In 2017, the IATA expects global airline businesses to make a profit of $29.8 billion, which represents more than a 4% profit margin. Despite the concerns that airline fares would decline because of economic uncertainty, these are really exciting growth expectations and a testament to the strength of the industry. This industry strength presents an opportunity for airline brands to grow the market share and boost loyalty among existing customers.
Airlines are expected to make a $29.9 billion profit in 2017, says @IATA
Airlines are known to go through a series of complex adjustment periods as a result of internal restructuring and developing partnerships. Preserving the strength of the brand, while increasing engagement with existing and new customer bases is critical to the company’s growth.
Many airlines are stepping up their marketing efforts by developing their digital channels with a singular focus on the customer. For many, this means transforming disjointed campaigns and one-off interactions into a cohesive digital strategy that strengthens the brand. This requires deep personalization and consistency across every touchpoint that extends anywhere in the world.
Digital Asset Management (DAM) is the technology many airlines are deploying to start the journey of such transformation. Let’s take a closer look:
What is Digital Asset Management?
DAM is a technology solution that helps marketing teams organize, manage and share large collections of brand assets, content, photos, videos, and other rich media files (digital assets) across their entire organization and beyond to partners and agencies. To explain how this works, we can think of an analogy. In the airline business, hubs are airports that accept and process the vast majority of passenger traffic and conduct a high percentage of flight operations. Not so obvious is another kind of “hub” operating behind the scenes:
Digital asset management is a central marketing hub that enables airlines to more effectively use visual media and content at all touchpoints to inspire potential customers to engage with a particular airline.
When an airline incorporates a digital asset management solution into its business operations, this technology becomes the single control center for the management and distribution of all digital content and brand assets. This central repository is critical to the businesses’ ability to implement a customer-focused digital strategy that’s consistent across all touchpoints. All brand, content and visual assets are located in a centralized platform that becomes the single source of truth and removes the risk of using outdated logos, and expired content or visuals.
Content and visuals are tagged and carry metadata, which not only makes it easily searchable, but also increases reuse and reduces costs. Metadata and tagging the entire content and brand library is critical to the process of digital transformation and connecting all other digital channels to this central hub.
From social & email, to e-commerce & demand generation, the marketing team can use these assets to efficiently create effective campaigns. Let’s take a look at a few examples of ways DAM is helping airlines:
For airlines, there is no physical product to sell, and instead, they provide customers with safe, reliable, and pleasant air transportation services. In addition, effective marketing requires airlines work with local tourism boards, marketing agencies, and for various reason, many undergo mergers and acquisitions during their lifetime. With such a complex set of business models, airlines have to pay special attention to branding practices.
Airlines vary greatly in size across the world and operate in a wide variety of ranges from local charter services to full-blown international flights that run 24/7. These realities mean that airlines benefit from partnering with local tourism businesses to encourage and incentivize customers to select their brand when they fly.
With a DAM solution, airline marketing teams create and own a central media library to hold and organize all of their digital assets. When a local tourism branch needs access to an item, that office doesn’t need to request items from the airline’s marketing team. Instead, all worldwide satellite or partner offices can be set up with direct access to the DAM, and only see and use assets that have been approved for them, based on permissions and controls set by a central admin team.
Some airlines choose their DAM solution at the recommendation of the ad or branding agency they use. DAM isn’t just for storage in these cases. The solution helps employees in both the airline and the agency access the most up to date digital assets when they need them and then share whenever needed. With instant access like this to the correct assets, adhering to brand guidelines becomes a streamlined process, and ultimately, the airline DAM admin team can keep a close eye on all uses and distribution of the corporate brand. What’s more, DAM solutions often come integrated into marketing tools airline teams are already using. Adobe InDesign, for instance, can integrate a direct link to a DAM, which allows employees to have full access to all digital assets while continuing to work from within the tools the prefer. Office 365, the Adobe Suite, and Drupal are other common examples of tools that can link directly to a DAM solution.
Acquisitions & Mergers
In the midst of acquisitions and mergers, airlines need to be able to maintain the integrity of the brand while incorporating new employees and policies into the business. When two organizations come together, a transition period naturally occurs where the new combined brand needs to be clarified and protected. A DAM gathers assets into one place, crystallizes which assets are the most up to date, and allows employees across organizations to access brand assets that represent the future rather than the past.
Building Trust with Customers
Because airline businesses offer a service rather than a tangible product, they need to convince customers that their choice will result in a particular kind of experience. Essentially, airlines sell experiences. No matter the size or geographic area of coverage of service, photographs, videos, and many other types of rich media are becoming incredibly important to airline marketing.
Communicating with customers using powerful visuals organized and accessed with a DAM allows people to see with their own eyes what the airline stands for and what service it provides. The experience communicated and sold needs to build a sense of trust in the customer toward that airline’s brand, and the key to doing that is using DAM technology to create consistent messaging that actually matches the experience people have when flying on planes and interacting with staff at airport checkpoints and gates.
Solidifying a Strong Airline Brand
Selecting a DAM that fits an airline’s specific needs will help that business with complex branding scenarios as described above. A DAM acts a hub for assets that fuel all brand channels, and becomes indispensable to the entire marketing team, streamlining their content creation, content usage, and collaboration with international teams. It also works as a first stepping stone towards a scalable digital transformation, removing team siloes, bringing structure and organization into the entire content library and enabling extensive integrations into the MarTech infrastructure.
Example: China Southern Airlines
Before choosing a DAM, Asia’s largest airline, China Southern Airlines, handled all of their digital assets with an outdated portal. This portal stored all of their photos and videos, but it was slow and searches were always inefficient. Since 2000, China Southern Airlines has been dominating the domestic Chinese market and recently expanded internationally to continue fueling accelerated growth. Consistent branding, powerful visual content and seamless team collaboration have been instrumental in scaling China Southern Airlines’ dominant market share.
With 15 branch companies, 6 subsidiaries and 25 branch offices within China alone and 64 overseas offices, the airline needed a safe, central location to store and manage all of their rapidly growing images, videos, brand guidelines, logos and other digital assets and seamlessly connects to their entire digital eco-system.
After much research, they chose a cloud-based DAM that allowed them to easily find the assets they were looking for as well as share those assets directly with external partners. Every user across the world now has independent access to assets that are subject to permissions and approvals for uploading, downloading, cataloguing, tagging, sharing, searching, and editing, and the admin team has sole ownership over analytics for all asset use.
With DAM, China Southern Airlines:
- Saves time by helping users find the assets they need faster,
- Reduces costs by ensuring that assets are not misused or lost,
- Enjoys instant access to individual assets through high-powered search,
- Provides the admin team with greater control over the corporate brand,
- And has created a collection for preserving and using the entire corporate digital asset collection.
Interested in getting started with DAM? We’ve put together a comprehensive guide that includes needs assessment, specific steps and success stories for Digital Asset Management Initiative.