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How SWOOP disrupted the airline industry

On Feb 1st Westjet announced that their ultra low cost carrier sub brand, Swoop would begin servicing markets in Canada with fares as low as $7.50 one-way for flights between BC and Ontario between June 20 – Dec 15, 2018 with blackouts on long weekends. No misplaced decimal in that statement, yes a $7.50 fare, not $750.

Naturally the news spread like wildfire.

The catch is, for this rate category they must be booked by Feb 4  and they use secondary airports in Abbotsford and Hamilton to serve the Vancouver and Toronto markets. After Feb 4, fares will range from $39, $69 and $99 one-way, for flights serving Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax, Abbotsford and Hamilton. The same June 20 – Dec 15 flight window and long weekend blackout will apply. Swoop will sell tickets at this rate up to 10,000 seats sold, with 6 weekly flights in these markets, served by a dedicated fleet of 10 Boeing 737’s. The model is based on other ultra low carrier option popular in Europe, where options are stripped down. The price is for a seat on the plane with a safe and courteous carrier. Seat selection, carry on bags, checked bags, entertainment and food are all paid options which can be added or not. Link HERE to check out their website.

Swoop the “disruptor”

The Swoop model is an industry disruptor. Aimed solidly at millennial and the price sensitive traveler looking for value, they have disrupted all 4 P’s of the marketing mix.

Product: Stripped down, but safe, reliable and fun. Nobody else in the market is offering that. If you think it sounds similar to Southwest Airlines or how Westjet originally entered the Canadian market, you’d be right. They had one kind of plane, the 737, so they had maintenance and training for only one fleet, they flew initially to low or no landing fee airports, they selected destination with high demand only, and pioneered the no food, and online booking/check-in model, downloading tasks to consumers, not paid suppliers. Westjet employees have ownership in the company, and therefore the staffing costs can be lower. The same model will no doubt be used for Swoop.

Price: Swoop has a low cost model as noted above, which allows they to price offerings exceptionally low and still achieve a profit.

Place: Otherwise known as distribution. By selecting only high demand cities to serve, and keeping landing fees low, they achieve competitive advantage against others.

Promotion: More on this in a moment when we look at how they got the announcement out, but suffice it say early indications are Swoop will have the same irreverent approach as Westjet, with positioning statements such as, “Spend the savings on yourself,” or “Fares so low they’re not making an cents.” After earning a lot of media, and strategically paying for components of the launch, they have earned word of mouth quickly and have started to build their database on the website.

How Swoop spread their message

There are 3 reasons people share content: (1) To be entertained, (2) To be informed, (3) To be on the inside circle. Entertainment content usually stirs an emotion – something funny or sad. Think about it. All those videos, photos or quotes you like or share are usually entertaining in some way. The other reason we share is to be informed. We like being informed, but when we share we appear smart to those that we share with. Framed from that perspective it’s not about you, it’s about them. How do you make your audience look smart? And finally we all love to be on the inside circle, in the know, a keeper of information that others would like to have. By allowing your target to appear to be an insider, they are almost compelled to share.

In Swoops case, all 3 were at play. They put out information that when shared allowed others to look smart, savvy and informed, the keepers of secret information for great travel savings, and they could look playful and entertaining while sharing it.

The use of owned, rented, earned, embedded and paid media

Swoop used the 5-pillar media approach I often advocate for my clients. I did a video explaining it on my Five-Minute Marketing Facebook page on Feb 2nd. Link HERE to view it. But here is the wipe board I used to summarize their approach.

All media efforts drove traffic back to their website- their owned home base media. Swoop was gathering an email database, no doubt tracking for retargeting on social media in the future, and ultimately generating bookings with time sensitive offers. They used rented space on social media to broadcast out, but with the objective of driving traffic back to their website. Social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter generated significant word of mouth and sharing. Earned media through traditional channels like TV, radio, print and online publications was significant across the country. Coverage there also built a second wave in social media the following day. Travel bloggers, online groups and influencers with ties to the parent company helped seed embedded media – coverage published on established platforms like the Huff Post where the author was utilizing reach and authority.

Paid media included online and offline efforts, and leaned heavily on paid social media on Facebook and Instragram and native advertising, through platforms such as The Daily Hive.

Beyond a really cheap option to visit your friends or relatives across Canada this summer, what can we learn from this example?

  1. Disrupting an industry can give tremendous competitive advantage.
  2. Utilizing owned, rented, earned, embedded and paid media strategically is actually quite simple, and very effective.

Are you curious to learn more about marketing with media? I’ve got an online Do-it-yourself course built specifically for this purpose. You can learn more about it HERE. Check out the intro video and scroll the landing page. One of the major bonuses is the closed Facebook Group where you can get ongoing support while you learn, plus live video chats. And if you’re not quite ready for a full on course immersion, but would still like some guidance in this area, you can start with my 5 Step Cheat Sheet for growing your audience, using social and earned media as part of that strategy. Lnk HERE and we’ll get it to you ASAP. As always, thanks to those who like, share, post and comment to these posts both on the blog as well as when they’re shared out on social. As you know I’m always looking to build my audience, so please encourage others to “follow” this blog, or subscribe to my 5-Minute Marketing enewsletter Sunday morning updates. You can subscribe directly on this website, or simply HIT THIS LINK and we’ll get you on the list.

Mary Charleson

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