Short, Simple and Swedish

By Liz Kansier
Agency: Nasuti & Hinkle
Client: Icelandair
Category: 2002

The Situation New Competition in the Market: Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) was going to begin flying out of Washington Dulles. This addition to the Baltimore/Washington market was a potential threat to 20% of Icelandair's business, specifically to the Scandinavian destinations, out of Baltimore (BWI airport).

The Assignment On a Tight Budget: Convince travelers to choose Icelandair over SAS.

The Thinking And How We Arrived At It: SAS had an advertising budget four times the size of Icelandair's, their planes were larger and nicer, they had a partnership with United and a direct flight to Copenhagen (on Icelandair you have to stop over in Iceland). Icelandair couldn't compete on price because they had formed an anti-trust agreement with SAS that meant no price competition in the market.

Since we couldn't use an airline to airline comparison to build the strategy, we devoted account planning time to research, both formal and informal, to gain insight into the consumer and pased the strategy on that. We developed a short e-mail survey which questioned people about which airport and airline they would choose if price was not the determining factor. And obtained research studies and reports about travelers' airport experiences done by the airports themselves as well as relevant articles from different local news and travel sources.

The overwhelming majority of survey respondents highlighted the differences between a travelers' experiences at Dulles and BWI. As frequent travelers in the Baltimore/Washington market we were able to confirm the differences from our own experiences at the two airports. The disadvantages of flying from Dulles airport became clear, as did the advantages of flying from BWI.

Dulles only has satellite parking (which means a shuttle bus to the \"check-in\" terminal), no flights actually leave from the \"check-in\" terminal so travelers must take a shuttle bus to their departure terminal and often there is even another shuttle bus to the actual plane. BWI has a parking garage adjacent to the airport, departure gates all in the main building, its own dedicated international check-in area and fewer international passengers traveling overall.

This account planning research led us to our strategy — identifying the disadvantages of traveling to Scandinavia on SAS from Dulles airport as competitive advantages of flying to Scandinavia on Icelandair from BWI.

The Target Narrowing it Down: Because we had the same target audience, but one-quarter of the budget that SAS had, we targeted only the highest potential segments of the target audience.

We chose: Natives of Scandinavia who were currently living in the US. They frequently travel back \"home\" for work or to visit. These Scandinavians specifically lived in what we identified as \"swing areas\" — areas where, based on census and chamber of commerce data, the majority of native Scandinavians lived that were relatively equidistant to either airport. Travel agents in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia who specialized in selling Scandinavian travel.

The Media Culture Match: Our insight into the culture of the target helped define our media strategy. Studies and research information on Europeans living in the US showed us that Scandinavians were more likely to take public transportation than native-born Americans. We spoke to members of our target audience about their preferences in radio and other mediums. After evaluating all the different mediums based on the culture of our target and the information we collected, and considering our client's limited budget, it was clear that outdoor and radio were the most cost efficient ways to reach them. Both metro (subway) car cards and bus back buys could be tailored to the \"swing areas.\" And we could target radio stations and programs based on the preferences our target had identified. For our secondary target, we obtained lists of the agencies and developed a direct mail campaign.

Since we knew SAS would be launching the different components of their multi-media campaign all at once time, we staggered the car cards, bus backs, and radio over the length of celandair's campaign so that there was media running at all times over three months.

The Creative Short, Simple and Swedish: We had already identified through our initial account planning efforts that our strategy was to highlight the disadvantages of traveling from Dulles. It was important for the creative to strike a chord with our Scandinavian target, so we researched advertising done in Scandinavian countries. Scandinavian ads often have cartoon-like illustrations in their visuals. We hired a Swedish cartoonist, to develop a cartoon character for us. \"Sven\" appeared in all of our outdoor and direct mail executions, each highlighting one Dulles disadvantage. The radio spots highlighted the Dulles disadvantages through oddball characters we created. Since we discovered that Swedish was spoken in most Scandinavian countries, we produced a radio spot and two outdoor executions entirely in Swedish. The direct mail campaign was a series of comic strips that depicted exaggerated situations a travel agent might encounter if he sent his client on SAS rather than Icelandair.

The Results Exceeded All Expectations: The campaign not only preserved 20% of Icelandair's Baltimore business, it increased it by 4% to 5% over what it had been prior to the start of the campaign.