealing to them in their own language across the digital ecosystem. Many European airlines have yet to embrace this opportunity. Lufthansa, for example, flies to 10 Arabic-speaking destinations, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but doesn’t have an Arabic website. In general, Middle East-based airlines often offer more content in European languages than vice versa.

“In the past, online Arabic content was not deemed necessary by all airline brands,” said Mancini. “However, the Middle East is now one of the fastest growing markets for airlines globally and Arabic is not a language that brands can afford to ignore.”
The selection of brands analysed in the report was based on the user-generated results of the 2013 Skytrax World Airline Awards, with iCrossing selecting the top-10 rated international airlines (according to customer satisfaction) within Europe and the Middle East.