Ryanair: One Brand that Can't Commoditize Itself Fast Enough
December 10, 2009 ‐ 4 comments
Even if you've never flown them, you've probably heard of European low-cost carrier Ryanair. And if you haven't flown them it's something you should try – at least once in your life. It's less like Southwest and more like the second-class train car from Cuzco to Puente Ruinas: cramped, with people relentlessly trying to sell you something, but at a fraction of the cost of alternate means of transportation. And if you haven't heard or read some of CEO Michael O'Leary's precious gems, well, that's something you should experience as well.
From a WSJ interview: "...that's what people really want—affordable, safe air transport from A to B. It's a commodity. It's not some life-changing sexual experience, which is what the other high-fare airlines have tried to convince you that it is." (The rest of the short article is equally entertaining)
If nothing else, Ryanair is consistent: the taglines (see logo above, and sometimes they use "The Low Fares Airline"), a website that sets a new record for price promos per pixel, the CEO's talking points and even in-plane advertising:
Adopting a strategy anathema to branding professionals, it's all meant to focus travelers' attentions on one thing: price. And is that really so bad? There are many competing low-cost airlines in Europe, but - based on our vast European network and our own extended sojourns abroad - Ryanair is where travelers go first when looking for low-cost travel.
Like Mercury in auto insurance:
and Walmart in retail (though they're trying to change):
Ryanair has been able to build a strong brand based on cost.
But, to use our own old saw, the delivery must match the promise. Flights may be advertised at 1 cent, but airport taxes, online check-in fees, credit card fees, bag fees, sports equipment fees and many potential others bring the price up considerably and – in our own experience – into the same ballpark as advance fares on full-service airlines.
We applaud Ryanair's focused execution, and we acknowledge that sometimes it makes sense for a brand to position on price. We believe, however, that if Ryanair's extra fees mean that the company doesn't make good on its low fare promise, then Mr. O'Leary - despite his protestations to the contrary - may just start looking for ways to make his airline a little more sexy and a little less commodity.
Perhaps that effort has already begun?
BrandCulture’s thoughts on the conventional wisdom.
About BrandCulture Talk
At BrandCulture Talk, we don't stand on ceremony, celebrate conventional wisdom or honor sacred cows. Peruse cheers and jeers for the best, worst, oldest and very latest branding theory and practice...all with the assurance that every post here has passed our "Branding. Not Bull" promise. Won't you please join us and weigh in?